EPA: Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings

September 30, 2008

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings

Indoor Environments Division (IED)

“Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.”
“Molds reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on.”
“Many types of molds exist. All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants. Potential health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to remediate/clean up any existing indoor mold growth.”
“Some moisture problems in buildings have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. Building materials, such as drywall, may not allow moisture to escape easily.”
“• Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands.

• Do not get mold or mold spores in your eyes.

• Do not breathe in mold or mold spores.

• Consider using PPE when disturbing mold. The minimum PPE is an N-95 respirator, gloves, and eye protection.”
“In some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces, such as the back side of drywall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Possible locations of hidden mold can include pipe chases and utility tunnels (with leaking or condensing pipes), walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), condensate drain pans inside air handling units, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation). Some building materials, such as drywall with vinyl wallpaper over it or wood paneling, may act as vapor barriers,5 trapping moisture underneath their surfaces and thereby providing a moist environment where mold can grow. You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and building occupants are reporting health problems. Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth—make sure to use PPE. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores from mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, you may want to consider hiring an experienced professional. If you discover hidden mold, you should revise your remediation plan to account for the total area affected by mold growth.”

Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings

This 56-page document, prepared and produced by the U.S. EPA’s Indoor Environments Division (IED) is a must-read for anyone dealing with mold problems, particularly those who do so professionally.

As the EPA doesn’t regulate mold nor assign safe levels for the number of airborne mold spores in any indoor environment, the document presents recommendations on mold remediation, rather than enforceable rules or law.

In addition to a small number of key points excerpted above right, the full PDF, found above and on the EPA’s website, is a must-read and treasure trove of factual information on mold and mold remediation.

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