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Concern about indoor mold exposure has been increasing as the public becomes aware that mold exposure can cause various health effects and symptoms, including allergic reactions. This document presents guidelines for the remediation/cleanup of mold and moisture problems in schools and commercial buildings; these guidelines include measures designed to protect the health of building occupants and remediators. It has been designed primarily for:
- Building managers
- Others who are responsible for commercial building and school maintenance
Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. Some molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet, food, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or 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 to survive. Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on.
Many types of mold 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 irritants. Potential health concerns are an essential reason to prevent mold growth and to remediate/clean up any existing indoor mold growth.
Since mold requires water to grow, it is essential to prevent building moisture problems. Moisture problems can have many causes, including uncontrolled humidity. Some building moisture problems have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Some of these changes have resulted in tightly sealed buildings that may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. Building materials like drywall may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems may include:
- Roof leaks
- Landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building
- Unvented combustion appliances
- Delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance are also associated with moisture problems in schools and large buildings
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When mold growth occurs in buildings, some building occupants may report adverse health problems, particularly those with allergies or respiratory problems. Remediators should avoid exposing themselves and others to mold-laden dust during their cleanup activities. Caution should be used to prevent mold and mold spores from being dispersed throughout the air, where they can be inhaled by building occupants.
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