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I think I have a mould problem – where do I start??
Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and mould issues seem to be the hot topics these days. Many people have no idea where to start looking for help or even what questions to ask. Many internet sites either scare people or provide incorrect information.
If you are confronted with an IEQ, mould, or water intrusion issue, don’t let “killer mould”, “black mould”, or “toxic mould” become part of the conversation – keep a cool head and let the following information guide you.
First, the most common request we hear from clients is for mould sampling or testing. While there are specific circumstances where identifying particular moulds via sampling may be necessary, EPA guidelines take the stance that remediation (or clean-up) should NOT be based on what type of mould is present, but rather on how much is visually identified. (EPA publication “Mold Remediation in Schools & Commercial Buildings”, page 25)
Mould testing will not tell you where the mould growth is, how extensive the contamination is, how to clean it up, or identify the water intrusion problem that allowed the mould growth in the first place. The lab report is only designed to identify the type of mould and the number of spores present in the sample.
Take a sensible approach; if it looks like mould, smells like mould, and the conditions are favorable for mould growth (moisture, food source, & temperature), why do you need to test it to know for certain that it is mould? Mould is mould, and you don’t want any color or species of mould actively growing indoors.
Second, contact an independent environmental consultant / inspection company to perform an indoor environmental quality (IEQ), or mould investigation, to locate and identify any possible issues. Be sure to first ask about their certifications, qualifications, experience and references. Currently, there is no licensing required to perform IEQ or mould investigations, since the industry is not regulated by the government (like asbestos).
At minimum, the inspector should hold a Certified Mold Inspector (CMI) certification issued by an accredited source (ACAC). An independent, Certified Mold Inspector or Council-certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC) will work for your best interest.
An experienced, competent, CMI or CIEC will provide a comprehensive inspection report, addressing cause and effect, and contain answers to the following questions:
- What, if any, issues were found and where?
- What is the source of the water intrusion that is feeding the mould growth?
- How extensive is the mould contamination?
- What building materials should be removed or cleaned, and where are they located?
- What needs to be done to remove the mould without contaminating the rest of the building, and repair the source of the water intrusion?
- What preventative measures can be taken to prevent this problem in the future?
Third, depending on what conditions were discovered in the course of the investigation, contact a properly certified, experienced remediation (or “clean-up”) company. Their goal is to remove the mould contaminated building materials, clean the contents if possible, and return the interior environment to levels below, or the same as, outdoor levels of existing mould. Again, ask about their certifications and experience. Your environmental consultant / inspector can also be a source for recommending remediation companies.
Removal performed by an untrained contractor, without the proper containment barriers and specialized air filtration of the enclosed work area (termed “environmental controls”), will simply scatter the mould spores to other areas of the structure. And once they land on a spot with the right conditions, the mould can begin to grow again. Also, an increased amount of airborne mould spores due to improper removal can create a health issue for individuals who are mould sensitive.
Fourth, to verify that the remediation (removal) activities are complete, a post-remediation inspection by your independent environmental consultant should be considered. Be cautious about remediation companies who perform their own final inspections. Can you be certain they will be completely objective when evaluating their own work? An independent environmental consultant will evaluate the situation objectively because they work for YOU, not the remediation contractor.
With education, the right consultant, and an experienced remediation company, you can rest assured that potential IEQ or mould problems will be taken care of properly.
- American Industrial Hygienists Association at AIHA
- Environmental Protection Agency EPA Indoor Air Quality
- New York City’s Guidelines on Assessment & Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments NY City Mold Guidelines.pdf
- “The Facts About Mold”, a free consumer brochure with the basics on mold prevention, detection & health effects. AIHA Publications Facts-About-Mold
- Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) at IICRC
- American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) at ACAC