In 2000, a new “toxic mold” panic swept the country, and after 16 years of untold lawsuits and billions of dollars spent, major myths still plague and unnecessarily panic association boards, managers and homeowners. The myths all too often cause exaggerated repairs, unduly frightened residents, and conflict. In this and the next column, I will address thirteen pervasive toxic mold myths.
1. Mold is new. Mold, one of the earliest and simplest life forms, has existed for thousands of years. Almost 100 years ago, mold was the basis of the discovery of penicillin. Mold is ever-present, as is dust or pollen.
2. The scientific and medical communities confirm mold’s many dangers. In 2004, the National Institute of Medicine published its comprehensive study on indoor mold exposure, called “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health.” A central finding was: “Scientific evidence links mold … in homes and buildings to asthma symptoms in some people with the chronic disorder, as well as to coughing, wheezing, and upper respiratory tract symptoms in otherwise healthy people… However, the available evidence does not support an association between … mold and the wide range of other health complaints that have been ascribed.”
That sounds like mold is as dangerous as dust or pollen to people with severe asthma. The announcement containing this finding is easily located by a web search, but it did not receive much press play – stories of frightened people living in tents are more interesting.
3. One must determine the kind of mold present. Mold consultants and plaintiff attorneys often describe some molds as worse than others. The most famous mold is stachybotrys chartarum, a mold producing infinitesimal quantities of a substance similar to botulism poison. However, the amount is so small they call it a “mycotoxin.” It sounds frightening, but the scientific community long ago debunked the myth that this or any mold was somehow poisonous to breathe. For example, read the National Institute of Health Fact Sheet on Mold, found at www.niehs.nih.gov.
4. California is protected by the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001. The act instructed the Department of Public Health to develop permissible exposure limits of the various mold strains. However, in 2005, and again in 2008, the DPH reported the task could not be completed with the scientific information available. Consequently, there is presently no official standard as to how many mold spores of any given variety are “unhealthy.”
5. Always start with a mold test. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends against mold testing. There is no standard as to how many mold spores are “unhealthy,” and indoor air sampling tests are extremely vulnerable to events in the home, which can change the results. A recent shower, window opening or carpet cleaning are some of the many factors that can completely change test outcomes.
Mold tests, to put it bluntly, primarily frighten the occupants and create a “need” for the expense of a mold consultant, and a second test after the area is cleaned. Since the health authorities have not confirmed any particular strain is more dangerous, and since there is no official standard as to how many airborne spores are unhealthy, there is rarely a good reason to spend the money on such a test.
Numerous health problems in the United States are associated with mold (i.e., fungi) in homes, schools, and businesses. With a technology developed by EPA researchers, these problems can be identified quickly and accurately, allowing illnesses to be diagnosed and treated more effectively. Perhaps more important, use of this technology may prevent disease occurrence.
EPA’s DNA-based process can identify and quantify more than 130 species of toxic molds and potentially pathogenic fungi in the environment. Fungi and bacteria cause or contribute to many health problems, including infections, gastroenteritis, ulcers, asthma, allergies, and sinusitis. This invention may have applications in research related to therapeutics and diagnostics for these illness. Additionally, this technology can be used to:
Determine whether an environment is abnormally mold contaminated.
Test homes for potentially pathogenic molds
Test water for pathogenic molds.
Monitor hospitals to prevent nosocomial mold infections.
Rapidly diagnose mold infections so that treatment can begin earlier.
Monitor fold and drugs for mold contamination.
Measure the risk for mold associated with allergic and asthmatic disease.
Diagnose chronic rhinosinusitis.
Monitor crops for mold pathogens in an integrated pest management program, thus reducing the use of pesticides.
This method provides real-time results that are more accurate and less time-consuming than previous technologies. EPA-licensed commercial laboratories in the US have used this method to provide testing services for their clients.
This technology was licensed by 15 companies, 11 of which are small US businesses. The first license was issued in 2000, and word spread quickly about the technology, leading to many more non-exclusive licenses within a few short years. The patent didn’t issue until 2002, after there were already several licenses in place.
Crews are replacing heating and ventilation equipment in the Grant Sawyer state offices in Las Vegas after a report cited a possible link between leaks in the system and the presence of low concentrations of two species of mold in the building’s dust.
The report came after at least 10 state employees working at the Las Vegas building filed worker’s compensation complaints in November alleging that mold caused “building-related symptoms,” including respiratory illness and headaches, that typically go away when people leave the contaminated environment.
The investigation, led by Reno-based environmental medicine specialist Dr. James Craner, found that leaky valves in the heating and air conditioning system may have allowed water to drip into the ceiling tiles, creating a friendly environment for mold spores to grow.
Though the moldy dust on its own doesn’t prove that the leaks created a contamination, fixing the HVAC system and cleaning the “presumably mold-contaminated carpet” of dust could clear the low levels of mold, the report said.
“These HVAC leaks and occupant health complaints are postulated to be the same as those that occurred in the mid-1990s,” Craner wrote on April 4, referring to a prior “sick building syndrome” case that plagued the state office building. The mold likely settled in the carpet and could be inhaled by employees while they walk or conduct office maintenance, the report read.
Tests on the air’s mold concentrations came back nonharmful, and samples of settled dust showed very low concentrations. The two mold species detected at higher concentrations throughout the building included the Stachybotrys chartarum, which is “highly associated with building-related symptoms,” the report said.
Nevada Department of Administration Director Patrick Cates wrote in an update Friday that the state was following Craner’s recommendations to replace the HVAC valves throughout the building by May 5.
The department also plans by July to deep-clean the building’s carpets and other surfaces that may have been contaminated by mold.
Four months after the deep cleaning, the department will retest for mold, Cates said.
“If the tests continue to show atypical molds, we will continue with further investigations and remediation measures until these concerns are resolved,” Cates wrote.
Mold exposure can cause stuffy nose, wheezing and red or itchy eyes in those sensitive to it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with asthma or mold allergies could face more intense symptoms.
Severe reactions include fever and shortness of breath.
We are going to tell the bare truth: you cannot make your house mold-proof. The spores are tricky and very easy to catch on to the right conditions. Moreover, mold spores are everywhere, waiting for the best environment for growth.
You can, however, create a house with mold prevention strategies. If small spots of mold appear around the house, identifying and correcting them can save you from an infestation later on. The experts at Fun Guy Inspections want to give you the most dead-simple methods of mold prevention in the following paragraphs.
The first and most natural mold prevention technique is to improve air circulation in your home. Mold cannot grow unless it has a couple of specific conditions, and a closed space with poor airflow is one of them.
It does not mean you will have to keep your windows open at all times. All you have to do is make sure that every inch of your house is well ventilated, at least for several hours during the day. Especially during the day, because mold cannot grow in dark spaces.
Another mold prevention tip is to keep all surfaces dry whenever possible. If you had a leak and a part of your wall is wet, look to dry it immediately. If you keep wet spots around the house, that is where you should expect mold to grow.
Another condition for mold spores to latch on and develop is humidity. Combined with limited airflow, the spores will come and grow on your walls and surfaces in no time. However, if you make sure that everything is within good boundaries humidity wise, then mold will not have its most important growth factor fulfilled. It will make it much harder for mold to grow if you keep your house dry, especially your basement!
One last tip for Mold Prevention would be a close inspection of your home for problematic areas. If you see small mold spots here and there that keep returning you should have your house checked. Look around for the formerly mentioned conditions. Where in your home do you have great humidity levels? Where is there not enough air flow but good amounts of sunlight?
If you do not know how to inspect your house for mold, our experts from Fun Guy Inspections can help you with the matter. The team will come to your house, take a close look at your surroundings and tell you where the mold is coming from; Not only that, they will give you further tips on how to remove and prevent the mold from getting into your house ever again. An expert helping hand will make your house mold-free, and it will teach you how to keep it that way.
Practice the first two mold preventions tips from the moment you get your new house. Doing so will give you a great chance of never having to deal with mold. However, if mold finds its way on your premises, call Fun Guy Inspections, and we will take care of it.
Luke Ruchi, a freshman business major from Savannah, expected to have the classic freshman experience in the typical, shoe-box-size dorm, but he didn’t expect to hear the sounds of construction at Oglethorpe House or to be living in a dorm with leaks and sprouting mold.
Despite the recent renovations, complaints of random leaks and mold have been common among O-House residents since the fall semester of 2017.
“In the fall semester, University Housing received several requests from residents of Oglethorpe House to investigate possible mold conditions,” said Stan Jackson, director of student affairs communications and marketing initiatives.
From day one when Ruchi and his three roommates moved into O-House, he said there was a leak in the corner ceiling of their room which would cause a handful of problems and work requests throughout the semester.
Ruchi said maintenance responded the first two times by caulking the leak, but the leak kept coming back, resulting in University Housing moving in large industrial fans to dry up the carpet.
After several work requests, Ruchi said he emailed Housing asking to look into the leak more.
In less than a week, Housing inspected the dorm and came to the conclusion that all four students had to move out of the dorm due to “the need for construction work in the ceiling of their room,” Jackson said.
Toward the end of the semester, Ruchi said he kept getting sick with a sore throat that he thought could have been attributed to the mold.
“Obviously my dad and mom were concerned about my health during all of this,” he said.
Ruchi and his three roommates were moved out of their Oglethorpe dorm room to different residential halls in November because of the leak and the mold the leak was causing. The four students were the only residents moved out of Oglethorpe Hall because of mold.
Dr. Larry Smith, an allergist-immunologist at Allergy Partners of Georgia in Athens, said generally mold allergies are fairly common and occur in 25 to 30 percent of the population.
Smith said patients can contract symptoms such as “nasal congestion, runny nose, itching of the eyes, ears, nose, or throat. Sometimes they can get respiratory problems with wheezing, coughing, asthma type symptoms and bronchitis” from airborne mold spores.
Jackson said nine of the 20 work requests concerning possible mold conditions were “truly mold” that required attention from the housing staff.
“Even in those cases, those molds are the type to which humans are commonly exposed every day, and typically do not pose a health risk to our students,” Jackson said. “Even so, the health and wellbeing of our students is of primary importance to us, and we certainly encourage all of our residents to report any facilities concerns, including what they believe to be mold.”
In a later statement, Jackson said the mold is the “same type of common bathroom mold that occurs sometimes on surfaces that stay damp.”
Alexandra Hammock, a freshman English major from Loganville, said she had bronchitis three weeks during the fall semester that she said could have been attributed from the black-colored mold in her dorm.
Similar to Ruchi’s case, Hammock said her dorm had leaks and mold since the first week she and her roommates moved in. She has continued to have on and off mold problems.
“During our first week of class, the light above our shower fell, and we had a huge hole in our ceiling. We could see black mold growing inside of the interior of the ceiling,” Hammock said.
After three work requests between the first week of school and Thanksgiving break, maintenance responded and fixed the issue, but shortly after, Hammock said the ceiling started leaking again.
“Since we got the light replaced, water has kept dripping from the ceiling again,” Hammock said. “My friend removed the light, and it was filled with water. So we had to rig up a bucket to catch the water.”
Aside from mold being caused by leaks within the bathroom, Hammock said Housing’s custodial services does not consistently clean her bathroom thoroughly, which could contribute to the mold issue in Oglethorpe.
“Shower heads are really moldy. Mold is all over the doors. Bathroom floors are always really, really dirty despite the fact Housing is supposed to cleaning the bathroom weekly,” she said.
Jackson said Housing makes it a priority to respond to all work requests concerning the possibility of mold.
“In all cases, when residents report the possible presence of mold, housing staff addresses it immediately,” Jackson said. “As with all facility concerns, housing staff works hard to be responsive to work requests. If a student feels they are having ongoing mold problems, we encourage them to either submit a work request online through our housing website or contact any staff member who can submit a request on their behalf. “
Jackson said there are no rooms with multiple mold requests at this time.
TAMPA (FOX 13) – A day at the office could be making some people sick. And when businesses have a problem, many call Francisco Aguirre’s company PureAir Control Services in Clearwater to fix it.
Think of them as sick building sleuths.
“‘Sick building syndrome’ is a term used to describe a combination of non-specific ailments that are temporarily associated with the workplace,” Francisco said. “I have seen buildings that are brand new, and they have not even been finished for occupancy and they are already experiencing indoor air quality problems.”
Discomfort can be caused by bacteria, fungi, dust, and believe it or not, lights.
“Lights can also give you headaches, watery eyes and things like that,” Aguirre explained.
But there could be something more to some people’s symptoms.
Dr. Richard Lockey, an indoor air quality expert and director of allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida, believes there are other contributing factors.
“We have found that buildings are much cleaner in which people work than their own homes,” Lockey told us. “Some homes are so filthy that we can’t believe it when we go in and test what’s in the home. Yet people don’t complain about their homes, they complain about the building. So there’s a disconnect there.”
According to the World Health Organization, a third of all buildings have air quality concerns. But Dr. Lockey has a word of caution.
“It’s important for physicians and other healthcare professionals to properly evaluate these patients so you don’t inappropriately accuse a builder or owner of a building of something that doesn’t exist,” he said.
In the end, whatever you think is making you sick at work could be real or imagined, but both experts agree that poor air filtration in the workplace and at home can lead to some allergy-like symptoms.
Be sure to replace filters regularly, and make sure all ventilation systems are working properly.