Mold & Indoor Air Quality FAQs

 

Are there good molds and bad molds?
How long does an inspection take?
Does killing mold with bleach or another biocide solve the problem?
How much do your inspections cost?
What are the actual health risks of mold growth in buildings?
Why are even small water leaks important to locate and stop?
Why is humidity control the single most important issue for good indoor environmental health in the southeast US?
What are building defects and why are they important for moisture/mold issues?
What kind of reports does IET provide?
Can I clean up the mold by myself?
Do you perform mold remediation as well?
What regulations apply to mold inspection and remediation?
Will air cleaners or ozone generators remove mold from my home?
Can I stay in my home or office during the mold remediation activities?
Can you determine if mold is present in my airhandler and ductwork?
Is the mold inspection covered by my homeowners insurance?
If I smell odors, does it mean that I have a mold problem?
Is mildew a type of mold?
Can mold be present in a newly constructed home?
If I see mold around my supply air vents, what should I do?
Can mold be cleaned?
How does mold growth occur?


Are there good molds and bad molds?
Molds are always found in the outside air. Some molds grow more efficiently in a damp building than others. This group of molds is sometimes referred to as the “water damage indicator” organisms.

Any mold is capable of causing an allergic reaction if the person is allergic to that organism. Some molds are considered to be more likely to cause health effects than others and are sometimes referred to as “species of concern.”

Mold, of any type, should not be growing in an indoor environment. Appropriate procedures for removing it do not usually vary much by the type of mold.


How long does an inspection take?
Most residential inspections require 2 to 4 hours on-site. Commercial inspections vary by the scope of work. Often initial results are available verbally within 24 hours, when our in-house laboratory is utilized. A detailed written report is often available within 2 or 3 days. If samples are submitted for third-party laboratory analysis, results and IET’s report may not be available in full for up to 2 weeks.

Contact IET for specific information on your situation.


Does killing mold with bleach or another biocide solve the problem?
No. Mold spores can be more difficult to kill than expected. The process of applying the biocide often disturbs the mold and disperses it into the air, where it eludes the biocide and may increase exposure for occupants.

According to the US EPA, “ The purpose of mold remediation is to remove the mold to prevent human exposure and damage to building materials and furnishings. It is necessary to clean up mold contamination, not just to kill the mold. Dead mold is still allergenic, and some dead molds are potentially toxic. The use of a biocide, such as chlorine bleach, is not recommended as a routine practice during mold remediation…”

www.epa.gov/mold/i-e-r.html

See IET’s FAQ, 'What are the actual health risks of mold growth in buildings?'


How much do your inspections cost?
Our inspections and reports are custom-tailored to meet your needs. Pricing is based on the amount of time it takes us to perform the site inspection, analyze the samples and write the report; and on the amount of travel, laboratory and other expenses we incur. Pricing for an on-site inspection begins at $395.00 for a typical home of less than 1500 square feet and basic air quality analysis. A concise three page report will document your moisture and mold conditions and make basic recommendations to improve the health of your home or office.

Contact IET for a proposal detailing our fees for the report you need.


What are the actual health risks of mold growth in buildings?
Molds are capable of causing health problems in three main ways:

  • Infection. They can begin to grow inside the body. Mold (fungal) infections are rare except among people who are immune-compromised.
  • Allergies. For those people who are allergic to a particular mold, the health effects can be quite serious. With high exposure levels, it is possible for mold allergies to develop. Aggravation of asthma and sinusitis can also occur, and has aspects in common with allergic reactions.
  • Toxic effects. Many molds produce fungal poisons (mycotoxins) as a defense mechanism against other micro-organisms. Some of these are toxic to humans if there is a sufficient dose. Whether mold growth in buildings provides a sufficient dose to cause serious human health effects is hotly debated among scientists.

The US EPA says, “When moisture problems occur and mold growth results, building occupants may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure.”

*Many symptoms and human health effects attributed to inhalation of mycotoxins have been reported including: mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer. More studies are needed to get a clear picture of the health effects related to most mycotoxins. However, it is clearly prudent to avoid exposure to molds and mycotoxins.” www.epa.gov/mold/append_b.html

IET avoids both over-reacting to mold issues and brushing them off as of no concern. We concentrate on developing protocols to help people correct moisture and mold problems in buildings with the steps necessary to control cost and disruption.


Why are even small water leaks important to locate and stop?
Small or intermittent leaks can over time lead to significant mold growth inside wall cavities and in other hidden areas, and eventually can cause structural damage. IET’s thermal imaging, on-site moisture monitoring systems and moisture mapping can help locate these leaks before they cause major damage.


Why is humidity control the single most important issue for good indoor environmental health in the southeast US?
The most common reasons for development of indoor environmental problems in the southeast’s hot/humid climate are damp building materials and excessive humidity. Even when humid buildings are not damp enough to directly cause mold growth, the excess humidity means even very small leaks or spills evaporate too slowly, allowing materials to remain wet for too long and mold growth to become much more likely.


What are building defects and why are they important for moisture/mold issues?
A building defect is a construction or design error that reduces the value of the property, and/or causes a dangerous or unhealthful condition. Note: This is a generic definition. Legal definitions of the term may vary.

Building defects often contribute to the development or aggravation of moisture and mold problems in buildings, especially in a hot/humid climate.

It may be the responsibility of the builder to correct building defects and compensate the property owners for any damage the defects have caused. However, there is usually a time limit within which building defect claims must be filed. Contact your legal adviser for particulars.

IET can assist in locating building defects, provide cause and origin and assess any damage that they may have caused to the indoor environment.


What kind of reports does IET provide?
IET designs each report to fit a customer’s specific needs. Some of the basic categories include:

Indoor Environmental Quality: Customer is interested in determining what types of conditions are present in the indoor environment. These may include evaluation of humidity, moisture, mold growth, CO2, chemicals, pesticides, particle levels, electro-magnetic fields, etc. General recommendations are included for correcting any problems found. Excellent for a new property, to establish a baseline for possible future changes.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Customer is interested in purchasing a property, but doesn’t want to buy into a problem. Includes moisture and mold evaluation, and general recommendations for correcting any problems found.

Mold Remediation Protocol: Customer has reason to believe the property has a mold problem. Inspection is to determine extent of the problem and the scope of work necessary to remediate it. Includes detailed Remediation Protocol, complete with a floor plan illustrating containment strategy and photo-documentation.

Abbreviated Mold Remediation Protocol: Abbreviated version is for customers who plan to use a qualified, experienced remediation contractor to perform necessary work. IET’s report gathers the same information as for the Mold Remediation Protocol, but the report is limited to providing the specific information the designated contractor needs. Report is provided at a significant discount from the standard MRP.

PRV or Post Remediation Verification: This is our end of project report that provides our client with a document outlining the present conditions at the time of inspection. Passing a PRV provides you with the necessary documentation that the building has been returned to a normal environmental quality. This is critical to any future real estate transactions as any transfer of title and listing requires a full disclosure of any water or mold damage that may have occurred to your property to the best of your knowledge. By presenting this document, you are acknowledging that an event has occurred and has been repaired properly.

CDS or Corrosive Drywall Syndrome: CDS is a condition associated with imported drywall from China. It can create strong sulfur odors, corrosion of electrical components and appliances and even HVAC system failure. This condition has been primarily documented to exist in homes built or remodeled from 2004 to 2007, though it has been found in older homes and newer homes. IET’s inspection uses state-of-the-art lab analysis and full compliance with inspection protocols outlined by the State of Florida Case Definition for Corrosive Drywall. This inspection is critical to your understanding of the actual conditions within your home related to CDS for any real estate transaction or personal concerns. Let IET provide you with the documentation you need to make informed decisions on this important subject.

Black Water or Sewage Investigation: This inspection involves grossly contaminated areas of buildings that may pose a risk to building occupants. Raw sewage back flows, leaks from sanitary sewer drains, rising storm water or salt water intrusion are examples of a Black Water condition. IET’s professional approach to this inspection outlines the extent of the damage, the scope of work necessary to correct the condition and the steps necessary to confirm that all repairs have been performed properly. Building occupants exposed to the biological contaminants associated with Black Water are potentially at much greater risk than mold damage as the contaminants are likely primary pathogens capable of causing infection or disease, especially in high risk populations.


Can I clean-up the mold by myself?
Certainly, although we do not recommend it for most people. You should be aware that if there is more than a very small area of mold growth involved, you run a significant risk of spreading the contamination unless specialty equipment and techniques are used. In addition, potential exposure to contaminants for those doing the work can be quite significant.

See the EPA’s discussion of this issue: www.epa.gov/mold/i-e-r.html


Do you do mold remediation as well?
No. To prevent conflict of interest, every state with established regulations for mold inspection and remediation has prohibited companies from functioning in both roles on the same project. While the same company can hold both mold assessment and mold remediation licenses in the state of Florida, they are prohibited from performing both processes on the same project.


What regulations apply to mold inspection and remediation?
As of May 2011, there are no federal regulations other than OSHA regulations and others that apply to all businesses. OSHA does not regulate mold.

State regulations vary, and currently exist in the State of Florida requiring all Mold Assessors and Mold Remediation Companies to be licensed with the state, and carry the necessary insurance for compliance with state requirements. IET’s staff compliance, experience and education exceeds all state requirements.


Will air cleaners or ozone generators remove mold from my home?
Some air cleaners will filter out mold spores and particles that pass through the unit. However, in a significantly contaminated environment the rate of air filtration is seldom high enough to significantly reduce exposure for the occupants.

Ozone is a toxic gas. Generators that produce it have been sold for decades, with claims that it “purifies the air” and controls indoor air pollution. These claims have come under increasing fire and are generally rejected by indoor air quality experts. The state of California implemented much more stringent restrictions on indoor use of ozone generators as of Jan. 1, 2008.

See www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html.


Can I stay in my home or office during mold remediation activities?
Possibly, depending on the location of the work area(s) and entrances. However, you should keep in mind that the process and the equipment are often loud and disruptive, and quite a few people who attempt to remain on-site during the process wind up regretting the decision. If damage is extensive it is often better to leave during remediation, which may allow the process to be completed more quickly.


Can you determine if mold is present in my airhandler and ductwork?
IET can inspect accessible sections of the HVAC systems. Disassembling the system for a thorough inspection requires HVAC licensing from the state of Florida. Most inspections do not require disassembling the HVAC system.


Is the mold inspection covered by my homeowners insurance?
Possibly. Many insurance companies retain us to investigate conditions, or reimburse policyholders who use our services. However, whether coverage will be provided in a particular case should be discussed with your agent or adjuster.


If I smell odors, does it mean that I have a mold problem?
The odors produced by molds vary by type of mold, by food source and by other environmental conditions. Odors, which are gases, can be present even when the mold particles themselves are still trapped in areas such as wall cavities. So odors can be present even when occupants are not being directly exposed to mold particles.

There are obviously many other potential causes of unpleasant odor in a building, from dead animals to pesticides, to off-gassing of furnishings, and many others.


Is mildew a type of mold?
Not really. The term “mildew” has no precise scientific meaning, although in general conversation it is often used to mean “non-toxic or non-dangerous mold.” In this sense it is inaccurate. See IET’s FAQ “Are There Good Molds and Bad Molds?”

Another common use of the term “mildew” refers to plant pathogens such as downy mildew and powdery mildew. This sense of the word has little application to indoor environments.

Generally speaking, the term “mildew,” especially when used to contrast with “mold,” has no definitive meaning. When discussing indoor environmental issues, we recommend avoiding the use of the term as it is misleading.


Can mold be present in a newly constructed home?
Absolutely. Building materials such as drywall and lumber are sometimes not protected adequately before construction, resulting in mold growth. Also, rain often occurs during construction, causing moisture to absorb into exposed materials, and many construction materials contain moisture naturally. This excessive moisture is not always thoroughly dried before the structure is closed up, trapping the moisture and sometimes resulting in mold growth.


If I see mold around my supply air vents, what should I do?
This is generally an indication of excessive humidity in the indoor air, although in some cases it can be related to a malfunction of the air conditioning system.

First have the AC system checked to make sure it is functioning properly. Then measure the indoor relative humidity with an accurate hygrometer. If relative humidity is consistently above 60%, it is excessive. IET is experienced in helping locate and correct humidity problems, which have a multitude of possible causes.


Can mold be cleaned?
Mold can be cleaned from most non-porous and semi-porous materials, although sometimes replacement is more appropriate for financial or other reasons. On porous materials such as drywall and fabrics, mold growth usually cannot be effectively removed and the item or material must be replaced. Cleaning of bathroom tiles and non-porous surfaces for surface growth is OK.


How does mold growth occur?
Mold growth requires a food source and moisture. Most building materials can serve as a food source, so the limiting factor is usually moisture. If materials remain dry, mold will not grow. Moisture intrusion through the building envelope (roof and walls), plumbing leaks and excessive humidity are the most common source of moisture leading to mold growth.

 

   
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