The Difficult Problems of Mold Infestation: Part I

Mold can grow on any organic material (i.e., cloth, carpets, leather, wood, sheet rock, insulation) when moist conditions exist. Indoor spaces that are wet, and have organic materials that mold can use as a food source, can and do support mold growth. Any roof, wall leak or chronically wet areas from plumbing leaks or high humidity from over-watering can create a potential mold contamination problem.

Indoor mold contamination is a threat to health

The following symptoms can result from exposure to molds and/or their products: headaches; sinus congestion; coughing; sneezing; ear, nose and throat irritation (sore throats); diarrhea; dizziness, decreased attention, disorientation, diminished reflex time (central nervous system disorders); nausea; general malaise, psychological depression; skin rashes, dermatitis; respiration problems (onset of asthma, exacerbation of asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath); infections and increased susceptibility to diseases.

Some molds produce toxins called mycotoxins that can affect the physical defense mechanisms. Exposure to mycotoxins can harm the vascular system, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the urinary system, the cutaneous system, the immune system; and the reproductive system. A number of toxigenic molds have been found during indoor air quality investigations. Among the genera most frequently found are Aspergillus, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Cladosporium. Certain species of these mold exposures can be the cause of significant medical problems.

For example, certain species of Aspergillus produce aflatoxins (mycotoxins) that are extremely toxic to the liver, brain, kidneys and heart. Chronic exposure can be potent carcinogens to the liver.

Identification & Prevention of Mold Problems

The first step in preventing mold problems is to ask the right questions to properly assess pertinent business, legal and health issues.

I have prepared a four page questionnaire to be used by people who wish to identify recognized environmental conditions that lead to mold growth and health complaints. A copy of this questionnaire, entitled Mold Risk Problem is available upon request.

Answers to questions in the Questionnaire can determine if further investigation is called for.

If Questionnaire answers indicate the existence of a mold problem, a knowledgeable attorney should be hired to put together a Mold Assessment Team. Hiring a competent Mold Assessor is critical to the determination of whether a mold problem exists. I have prepared a two page document, entitled How To Hire A Mold Assessor, which is available upon request.

Fixing a mold problem

Finding an appropriate solution to a mold problem is not necessarily a simple matter. It is not unusual for people with mold growing in their home to become so frustrated that they raze their home, after trying to get rid of the problem by other methods. Getting rid of mold can involve removing all mold present and prevention of future water intrusion. In some cases, the removal of mold impacted structural members is prohibitively expensive. Endless complications arise when the person(s) with a mold problem does not follow the logical steps required to solve his or her mold problem. Removing the affected materials without addressing the cause of mold contamination will often result in recurrent mold growth. Incomplete or ineffectual removal/treatment of mold impacted materials can reintroduce mold to the newly remediated and other previously unaffected areas of the structure. Finally, solving a mold problem includes getting appropriate legal advice to ensure that your rights and economic interests are protected.

Often the recipient of a mold assessment report will not have expertise required to understand and evaluate mold sampling issues, mold toxicity issues, mold remediation issues, or the legal and business impact of mold contamination issues. In that case the recipient will need expert assistance to explain and evaluate what the report is reporting and recommendations set forth in the report.

If the person hiring a Mold Assessment Team does not understand the business, legal and health issues involved in responding to mold contamination (s)he will not be able to write a thoughtful or meaningful scope of work for the Mold Assessment Team to perform. I have spent the last several years involved in mold problems. It has taken me that long to assemble a qualified team of competent professionals with the capacity to assess mold problems, identify mold-related hazards, and to develop solutions that are scientifically, financially, legally and morally defensible.

Click here to read Part II of this article.