The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict guidelines to ensure the protection of human health along with the environment. Part of that mission pertains to compliance standards regarding mold — especially in homes and commercial buildings.
So, What Is Mold, and Why Does It Grow in a Residential or Commercial Structure?
Mold is natural and comes from environmental factors such as dead organic matter like dead trees and fallen leaves. It flourishes in the wild and plays a major role in breaking down biomass and decomposing organic material. While it’s an essential part of our ecosystem, it’s not something you want growing in your home.
Through tiny spores that float through the air, mold reproduces and multiplies rapidly when they land on wet or moist areas.
Why Does Mold Cause Health Issues?
Many health problems that stem from mold are because of the allergens that mold produces, along with irritants and sometimes even toxins. These potential issues can cause allergic reactions, asthma complications, and irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and even skin of those who become exposed.
Sometimes, reactions to mold can be immediate, while other times, it may be delayed or even ongoing depending on the individual. Because allergies to mold are so common, many residents face health issues when dealing with areas that are rich in these fungi.
When to Get Rid of Mold
The first step to getting rid of a mold issue is to determine the scale and severity of the problem. Because mold feeds on moisture and can quickly spread out of control, it’s crucial that it’s dealt with straight away.
Now, it’s possible to manage smaller mold issues (around 10 square feet) without the need for an expert or hired service. That being said, there are plenty of stipulations that require professional involvement — especially in schools, municipalities, and commercial buildings.
If there is significant water damage, the mold issue more than likely covers more than 10 square feet. In that case, take a look at the EPA’s Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings Guide. It’s a great tool for determining damage even though it focuses on schools and commercial structures.
Mold in Ventilation
Sometimes, mold can make its way into the heating, air conditioning, or ventilation components of your home (or possibly near the intake). A professional with mold certification by the EPA will likely need to perform cleanup and ensure that all contaminants are out of your systems. Running the HVAC system during this time could spread mold throughout the home or building, widening the problem.
Mold Caused By Sewage
Mold or water damage that came about as a result of contaminated water requires an expert. Not only can this type of mold be especially toxic, but it’s also much harder to clean and get rid of properly. For this very reason, professional mold assessment and removal is necessary for safe elimination.
It should be reasonably obvious, significant enough mold issues that cause health concerns should be taken care of immediately. As mentioned, mold is a common allergen and can even be toxic. A bad mold infestation can cause a wide variety of symptoms and can be extremely uncomfortable for residents or visitors. Professional mold removal should be of the utmost importance if health issues present themselves.
How is Mold Removed
There are plenty of ways in which mold is cleaned up and removed. If it’s a DIY project, safety is always of the utmost importance. While mold may be properly removed, it can leave staining that may require replacing or maintenance to return a surface to its original state.
Some helpful home removal tips are:
- Use detergent and water to scrub mold off of any hard surfaces and allow it to dry completely so that the mold does not spread
- Take note of any porous areas or absorbent materials that have mold growth (ceiling tiles, carpeting, etc.). You’ll need to throw these out as they are nearly impossible to clean to completion.
- Refrain from painting or adding caulk to any surfaces that contain mold. Mold can cause new layers of paint to peel, so all mold must be adequately cleaned off before painting.
- Mold is caused by moisture, which means that water problems and leaks are likely the suspects. Fix these to prevent further issues.
- Take safety precautions and avoid exposure by wearing the appropriate clothing when cleaning up mold.
When a mold issue is too large for a homeowner to take care of themselves or they’re not sure how to properly manage the situation — a specialist or professional should be brought in. These contractors are trained specifically for inspection, remediation, and/or abatement with certifications from the EPA. These certifications ensure that authorized training professionals provide necessary information for safe and satisfactory mold assessment and removals.
How to Prevent Mold From the Start
Perhaps the best way to fight off mold is to prevent it from the get-go. Mold feeds off of moisture, which means controlling moisture is crucial. Whenever spills or water leaks happen in the home, a quick cleanup can make a significant impact.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), mold and mildew can develop in 24-48 hours of water exposure and will continue to grow until it’s taken care of. So, spills and leaks are the main culprits and require swift action.
Proper drainage can also prevent mold buildup. Roof gutters serve an essential function and need to be cleaned off regularly to ensure that they are working the way they should. Broken gutters will also need repairs so that water runoff doesn’t end up where it shouldn’t. Another important aspect of drainage lies in where the building lies. All ground should slope away from the foundation so that water runoff doesn’t end up in the building.
Maintain indoor humidity and keep the number low if possible. A good number to shoot for is between 30-50% (ideally below 60%). A humidity meter is fairly cheap and can save homeowners big on mold removal in the future.
Certain areas of buildings have natural moisture buildup. Pipes, some walls, and especially windows release condensation, which can lead to mold. Dry these areas and surfaces often to prevent buildup.
Those who work that impacts mold requirements by the EPA must have certifications that abide by compliance standards. Every area has its own training and certifications that are required, so it’s important that professionals know where they stand.
“The EPA and other regulatory agencies have developed several mold certification classes. Only authorized training providers can teach them and issue certification to students.”
Both individuals and companies who work in areas where mold is present must have certifications before starting work. Types of work can include:
- Mold inspection
- Mold abatement
- Restoration doing mold remediation
To get a mold certification, professionals must register for a mold certification class, attending regularly, and completing all requirements. Some jobs require more than one mold certification, so it’s important to be aware of the type of work that is being done and what qualifies as certification. Mold certifications also expire, so refresher courses are sometimes needed to remain compliant with EPA regulations.