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Indoor Air Quality - Mold - 2004

This section is written to provide information to assist firefighters with any questions they may have related to indoor air quality and mold.

The following is a list of facts concerning mold and the indoor environment:

  • Mold is a common term used to describe multi-cellular fungi that grow in many different environments.
  • Mold spores travel, via normal air circulation, throughout the indoor and outdoor environments at a constant rate.
  • When mold spores are introduced into the indoor environment, they begin to grow and digest various surfaces, including wood, paper, carpet, etc.
  • Mold grows particularly well in wet environments.
  • Basically, the only way to control indoor mold is to control moisture levels in the indoor environment.
  • The potential health effects of indoor mold consist of the following: allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
  • To reduce the risk of developing or exacerbating adverse health effects, mold should not be allowed to grow in the indoor environment.
  • Some mold, for example, Stachybotrys chartarum may produce mycotoxins that can adversely affect living cells and organisms. Although, years of research have failed to establish exposure to Stachybotrys chartarum, in the indoor environment, as a cause of adverse human health effects. Furthermore, "toxic doses" of mycotoxins delivered by the inhalation route, in the indoor environment, is highly unlikely.

Photo 1: Stachybotrys chartarum Mold Help, website address:

http://www.mold-help.org/pages/submenus/molds/stachybotrys_chartarum.htm

  • Some of the ways to control mold growth include: (1) control of moisture in the indoor environment, (2) repair of any water leaks, (3) reduction of indoor humidity (to 30-60%), (4) clean-up and drying of any damp materials within 24-48 hours of becoming moist, and (5) prevention of condensation on cold surfaces via the addition of insulation.
  • Currently, there are no standards or threshold limit values for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores. In addition, there is no Environmental Protection Agency regulation or standard available for airborne mold contaminants. However, some states have adopted "Occupational Safety and Health Administration-Approved State Plans" and have developed individual, state-standards and enforcement policies.
  • When mold is identified in the indoor environment, it should be remediated after the source of the moisture is eliminated.
  • Mold growth in the indoor environment should not be tolerated, as mold destroys the building materials on which it grows. In addition, mold growth is unsightly and may produce offensive odors, as well as sensitize and cause adverse reactions in individuals with allergies.
  • Remediation of mold should be performed by a qualified mold remediation company, as there is proper personal protective equipment that should be utilized and appropriate physical containment protocols that must be followed.
  • Finally, it is advisable to follow-up remediation with a comprehensive indoor air quality survey and microbial testing of surfaces prior to occupancy of the indoor environment.
  • For more information and links to various websites regarding mold and the indoor environment, please refer to the following website: http://epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldresources.html 

 

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