By Michael Panster
Mold remediation refers to the process of locating and removing mold from within a building or other indoor structure. Molds and mold spores are found everywhere, indoors and out. However, when a building gets heavily contaminated with mold it can cause serious health hazards to people who live or work for long periods of time in close contact with the high levels of mold. Symptoms of heavy mold exposure include congestion, eye irritation, coughing, rashes, headaches and sneezing. The most dangerous types of molds are those that produce mycotoxins, which can cause neurological problems and even death.
Heavy mold growth inside a building is abnormal and is always related to excessive dampness. Leaky roofs, leaking plumbing, water seeping up through the floor, flooding, and excessive humidity can all lead to mold problems. Mold can proliferate in carpet, drywall, and on plywood. Mold is also very durable. A single incident of flooding or water damage in the distant past can leave high levels of dormant mold spores waiting for rising moisture levels to trigger a massive wave of apparently sudden mold growth.
Buildings may be subjected to mold remediation when a mold problem is suspected. A water-related problem such as a flood or burst pipe may trigger a search for mold. The smell of mold, or visible signs of mold, often triggers a remediation project. Rarely, the presence of multiple symptomatic individuals in the building triggers a search for a mold problem. Moisture and humidity meters are essential tools in tracking down molds. Testing for the presence of mold is almost always unnecessary- if the area isn’t visibly contaminated with mold, it doesn’t need remediation.
The goal of mold remediation is to remove the mold without spreading the mold spores further. The first step is to fix the water problem that caused the mold in the first place. Small mold infestations can be cleaned up, but more severe mold infestations may require removal of and replacement of parts of the building- contaminated walls and floors may need to be ripped out, duct work may need to be replaced. With some heavily contaminated buildings, condemning the building may be more cost-effective than trying to replace all of the contaminated structural materials.
Mold contamination problems that cover less than a 10 square foot area can usually be fixed by a homeowner or regular maintenance person. For these small areas, simply cutting off the water supply to the mold and treating the area with a biocide is often sufficient. For more extensive mold problems, hiring a professional to perform the remediation is a good idea.
Mold remediation companies will use dry brushing or agitation devices to clean all mold out of the duct work. Some companies use dry ice or soda blasting to remove all traces of mold from cement and wood surfaces. Heavily contaminated materials will need to be ripped out and replaced. Professionals use special containment and ventilation equipment to keep the mold from spreading during the clean-up, and to keep the workers safe. Workers performing mold remediation may need to wear respirators and protective clothing.