Mold is a common issue faced by facility managers and building owners. If left untreated, mold can lead to potential health problems for building occupants. Mold can develop in almost any environment where there is moisture and an organic food source like drywall, dust, or wood framing members where it can flourish. Mold is naturally found outdoors and becomes a concern when moisture conditions allow for colonization to occur indoors.
The health effects of mold exposure in some individuals can be severe. Molds can be allergenic, toxigenic, pathogenic, and a potential trigger for asthma. Populations most at risk from exposure are the elderly, young and immunocompromised – making mold control a top-of-mind concern for healthcare, education, and senior care facilities.
Active mold growth has a unique “musty” smell and can be an early indicator of the presence of conducive moisture conditions in non-visible areas of a facility. If you are concerned that there is mold present in your building, contact a certified professional. Building inspections by Terracon’s industrial hygienists can identify conditions of dampness and mold growth, often without the need for sampling and laboratory analysis. Common steps in these inspections include determining impacted areas, identifying moisture causation sources and conditions conducive to mold growth, and providing specific recommendations for safe remediation of mold hazards. In addition to a site investigation, testing to identify the type and concentrations of mold may be conducted. Testing can also be conducted to help identify hidden problems and assess the potential for occupant exposure.
The first step in fixing a mold problem is to accurately identify the moisture sources or conditions contributing to mold growth. Once the moisture source(s) has been identified and corrected, professionals can remediate the mold hazards.
The presence of mold growth in facilities can lead to reduced property value, decreased tenant satisfaction and increased occupant complaints, loss time for employees, unwanted publicity, increased liability, and possible litigation. While mold assessments and remediation are not currently regulated by the federal government, more than 32 states have passed some form of mold-related legislation. In addition, several organizations have published recommendations and consensus guidelines for identifying and addressing mold hazards.
Of specific concern is the re-occupancy of buildings that were either vacant or had limited usage during the recent pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently issued guidance recommending that mold inspections be conducted in buildings that have been shut down for prolonged periods to maintain a safe working environment for returning occupants. If you are concerned that there may be mold at your facility, Terracon’s industrial hygiene professionals can investigate your facility and assist in the identification and remediation of mold hazards.
Steve Hudson, MS, CIH, CIEC, is a senior industrial scientist in Terracon’s Omaha office. He has conducted more than 3,500 assessments of commercial, industrial, and residential structures for the purpose of identifying and evaluating mold and microbial related hazards.
Tony Tozser, CHMM, CIEC, is an industrial hygienist and environmental consultant for Terracon’s Omaha office. With more than 12 years of experience, Tony is a certified asbestos inspector, lead-based paint inspector, indoor environmental consultant, and chemical hazardous materials manager.