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Salmon Arm, BC (Columbia-Shuswap)

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Introduction
The fungi are a large group of organisms that include mold. In nature, the fungi and mold help breakdown and recycle nutrients in the environment. Mold are the most common type of fungi that grow indoors. Mold are microscopic organisms that live on plants, in the soil, and on animals, in fact almost anywhere food and moisture are available. Mold is everywhere present in the outdoor and normal indoor environments. It is in the air and on surfaces as settled dust. Exposure to mold is evitable in everyday life. Thus, exposure to mold is considered part of a normal activity for most people. Only environments for which extraordinary preparations have been taken don’t have mold present in the air or on surfaces.


Understanding Mold
Under the right conditions (moisture, organic food, and time) mold will grow, multiply and produce spores. Mold grows throughout the natural as well as the built environment. Mold reproduce by microscopic cells called “spores” that are spread easily through the air. Mold spores are present through the indoor and outdoor air continually. There are mold that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, food, ceiling tiles, dried fish, carpet, or any surface where dust has accumulated. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and their spores in the indoor environment. The way to control indoor mold growth is to control the amount of moisture available to the mold. Mold growth can become a problem in your home or office where there is sufficient moisture and the right foodstuff is available. The key to preventing mold growth is to prevent all moisture problems. Of course, hidden mold can grow when there is water available behind walls, sinks, floors, etc. Indications of hidden moisture problems are discoloration of ceiling or walls, warped floors or condensation on the windows or walls.


Controlling Moisture
The most critical step in solving a mold problem is to accurately identify and fix the source(s) of moisture that allowed the growth to occur. In order to prevent mold from growing, it is important that water damaged areas be dried within a 24-48 period. If mold is a problem in the home, the mold must be cleaned up with a mild detergent and the excess water or moisture removed. It is not necessary to try and kill the mold or its spores. There are many common sources of excess moisture that can contribute to indoor mold growth. Some of the primary means of moisture entry into homes and buildings are water leakage (such as roof or plumbing leaks), vapor migration, capillary movement, air infiltration, humidifier use, and inadequate venting of kitchen and bath humidity. The key to controlling moisture is to generally reduce indoor humidity within 35% - 60%
(depending what climate you live in) and fix all leaks whatever their cause.


Mold Growth Sources
If the source of moisture is not easily detected or you have a hidden water leak, mold testing can be helpful. Often a roof leak or a plumbing leak can be identified as the source. The difficulty arises when there is an odor present or when an occupant shows signs of mold exposure but no visible mold can be seen. Excess water intrusion can also lead to dry rot of lumber and cause a serious structural defect in buildings.


Health Related Risks
Based on the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, dampness and mold in homes is associated with increases in several adverse health effects including cough, upper respiratory symptoms, wheeze, and exacerbation of asthma. Mold and fungi contain many known allergens and toxins that can adversely affect your health. Scientific evidence suggests that the disease of asthma may be more prevalent in damp affected buildings. Dampness and mold in homes, office buildings and schools represent a public health problem. The Institute of Medicine concluded, “When microbial contamination is found, it should be eliminated by means that not only limit the possibility of recurrence but also limit exposure of occupants and persons conducting the remediation”.


Mold Sampling Methods
The goal of sampling is to learn about the levels of mold growth and amplification in buildings. There are no EPA or OSHA standards for levels of fungi and mold in indoor environments. There are also no standard collection methods. However, several generally accepted collection methods are available to inspectors to study mold (and bacteria) in indoor environments. Comparison with reference samples can be a useful approach. Reference samples are usually taken outdoors and sometimes samples can be taken from “non-complaint” areas. In general, indoor fungal concentrations should be similar to or lower than outdoor levels. High levels of mold only found inside buildings often suggest indoor amplification of the fungi. Furthermore, the detection of water-indicating fungi, even at low levels, may require further evaluation. There are several types of testing methods that can detect the presence of mold. They can be used to find mold spores that are suspended in air, in settled dust, or mold growing on surfaces of building materials and furnishings. There are different methods that can identify types of live mold and dead mold in a sampled environment. Mold spores can be allergenic and toxic even when dead.


All sampled material obtained in the laboratory is analyzed using modern microscopic methods, standard and innovative mycological techniques, analyzed at 630 – 1,000 times magnification. Testing for mold with an accredited laboratory is the best way to determine if you have mold and what type of mold it is.


Surface Sampling Methods
Surface sampling can be useful for differentiating between mold growth and stains of various kinds. This type of sampling is used to identify the type of mold growth that may be present and help investigate water intrusion. Surface sampling can help the interpretation of building inspections when used correctly. The following are the different types of surface samples that are commonly used to perform a direct examination of a specific location. Spore counts per area are not normally useful.


Tape (or tape-lift)
These samples are collected using clear adhesive tape or adhesive slide for microscopic examination of suspect stains, settled dust and spores. Tape lifts are an excellent, non-destructive method of sampling. The laboratory is usually able to determine if the there is current of former mold growth or if only normally settled spores were sampled.


Bulk
This is a destructive test of materials (e.g., settled dust, sections of wallboard, pieces of duct lining, carpet segments, return-air filters, etc.) to determine if they contain or show mold growth. Bulk sampling collects a portion of material small enough to be transported conveniently and handled easily in the laboratory while still representing the material being sampled. A representative sample is taken from the bulk sample and can be cultured for species identification or analyzed using direct microscopy for genus identification. The laboratory is usually able to determine if the there is current of former mold growth or if only normally settled spores were sampled.


Swab
A sterile cotton or synthetic fiber-tipped swab is used to test an area of suspected mold growth. Samples obtained using this method can be cultured for species identification or analyzed using direct microscopy for genus identification. The laboratory is usually able to determine if the there is current of former mold growth or if only normally settled spores were sampled. Identified spores are generally reported as “present/absent”.


Carpet (filter-type) Cassette
A carpet cassette is used with a portable air pump (flow rate usually doesn’t matter) to collect mold, pollen and other particulates. Samples obtained using this method can be cultured for species identification or analyzed using direct microscopy for genus identification. This method is usually used to determine a presence or absence of water-indicating mold in a carpet. The laboratory is usually able to determine if the there is current of former mold growth or if only normally settled spores were sampled.
A carpet cassette is used with a portable air pump (flow rate usually doesn’t matter) to collect mold, pollen and other particulates. Samples obtained using this method can be cultured for species identification or analyzed using direct microscopy for genus identification. This method is usually used to determine a presence or absence of water-indicating mold in a carpet. The laboratory is usually able to determine if the there is current of former mold growth or if only normally settled spores were sampled.


Air Sampling Methods
Air samples are possibly the most common type of environmental sample that investigators collect to study bioaerosols (mold, pollen, particulates). The physics of removing particles from the air and the general principles of good sample collection apply to all airborne materials, whether biological or other origin. Therefore, many of the
basic principles investigators use to identify and quantify other airborne particulate matter can be adapted to bioaerosol sampling. Common to all aerosol samplers is consideration of collection efficiency. The following are the two most common forms of air sampling methods.


“Non-Viable Methods” (The Laboratory results are reported in “spores per cubic meter (sp/m3)


Z5 Cassette
The Z5 spore trap is used with a portable air pump (5 liters/minute for 1 to 5 minutes) to rapidly collect airborne aerosols including mold, pollen and other airborne particulates. Air is drawn through a small slit at the top of the cassette and spores are trapped on a sticky surface on a small glass slide inside the cassette. They are efficient at collecting spores as small as 1μm.


Data Interpretation
Information (data) on mold in buildings can consist of the simple observation of fungal growth on a wall, analytical measurements from hundreds of environmental samples, or the results of a survey of building occupants with and without particular building-related conditions. Data interpretation is the process whereby investigators make decisions on (a) the relevance to human exposure of environmental observations and measurements, (b) the strength of associations between exposure and health status, and (c) the probability of current or future risks. These interpretation steps are followed by decisions on what measures can be taken to interrupt exposure and prevent future problems.


Remediation of Mold

Prevention of mold growth indoors is only possible if the factors that allow it to grow are identified and controlled. When prevention has failed and visible growth has occurred in a home or building, remediation and/or restoration may be required. The extent of the mold growth will determine the scope of the remediation required. The goal of remediation is to remove or clean mold-damaged material using work practices that protect occupants by controlling the dispersion of mold from the work area and protect the workers from exposure to mold. You should consult a professional when contemplating fixing a large area of mold growth.


Generally, remediation requires

(a) removal of porous materials showing extensive microbial growth

(b) physical removal of surface microbial growth on non-porous materials to typical background levels

(c) reduction of moisture to levels that do not support microbial growth.


Identification of the conditions that contributed to microbial proliferation in a home or building is the most important step in remediation. No effective control strategy can be implemented without a clear understanding of the events or building dynamics responsible for microbial growth. Following the completion of the remediation process, mold testing should be performed to obtain clearance.


Symptoms of Mold Exposure
The most common symptoms of mold exposure are runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and aggravation of asthma. Individuals with persistent health problems that appear to be related to mold or other types of air quality contaminant exposure should see their physicians for a referral to specialists who are trained in occupational/environmental medicine or related specialties and are knowledgeable about these types of exposures. Decisions about removing individuals from an affected
area must be based on the results of such medical evaluation. Mold is naturally present in outdoor environments and we share the same air between the indoor and outdoor, it is impossible to eliminate all mold spores indoors.


Ten Things You Should Know About Mold
1) Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
2) There is no practical way to completely eliminate mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. The way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
3) If mold is a problem in your home or building, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
4) To prevent mold growth any source of a water problem or leak must be repaired.
5) Indoor humidity must be reduced (generally below 60%) to reduce the chances of mold growth by: adequately venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing and cleaning.

6) Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
7) Clean mold off of hard surfaces with water and detergent and dry completely.
8) Prevent condensation: reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (e.g., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
9) In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem on the floor, do not install carpeting

10) Mold can be found almost anywhere. Mold can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods; almost anything can support some mold growth provided there is moisture, time to grow and food to eat.

Mold Inspection Standards of Practice

International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants (IAC2)

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