The Dangers of Mold
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Amy Brown|
|Posted on: 09/01/2002|
In the litigious society in which we live, the insurance industry is concerned with an increase in claims relating to mold. There have been a number of cases where residential and commercial buildings have been contaminated with mold, causing bodily injury and property damage. While this hasn't yet become a huge issue in the self-storage industry, we thought it valuable to share some "mold facts."
What Is It?
Molds, or fungus, are simple, multicellular plant-like organisms, found virtually everywhere--indoors and outdoors. Molds can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves and other organic material. They are needed for breaking down dead material. Mold spores are very small and lightweight, which allows them to travel through the air. Growths can often be seen in the form of discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. When molds are present in large quantities, they may cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.
Should I Be Concerned About Mold?
Yes, if the contamination is extensive. When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they may cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and other respiratory problems. Mold can also cause structural damage to a building. The State of California passed the Mold Protection Act on Oct. 10, 2001. The bill requires the department of health services to develop guidelines and includes a written disclosure notice for mold in the sale of rental, residential, commercial or industrial property.
Can Mold Become a Problem in My Self-Storage Buildings?
For mold to grow, it needs nutrient sources, such as leaves, wood, paper or dirt; moisture; and proper environmental conditions. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth is likely to occur within 24 to 48 hours. Much of the mold found indoors comes from outside, i.e., spores entering the building through open doorways, windows and HVAC systems. When mold spores land on a damp area indoors, they begin growing on, digesting and, eventually, destroying whatever they originally landed on.
The following are some sources of indoor moisture that may cause problems:
How Am I Exposed to Indoor Molds? Can It Make Me Sick?
Everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without adverse health effects. Mold spores primarily cause health problems when they are inhaled in large number. People can also be exposed to mold through skin contact and eating. For some people, a relatively small number of spores can cause health problems. People with allergies vary in their sensitivities to the amount and types of mold.
The basic rule is, if you can see or smell mold, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to clean up and remove the mold. Excessive exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone. It is important to quickly identify and correct any moisture sources before health problems develop.
How Can I Tell if I Have Mold Contamination?
If you can see mold, or if there is an earthy or musty odor, you can assume you have a mold problem. Look for previous water damage. Visible mold growth is found underneath materials where water has damaged surfaces or behind walls. Look for discoloration, bubbling of paint and leaching from plaster.
As to testing, the California Department of Health Services, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New York City Department of Health do not recommend air sampling as the first step to determine if you have a mold problem. Since no EPA or other federal threshold limits have been set for mold or its spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal standards. According to the EPA, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Sampling becomes useful once mold is identified to locate the source of contamination, identify the species present and differentiate between mold and soot or dirt.
Pre- and post-remediation sampling may also be useful in determining whether remediation efforts have been effective. After remediation, the types and concentrations of mold in indoor air samples should be similar to what is found in the local outdoor air. Unless the source of moisture is removed and the contaminated area is cleaned and disinfected, mold growth is likely to reoccur. The key to mold prevention is moisture control.
How Is Mold Regulated and What Standards Exist?
Several federal agencies regulate indoor air quality. The following is list of federal agencies and the area of jurisdiction:
General Clean-Up Procedures
The following is a brief outline of the typical steps taken when cleaning an area with mold contamination. (For additional information, contact one of the agencies listed above).
If you see any of the above, seek out and take steps to eliminate the source of water penetration as quickly as possible.
Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; call 800.844.2101; fax 480.970.6240; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.vpico.com/universal.