A Spotlight on Mold Remediation
Doing mold remediation safely requires more PPE than you might think.
Most people can readily recognize mold when they see it. But seeing is is precisely the problem. Mold often grows out of sight, hidden behind walls and ceiling tiles or in rarely used spaces like attics or storage closets.
This wouldn't be so terrible if mold was a harmless nuisance. Unfortunately, mold is a health hazard. And because it releases spores into the atmosphere, you don't need to come into direct contact to be harmed by it. Simply breathing the air in a building with a mold problem can leave you with adverse effects.
Mold is also a hazard that gets worse the longer it's ignored. Since mold is a fungus, it will continue to grow as long as the environmental conditions are favorable.
That's why mold remediation is important. It's a problem that has to be dealt with as soon as it's identified, but simply cleaning up the mold and removing all visible traces of it isn't always enough to get rid of it.
Health Risks of Mold Exposure
People who live or work in a space that has a mold problem often only realize there's an issue because they develop symptoms of exposure.
While the exact symptoms and their severity can vary from person to person, they generally include:
- Coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing
- Irritation of the eyes, skin, or throat
For anyone with an existing chronic lung condition, the effects are far worse and can result in lung infections.
Although these symptoms are often a tell-tale sign that mold is present, their absence doesn't necessarily mean the absence of mold. While some people are sensitive to mold, many will experience no discomfort or noticeable ill effects from exposure to mold spores. If you know or suspect that there is mold in your workplace, be sure to follow up on it even if you or your coworkers don't have any adverse reactions.
(Learn more in 7 Basic Questions About Mold)
Causes of Mold
Mold grows in environments that are rich in moisture. Damp basements, poorly ventilated rooms, and windowsills that collect condensation are all spots where mold cultures can develop.
One-off events involving water or moisture can lead to mold issues even once they are taken care of. A flood, leaking pipes, or water damage can all cause mold to develop even long after the water has receded or the drip has been fixed.
Grabbing some bleach and scrubbing away the mold in your workspace can make you feel like the problem's been dealt with. While cleaning the affected spots is an important part of the process, proper mold remediation involves a few more steps.
First and foremost, it's important to make sure the environmental conditions are no longer favorable for mold growth. This means locating the source of the moisture problem and fixing it. That could involve anything from plugging a leak to improving the humidity controls in a room.
It's also important to realize that cleaning can make the area look pristine, but it won't necessarily kill all of the microscopic mold spores. Using a biocide will do a much better job of killing the mold than scrubbing it with bleach would.
The final step to total mold remediation is encapsulation. This involves spraying down the affected surface with a coating known as an encapsulant to make it more resistant to water and help prevent mold from growing on it again.
(Learn about Using Proper Ventilation to Improve Indoor Air Quality)
PPE for Workers Dealing with Mold
Anyone treating a mold issue will need to wear protective equipment to avoid being harmed in the process. Since mold remediation involves biocides, encapsulants, and cleaning chemicals, respirators and safety gloves must be worn during the remediation process.
Respirators are also essential before and after the chemical application. Since mold spores are airborne and compromise indoor air quality, anyone cleaning, disinfecting, and treating the affected area can breathe them in and experience adverse health effects, especially if the exposure is frequent.
While it will come as no surprise that you should wear gloves and respirators when dealing with mold, you might not be aware that full body coverage is also important. Tyvek® coveralls are made of non-woven fabric that serves as an important barrier when spraying and handling chemicals.
Don't attempt to do the job unless you have the right protective equipment. If you're missing anything required to carry out the process without skipping any steps, call a remediation professional instead. They'll have everything they need to do the job safely and effectively.
Because it can spread quickly and affect the quality of the air, mold problems should be dealt with as soon as they're detected. But don't put yourself at risk just because the problem is urgent. Make sure that whoever deals with the issue is equipped to do it safely.
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