Most people can readily recognize mold when they see it. But it's a problem that's often out of sight, hidden behind walls and ceiling tiles or in rarely used spaces like attics or storage closets.
Unfortunately, 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 what makes mold remediation so important, and why simply cleaning up the mold isn't always enough to get rid of it.
Health Risks of Mold
Those who live or work in a space that has a mold problem are sometimes only made aware of it because they develop symptoms of exposure.
For many people, exposure to molds results in a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Irritation of the eyes, skin, or throat
For those who have existing, chronic lung conditions, the effects are far worse and can result in lung infections (learn more in Indoor Air Quality: 7 Basic Questions About Molds).
Although these symptoms are often a clue that mold is present, their absence does not always mean the absence of mold. While some people are sensitive to mold, many will experience no discomfort or ill effects from exposure to mold spores. If you have reason to suspect that there is mold in your home or workplace, be sure to follow up on it even if you or your co-workers don't have any adverse reactions.
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 could develop.
One-off events involving water or moisture can lead to mold issues even once they are taken care of. If you deal with a flood, leaking pipes, or water damage, inspect the affected area for any mold issues. Mold can develop 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. Essentially, this means locating the source of the moisture problem and fixing it. This could be anything from a leak that needs to be plugged to a room that requires humidity control.
It's also important to realize that cleaning can restore the affected area to its original aesthetics, 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 an encapsulant to make it more resistant to water and help prevent mold from growing on it again.
PPE for Workers Dealing with Mold
Anyone treating the mold issue will need to wear some protective equipment to avoid being harmed in the process. Since it involves biocides, encapsulants, or other chemicals, respirators and safety gloves will need to 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, those who are 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 issues, 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.
If you don't have the right protective equipment, do not attempt to do the job without it. Call a remediation professional instead. They'll have all the equipment 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.