MOLD AND MOISTURE
PATHOGENIC AND TOXIGENIC MICROBIAL MONITORING
Mold is within the Fungal Phylum along with mushrooms, slime molds, puff balls, and yeast. Moisture and organic material are required for mold to grow whereas the reproductive spores can go dormant for thousands of years when food and water is taken from them–until the proper conditions are met for the spores to grow mold structures and reproduce. Fungicides only kill the structures, not the spores, and it is the spores (actively growing or dormant) that impact our health.
MOLD AND MOISTURE ASSESSMENTS WITHIN OCCUPIED STRUCTURES
The topic of mold and microbials (e.g., fecal Coliforms and pathogenic bacteria) is highly controversial and could result in considerable expense due to extremes in perceived hazards. Whereas the health of a most healthy adults may not be impacted by the most common molds, immune-suppressed patients, the elderly, infants (yet to develop their own immune system), and normally healthy adults with a weakened resistance to infections (e.g., flu patients) may become invasively infected (e.g., develop life-threatening illness). Stachybotrys chartarum, sometimes referred to as the “black mold” or “death mold,” has been reported to cause pulmonary hemorrhage in infants and flu like symptoms in adults, and Aspergillus flavus produces aflatoxins which are known human carcinogens. Clearly, time is of the essence in responding to moisture intrusion and potential mold growth and exposures.
We have a Licensed Texas Mold Assessment Consultant.
WE IDENTIFY AREAS OF MOLD GROWTH WITHIN A STRUCTURE AND ITS CAUSE
- Indoor Surfaces- floors, walls, and ceilings
- HVAC Systems- air handling unit, ducts, and diffusers
- Attic Areas- roof penetrations and roof leaks
- Contour mapping
- Diagrammatic sketching
- Moisture metering-penetrating and surface
- Thermal imaging
- Borescope with camera
WE CONDUCT MOLD SURFACE SAMPLING
Visible/accessible surface mold
- Confirmation of growth
- Identification of type
WE CONDUCT MOLD AIR SAMPLING
Airborne mold/fungal exposure levels
- Compare with the outdoor air
- Compare with non-problem area (if the information allows one to identify a non-problem area)
- Compare mold types from air samples with those of surface samples
EXAMPLES OF MOLD ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND
Often missed by many inspectors and contractors is mold growth in the air supply ducts. In one case, the HVAC contractor of a newly constructed building (e.g., less than 1-year old) denied the possibility that there was mold growth in the duct. There was black staining around the air supply vents, but the contractor was still in denial. He was asked to access the HVAC unit and downwind duct. He was again in denial. When we found extensive mold growth on the duct, he feigned surprise
Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus fumigatus are pathogenic and are particularly problematic in hospitals. These species of Aspergillus are particularly invasive and problematic in OR rooms and areas where there are immune suppressed patients. Species is not identified in spore trap air sampling which only groups by spores but by growth patterns as observed on nutrient agar. Pathogenic Aspergillus sampling is performed by impaction plates and incubated at 370C for 7 to 10 days. A more expensive, rapid method of sampling and analysis involves PCR which takes anywhere from 2 to 10 days, depending upon one’s willingness to pay an additional cost for rapid turnaround or to wait in line. And PCR identifies all viable and nonviable spores which may misrepresent viable airborne pathogens.
Stachybotrys chartarum, sometimes referred to as the “death mold,” produces satratoxin and other mycotoxins under conditions involving competition for food and water with other microbes. When the mycotoxic mold spores and mycelia becomes airborne, they can cause health problems to those exposed. Although the most commonly reported symptoms of excessive exposure to airborne Stacybotrys is an illusive flu-like illness. Airborne exposures have affected, in the past, unwary construction workers when renovating buildings with visible and/or hidden Stachybotrys mold growth. Only when the workforce has been reduced in half or more, due to illness, does the superintendent become suspicious. One case involved construction workers removing mold contaminated sheet rock and trolley it down the hallway of an office building, exposing building occupants to the airborne spores. In this case, one of the occupants developed nose bleeding. Air monitoring was performed around her office and other areas within the path of the waste trolley, and high airborne levels of Stachybotrys were found. Cleanup was extensive.
Oftentimes, air sampling is performed by some consultants as a means to determine if there are elevated mold spores within a building–especially where in a client suspects excessive levels of mold indoors. There is, however, a small consideration which is often overlooked. Findings can be difficult and illusive if an awareness of activities and conditions are not noted. As we decided to test moldy refrigerated meat (left), Omega took an air impaction sample prior to and after removing foil from a visibly mold-laden meat. The results were astounding. Airborne levels increased 10-fold within only couple minutes of removing the foil over the background, prior to removal.
In one of our projects, there had been a long standing plumbing leak in a residence and mold growth behind the walls and under the wood flooring. The insurance company paid a contractor to remove and replace the wood floors and cut out the gypsum board. This was accomplished with the air conditioning running and no sealed plastic sheeting on the furniture and kitchen counters/food stuff. The result was contamination of other rooms, all furniture, clothing, and the air conditioning duct. Penecillum and Stachybotrys spread throughout the residence. The cost for remediation increased five-fold.