By Doug Hoffman
Mold is an indoor air quality (IAQ) problem, but it is not confined to the air. We find it in dust, on grout, around plumbing fixtures, and on virtually every surface. Given the right conditions, mold begins to actively grow on these surfaces, and left untreated, the mold will take hold and persist. Because it is ubiquitous, resolving a mold issue requires cleaning and sanitizing the entire indoor environment, effectively resulting in a holistic IAQ solution as many other air and surface contaminants are eliminated along the way.
When I started in the mold assessment and remediation industry, I was excited to discover this fact because it meant a greater benefit for my customer. I wasn’t only offering mold treatment, I was also providing an overall healthier indoor environment.
One reason mold treatment offers such a holistic improvement to the indoor environment is that each of the four stages of the mold growth cycle represents a separate problem that needs to be addressed:
- Air — Mold spores from outdoors find their way into our indoor environments through open windows, fresh air makeup, air infiltration, and by following us around in our wake like the dust follows Charlie Brown’s friend, Pigpen. What else might we be bringing in from the outdoors when we walk through our front door?
- Surfaces — Once the spores are indoors, just like pollen and dead skin cells, they settle out through the natural processes of ionization and become a part of the dust accumulation we find on the piano, bookcase, or crown molding. What other contaminants might be lurking in that same dust?
- Growing — Given a sufficient food source and the right environment, the mold begins to grow on these surfaces, producing mustiness and, in many cases, off-gassing of mVOCs (microbial volatile organic compounds) and mycotoxins. Active mold growth odors can be the first sign of a problem. What other bacteria might also thrive in this environment alongside mold?
- Microbial — Just like other plant life, mold is a living organism and when the food source and the right environment exist, the mold growth will persist and often return even after simple cleaning. A remediation protocol is required that includes sanitizing surfaces as well as resolving environmental issues such as removing the mold’s food source.
Other IAQ contaminants wrestle for the same air and surface space as mold. Because bacteria, dead skin cells, pet dander, cooking odors, and VOCs from cleaning solvents and personal care products occupy the same space, removing mold also removes these other contaminants.
When a mold remediator puts an air filtration device in place that scrubs the air using a HEPA filter, every particle above .3 microns is removed from the containment space. The air scrubber filters out dander, pollen, and other pollutants along with the mold spores.
When a mold remediator cleans the mold-contaminated surface with a good biocide or enzyme cleaner, the visible mold is removed as well as invisible contaminants like Staphylococcus or E. coli. Using the right surface cleaner will leave the environment clean and sanitized of both mold and bacteria.
Utilizing a good, holistic sanitization solution to deal with both the air and surfaces is the most effective way to clean up any mold problem, but when the protocol is used properly, you can be sure that you are removing many other contaminants as well, leaving a cleaner and healthier indoor environment. Your purpose may have been to treat the mold, but what you’ve actually given your customer is a holistic IAQ solution that reduces or resolves a whole host of other air quality problems.
Doug Hoffman is the CEO of NORMI, the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.