Mold and Fungus Explained

Mold and Fungus Explained

FUNGI DEFINED

Fungi share some basic similarities with plants and bacteria but are neither. All 1 million to 1.5 million species of true fungi are in their own kingdom, the Fungi Kingdom. Many persons inaccurately use the term mildew to describe fungal growths that they feel are not harmful to human health. The powdery green or white growth in humid closets is sometimes considered by homeowners as “just mildew”.

Ironically this growth is almost always penicillium / aspergillious mold. Many species of pen / asp produce offensive smelling volatile organic compounds and may be toxigenic or allergenic when present at the correct levels. According to more reliable definitions, mildew is a powdery or downy parasitic fungal growth that attacks and grows on living plants, while molds are often fuzzy and grow on all sorts of moist surfaces. Molds, mildews, and other fungi usually reproduce by forming and releasing spores into the air. Typical indoor spores are around 3 to 15 microns across. For reference the period at the end of this sentence is 500 microns.

TOXIGENIC MOLDS

Mycotoxins are chemicals that are sometimes produced by various species of molds. These toxins are real and are powerful weapons used by molds in a sort of microbial warfare to help them compete against bacteria and other molds. Mold spores in residential settings, even if they are potentially toxin producing types and are at high levels, do not necessarily result in toxic effects on humans via inhalation. It takes a lot of inhaled spores to poison a person.

 Currently, disagreement exists as to if residential mold spore exposures levels are ever high enough to result in toxic effect on humans. However, toxic effects of mold mycotoxins in humans and farm animals leading to serious illness and even death via accidental ingestion of toxic mold, have been well documented in scientific literature.

INFECTIOUS MOLDS

 According to a Mayo clinic study, sinusitis caused by growth of fungus fibers or balls of fungus fibers in the sinus cavities is not unusual. This is typically caused by common Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Curvularia species. Aspergillosis caused by the growth of aspergillus species in the lungs most commonly A. fumigatus, A. flavus, A. Niger and A. territus species typically occurs in persons with compromised immune systems or a history of lung disease that resulted in past lung damage. Common Candida albicans that causes yeast infections is a major cause of serious nosocomial (hospital acquired) fungal infections. Histoplasma capsulatium and Cryptococcus neoformans are very dangerous yeast like molds that should be assumed to be present in any bird droppings but are primarily a concern when spread to humans via inhalation of particles from accumulations of pigeon, starling, and bat droppings. Coccidioides immitis mold spores are spread from dusty soil in the southwestern United States, it sometimes causes valley fever but at other times the same fungus can be deadly. Nearly any fungi can cause infections in persons with severely compromised immune systems. Detection of infectious fungi such as but not limited to the above listed ones and identification of fungi to determine the species is not part of most mold inspections.

Mold Sickness

ALLERGY ASTHMA AND HYPERSENSITIVITY DISEASES

An allergic reaction occurs when your body’s immune system mistakes harmless proteins in mold spores or other allergens as if these proteins were harmful microbes trying to infect your body. Your body’s immune system, feeling threatened releases histamines into the blood stream and these histamines are what actually causes coughing, sneeze, and watering of the eyes. Other persons immune systems will not mistake proteins in mold spores as a microbial threat, and thus not develop allergic reactions.

Asthma is a condition where the smooth involuntary muscles lining the airways contract but do not properly relax to allow the lungs to bring in new air. Mold, other bio-allergens, and gases such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, and even stress are common triggers of asthma. Many people die every year from asthma. Mold- related allergenic and asthmatic conditions in homes are quite common and very serious and should be addressed and not ignored. Many serious hypersensitivity diseases in humans, such as baker’s lung, wood workers lung and others are the result of exposures to molds by persons working in industries that result in long term exposure to elevated spore levels.

Hypersensitivity diseases have long been well documented in science and the medical field. According to Bioaerosols assessment and control hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a hypersensitivity disease that results from the long-term repeated exposure to elevated mold spore levels or other antigens. This condition can occur at in industry or agriculture where spore levels are high. It may also occur in moldy offices or homes, it produces pneumonia like symptoms with fever, cough, tightness of chest, lung infiltrates, and difficulty breathing.

Once sensitized, individuals may react to extremely low, often unmeasurable, concentrations of antigenic materials. Organic dust toxic syndrome is a flu like illness that results from a short-term exposure to very high levels of spores, such as the levels that may be encountered by workers doing large mold remediation jobs without wearing protective respirators. Symptoms show up several hours or a day or so after exposure and symptoms go away after a day or a few days.

What Does Mold Remediation Include?

What Does Mold Remediation Include?

Step 1. Initial Mold Inspection

One hundred percent of mold remediation projects begin with the initial inspection.  This step cannot be skipped as the initial mold inspection is what provides the mold removal expert with details needed to begin.  Critical information about areas effected is gathered during the initial mold inspection such as: primary and secondary mold contamination.  Primary areas affected are often visible & are what prompt a customer to call for a mold inspection; however, secondary areas & or items effected are usually not discovered until a professional mold inspection is conducted. 

Sometimes mold testing is conducted to identify secondary areas or items with mold contamination.  Industry standards do not require mold testing when mold or what appears to be mold is present.  Two examples of when testing before the removal of visible mold may be used are cases of high health risk and disputes between tenants and property owners.

Step 2. Create Mold Remediation Protocol

During the initial mold inspection measurements, and a minimum of ten photos will be taken, but is more common for a mold expert to capture 20-30 photos, plus 1-2 videos of the area effected.  These photos and video are used both as evidence to support mold remediation recommendations and as notes used to create a mold removal protocol.  Pictures of what is affected and what is not affected will be taken, both inside and outside the home or office.  The main reason for these types of photos is damage liability. 

Measurements, photos & videos are used primarily to reconstruct the effected zones.  Sketches of the contaminated areas are computer drafted and included with the estimate.  Organizing this information allows the mold inspector to present it to a customer in the easiest to understand way.  Communication with a customer is key and helps to establish expectations for the completion of a mold remediation project.

Step 3. Containment

Taking the time to apply floor protection, move the customers’ belonging to safety and setup mold containment measures is key.  In fact, no mold remediation project should begin unless these preliminary actions have been taken.  Not only does this make the mold remediation safe as possible, it also puts the customers’ mind at rest.

Step 4. Air Quality Control

Air quality control is the number one safety concern of all mold remediation projects.  For example, there are two mold concern classifications: structural & health.  Until air born mold levels become elevated above 10% of the air born mold outside, the mold concern is structural damage.  This remains true, unless the customer falls into a high-risk group.  Spreading mold contamination to non-effected areas is the majority of mold remediation liability.   Therefore proper air quality control measures must always be used in mold remediation.

Step 5. Demolition

Demolition is the mold removal aspect of mold remediation.  This involves surgical removal finishing construction such as drywall, cabinets, and shelves.  Content manipulation can also be itemized as part of demolition is mold removal projects.  Examples of this would be removing and discarding moldy books, furniture, or other related items.

Step 6. Decontamination

After moldy materials have been safely removed from the work zone, structural decontamination can begin.  Simply “fogging” the air with a mold killer is a violation of industry standard.  Surfaces must be wiped down and HEPA vacuumed, wooden surfaces must be exfoliated, mold staining addressed, all while maintaining air quality standards under negative pressure.

Step 7. Structural Drying

Structural drying is half the battle of mold remediation quality assurance and is where many mistakes are made.  After all the moldy material have been removed and the area has been decontaminated, the area must then be dried.  If this important step is skipped or done improperly, the mold infestation will continue, and the mold remediation will fail.

Step 8. Post Remediation Inspection and Testing

A mold remediation project manager should always thoroughly inspect a project upon completion for quality assurance.  All dry goals such as moisture content levels and relative humidity should be met.  In certain cases, post mold remediation clearance testing is conducted and can be covered by most insurance carriers.

In mold removal projects where post remediation testing is requested, testing must be conducted while containment remains in place.  Air samples taken after containment has been broken down can not reflect the true microbial levels within the remediation zone.  Samples may be collected by the hired remediation company but should be tested by an independent laboratory. 

Step 9. Final Mold Cleanup

The final mold cleanup is not a “white glove maids cleaning”, it is a final “construction cleanup”.  IICRC standard S520 states that the goal of this step is to achieve a clean dust free environment.

After the last cleanup is finished, the area can once again be inspected, and a certificate of mold remediation completion can be issued.

What to expect from a mold inspection in 2022

What to expect from a mold inspection in 2022

What To Expect From A Mold Inspection in 2022?

Much has changed in the service industry since 2020 when the Covid 19 pandemic first began.  Now on top of the pandemic, we have the Russia vs Ukraine war and skyrocketing gas prices.

Video conferencing has become a working standard since the beginning of this decade.  In 2022, people are not only more “germ conscious” but are also more “shopping conscious” as prices for goods and services continue to rise.

Video chat will continue to be integrated into the service industry business model.  In 2022, customers should expect to receive an initial mold estimate via video chat.  This way customers and contractors can gain more insight to their projects with less risk of exposer.  Both contractors and customers are also able to save valuable time and money by connecting first via video chat.  This in turn, helps businesses keep costs low allowing customers to save more money.

Metrix Inspection Standards

Metrix mold inspections are conducted per acceptable environmental hygiene recommendations as defined by The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), the New York City Department of Mental Health & Hygiene, Bureau of Environmental & Occupational Disease Epidemiology, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, National Air Duct Cleaners Association, and other remediation techniques that are acceptable and used by professionals in the industry.

Further analytical testing may be required to find additional hidden mold infestations in areas not sampled or inspected; testing may be required for asbestos, lead paint, and other environmental hazards prior to remediation. The presence of such materials take precedence over mold remediation and removal of such regulated materials must be conducted in accordance with federal, state, provincial and local laws and regulations and require specific remediation protocols. The results of this analysis represent conditions only at the exact time and locations from where samples were taken. Thus, the report should not be relied on to represent conditions at any other location or date and does not imply that this property is free of contaminants in other areas.

Mold Inspections and Testing Disclaimer:

Do not depend on your mold inspector for any medical advice; that is the job of a medical specialist. If any illness is experienced that may be related to mold or other indoor environmental factors, a family doctor should be consulted regarding health complaints. In addition, the unhealthy person should obtain a referral to the appropriate medical professionals specializing in allergies, environmental medicine, or occupational health, as prescribed by the physician.

 If building related symptoms, such as allergy or asthma-like symptoms or other similar symptoms are experienced, then mold inspection & testing is often the logical starting point in an effort to locate, define and control the problem, as mold is often the culprit. One must keep in mind that occasionally other bioaerosols can result in symptoms or illness as well. Your inspector is unlikely to sample for, or locate mold which may be hidden inside walls, behind wallpaper, appliances, furniture or other inaccessible areas without conducting an invasive inspection.

Mold inspection and mold testing service is not intended to sample or report on what the inspector considers to be typical tiny amounts of expected mold. A mold test is not an environmental investigation for conditions, such as dust mite, roach, and pet allergens, virus, bacteria, lead-based paint, asbestos, radon, voc’s or any other environmental conditions. Mold testing is not meant to detect wood destroying organisms or termite inspection report for dry rot fungus or other fungus that causes wood decay.

Mold Metrix does not offer an opinion as to the advisability of the purchase or sale of property. Unless customer requests and purchases invasive mold inspection with sampling in every room, inner wall stud bay, AC duct, carpet, and all other surfaces in all areas, items or areas inspected and sampled will be chosen based on the inspectors’ judgement. Mold Metrix is not responsible or liable for the non-discovery of any water damage, mold contamination, or “problem conditions” of the inspected property in which Metrix has not been contracted to inspect. Mold Metrix is not responsible or liable for the non-discovery of any water damage, mold contamination, or any other problems that were not discovered due to inadequate sampling in specific areas where sampling was not requested and paid for.

INTERIOR INSPECTION

No destructive or disruptive testing or assessment will be performed unless contracted by client. Opening of walls, lifting of carpets, removal of ceiling panels, insulation, and vapor barriers will not be conducted unless contracted by client. The inspector will not check any area that poses a safety threat to the inspector such as walking on roofs. A roof inspector should be consulted in regard to any roof concerns. Attics and crawl spaces with low clearance may not be entered.  Client understands and agrees that inspection and testing can report only on problems that were present at the time of testing and inspection. The inspector cannot report on areas or locations in the building that have not been specifically inspected and tested. Appliances, furniture, office equipment, and other personal items are not moved during a non-invasive inspection.

AIR QUALITY SAMPLES

Though spore sampling and lab report analysis are common and are often an extremely helpful tool, there is always some degree of uncertainty regarding analysis of samples and the conclusions we draw from them. Non-viable samples only allow for spore identification to the genus and not the species level; thus, comparison of levels of similar types of indoor and outdoor spore types is not exact. Some spores that are reported to be similar are not at always from the same species of mold, they may just look similar under the microscope. This is especially true for some small, round spores, such as aspergillus and penicillium spores. Viable sampling only allows for identification and enumeration of molds that germinated from live spores. Thus, many dead yet still allergenic spores may be missed in the lab results when using this methodology, resulting in low estimations of the number of actual spores present.

INNER WALL SPORE SAMPLES

Your inspector cannot guarantee that hidden mold in a wall can be found even with the aid of inner wall spore sampling as hidden mold may not be producing large numbers of spores during sampling or the spores, if produced, may not have access to the spore trap because insulation or wall studs may block the pathway between spores and spore trap. Even if inner wall spore levels are elevated, it does not guarantee that the mold producing it in the wall will be excessive enough to be visible when or if the wall is opened.                                                                                                              

Such sampling is often a very helpful tool because mold hidden inside walls sometimes produce elevated spore levels that often show up during inner wall sampling. Mold levels in a wall may be high enough to produce mold odors, or may be implemented in health complaints, or may result in lab results showing elevated spore levels.  On the other hand, mold in that same wall may not have yet grown to levels where they would be visible to the unaided eye during remediation.

Water Damage vs Flood Damage

Water Damage vs Flood Damage

Flood & Mold Damage video

Emergency Water Extraction & Mold Remediation in Northern VA.

Water Damage VS Flood Damage: what is the difference?

Search phrases such as “water damage” and “flood damage” are often used interchangeably by homeowners and other non-industry professionals.  However, in this short article I want to highlight 2 key factors your insurance company is likely to use when determining coverage.

Water damage like flood damage is a very broad term & includes any situation where water or moisture causes damage to tangible goods or property.  Both water damage & flood damage can originate from acts of nature or system failures within dwellings and other properties, such as vehicles.  For example, leaving your window open during heavy rains can cause water damage to your window seal.  In the same way, a hole in your roof may cause water damage, but not necessarily cause enough water damage to be classified as a flood.

The amount of water in an effected space is the first key factor in classifying a project as a water damage or flood.  Every flood is a water damage, but not every water damage is a flood.  In general, if there is enough standing water to saturate the entire floor area of a room, that room is flooded.  If standing water covers only a section of a room, that room has a water damage, but is not flooded. 

For most insurance carriers, the major distinction between a water damage and a flood damage is the source of the loss.  In other words, is the source of the flood a natural disaster or is the source a system failure, such as a failed sump pump or busted pipe.  If the flood water source is a water intrusion originating outside of the property, your insurance company is likely to consider that a flood.  This point is important to understand because flood coverage like mold coverage, is not typically included in most home/business owners’ insurance policies.

Within the damage restoration industry, water damage is defined as any water that causes the unusefulness, or future use or value of any property to become impaired by water.  Water damage restoration is defined as the act or process of restoring & is not complete until property brought back to a pre-loss condition.  Therefore, a flood is simply a larger water damage, but for insurance purposes, floods are water intrusions originating on the outside of a structure and intrude indoors.

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