No article will be all encompassing; however we have tried to include a lot of information in one article. Our aim is to help. Let's find out what is going on in your home or business. We don't want to do ANY remediation or cleanup until we find out what caused your issue. We do not want to remediate anything until you are assured that the problem is solved, and that the mold will not return. Again, we are here to help.
The question of when to call a professional for mold identification and testing is a tricky one. Many remediation companies such as ours, are reluctant to publish anything saying that says that you should go it alone; and that your particular problem doesn't require a professional. For liability reasons, if you suspect that you have a mold issue, we want to start with this blanket statement: "Call a registered industrial hygienist to test." Your health should not be compromised by breathing mold spores.
The contents of this article include some information on the types of mold, cleaning contents and furnishings, and methodology. We hope you will find the enclosed information educational.
We realize that you might want to call around for mold advice. We encourage it. Just make sure you call us as well. ServiceMaster Advanced Cleaning & Restoration (251) 653-9333, (251) 928-1028, or (251) 943-2230. This is one place that will give you honest answers. We guarantee it.
Before you read this entire article, remember just a few things. We are not trying to ''sell" you anything. NO one can tell you how severe your problem is without SEEING IT, and testing the AIR QUALITY. No one can take short cuts by simply removing affected drywall - the spores that remain in the air are what is potentially harmful. Finally, no one can tell you how the different types of mold will affect yourhealth- (everyone is different - don't let anyone try to scare you); we can only give you advice. If we have your attention, read on. We are here to help and get you the best possible advice.
On the subject of mold remediation, and mold information in general, it is the duty and quest of ServiceMaster Advanced Cleaning & Restoration, to educate our customers and the public as much as possible. There is a lot of information published about mold. We believe the consumer should educate themselves, and obtain information from a variety of sources. We believe that after the consumer has done their homework, they will clearly understand why our approach is one of extreme caution, with the health of the individual as our first and foremost concern. We do as much or more commercial and residential mold remediation than anyone. As such, we have no interest in performing a job that isn't needed. Our reputation is too important to us. Again, if you have questions, simply pick up the phone and call us. We will be pleased to help. (251) 653-9333
Before You Hire A Mold Remediation Company, read this.
CERTIFIED Mold Remediation Requires Training & Knowledge
If you have a mold issue, make certain that you hire a CERTIFIED mold remediation professional. Ask to see their certifications. Ask to see their insurance. Mold can be a serious health hazard, and you shouldn't take a chance with anyone that says it can simply be torn out! The airborne spores left from the removal of affected drywall and contents, are typically the very thing that will cause health problems. If every square inch isn't properly cleaned and the air filtered, the resulting spores can be enough to cause serious health issues. We will not take a chance with your health. We only know one way to do the job - the right way. This involves total elimination and removal of all visible and airborne mold spores. - ServiceMaster Advanced - The Master of Disaster (251) 653-9333, (251) 928-1028.
In this posting, we have combined several articles. We hope you find them helpful.
ServiceMaster believes in doing mold remediation the right way. This means calling in an independent Industrial Hygienist and having the customer hire them to do “before and after” air sampling, and write a proper mold remediation protocol. Typically, collection of air and or tape samples will be done. Here is an initial report prior to remediation:
At this point, a proper mold remediation protocol will be written. This is an extensive, SPECIFIC document, detailing exactly what will be done. Specifically, which walls need to be removed, which areas can be cleaned, the duct work to be cleaned and where containment should be set up. Since these documents are quite lengthy (often several pages), we have elected not to include a sample document in this article. We will gladly provide one for a prospective customer.
After the protocol has been followed to the letter, and the remediation has been completed, then the structure is retested. Here is an example of the same structure as above, after mold remediation is completed:
Close examination of the air samples collected and the report issued, are indicative of nearly complete removal of all mold spores. in fact, the air inside is now cleaner than the outside air!
There are companies that do not adhere to these standards. While we do not view them as competition, nonetheless we have seen customers come to us after having been "sold" by one of these entities. The customer who sent us this, was very disappointed. Pictures were provided to us of VISIBLE mold that they missed after THREE visits! Here is an example of one company's approach to market, which on the surface, may seem appealing to the unsuspecting homeowner.
Below is a copy of this company’s warranty as sent to us, complete with their language and typos. If you read carefully, you are given a one-year warranty (included in the initial price); any additional years are sold for a price. IF your thermostat is set too high and/or you have a subsequent water intrusion, the warranty may be null and void.
IF the work is done properly initially, and verified by a CERTIFIED industrial hygienist, who does air sampling and sends said samples off to a lab for testing, then there is no need for subsequent visits. Either the job is done right, or it isn’t. MOLD DOES NOT GROW BACK WITHOUT THE PROPER CONDITIONS, ONCE IT HAS BEEN REMEDIATED. Any unattended and unmitigated subsequent water intrusion may indeed cause subsequent mold, which this company will not remediate as a part of their warranty. You are paying for a warranty for, what? So they can come back at your expense (the cost of the warranty) if they missed something, or at your expense if something additional happens. Clever.
Also, while we cannot show you their protocol written for this customer, it mentions cleaning the HVAC system with a biocide, and a "residual" (whatever a residual is - we assume it to mean that they will LEAVE a residual amount to the biocide in the HVAC ducts). Nowhere does it mention the type of HVAC Cleaning that ServiceMaster does. Our method involves inserting a rotary brush and vacuum and PHYSICALLY cleaning the entire duct work with a biocide. This ensures that all mold is physically removed from the ducts. Next, the system is sealed to ensure that no remains spores are loose and still floating, and that there is no chance for recontamination. This method ensures that all mold is removed and there is no need for us to continually reinspect (for a fee), as the company below is "offering" to do under their annual contract. In fact, if a customer has a subsequent event, ServiceMaster is always willing to revisit - free of charge. We do not need to rope you into an annual contract, and we stand by our work - which will be done right the first time and verified by an independent lab.
Here is their pitch:
Our remediation protocol provides A ONE YEAR RENEWABLE WARRANTY which will be issued upon completion and payment of remediation and decontamination. A sample of this warranty is attached. This warranty is transferable if this property is sold.
ONE YEAR RENEWABLE WARRANTY
PREMISES FOR :
This warranty is being issued for Mold Remediation and Decontamination Services that were performed on the above named property on <Insert Date>
<Company Name> Services agrees to perform a QUARTERLY inspection of this property. <Company Name> agrees to re-apply a Biocide and Residual Treatment during these inspections.
<Company Name> Services agrees to remediate all detected areas of mold relating to this current event but not to cover new events, during the warranty coverage period of one year. This includes but is not limited to :
Interior wall surfaces and trim Interior windows
The HVAC System will be treated with a Biocide and Residual at the time of the quarterly inspections.
The property owner, agrees to :
It is recommended that you maintain a setting of NO HIGHER THAN 74 DEGREES on ALL air conditioning thermostats.
Repair or replace ALL broken air conditioning units IMMEDIATELY.
nspect (sic) for and repair all leaks IMMEDIATELY. <Company Name> Services is to be notified immediately in the event of any leak or other moisture intrusion.
FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN THIS WARRANTY BECOMING NULL AND VOID.
THIS IS THE TYPE OF NONSENSE THAT WE SEE OUT THERE IN THE MARKETPLACE
END OF ARTICLE
How Many Remediation Customers are
Susceptible to Mold Illness?
It's important restorers understand the health
consequences some customers face in their homes.
posted by Sanjay Gupta
April 27, 2016
One of the biggest challenges faced by people sick from mold is the fact that doctors,
friends, and other family members dismiss their symptoms simply because they,
personally, do not get sick when exposed to mold.
Many victims of mold sickness are labeled as hypochondriacs and are accused of not
being sick at all.
This is tragic because many people that get sick have no control over their sickness
because their bodies have a genetic pre-disposition to mold illness.
The purpose of this article is to explain why contractors, particularly mold remediation
professionals, should know why some of their customers get sick from mold and other’s
There is actually a scientific reason, and understanding of that science will not only help
you serve your customers more effectively, but also increase sales by addressing the
needs of mold sensitized individuals.
Lessons Learned From Interviews With Mold Sensitized Individuals
In 2015, Wonder Makers Environmental, a company based in Michigan, launched a new
website with the mission of educating consumers, contractors, and health professionals
on the health concerns caused by mold. The website’s goal is to be the ultimate resource
of mold information and contains many articles written by the CEO, Michael Pinto.
Since launching the website, numerous mold sensitized individuals have been
interviewed and many lessons can be learned from these interviews.
1. In general, there is a lack of appreciation among the medical community of the
impact mold can have on certain individuals.
2. The symptoms from mold sickness are broad, leading to multiple misdiagnoses of
patients by many doctors.
3. It is quite common for mold sensitized individuals to seek help from multiple
medical practitioners and still not get healthy.
4. Eventually, the individual learns mold has been the cause of the sickness.
5. Mold sensitized individuals frequently are forced to seek alternative shelters
because traditional remediation approaches are not adequate to address their
sensitivities, even assuming that the current standard of care is followed.
Anecdotal Data Versus Scientific Data On Mold Illness
For more than a decade, people have tried to use the courts to sue for compensation from
sicknesses caused by mold. During the early stages of these legal battles, the court system
tended to side with the defendants citing a lack of scientific evidence that mold actually
makes people sick.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, anecdotal data from thousands of contractors
working with occupants of water-damaged buildings documented the health challenges
In the 1980s, the World Health Organization, coined the term “Sick Building Syndrome”,
which people believed was caused by poor indoor air quality caused by water damage to
According to Erik Johnson, a mold expert and survivor, it was not until the 1990s, that
the World Health Organization, acknowledged “Sick Building Syndrome” could be
caused by toxic mold.
The medical community is beginning to acknowledge the health impact that waterdamaged
buildings can have. This recognition was made very public in 2015 with the
release of the MOLDY documentary which featured health professionals and people who
have suffered mental and physical health issues after moving into moldy houses.
In a presentation at the PLR Expo in Toronto, Canada, in November, 2015, CEO of
Wonder Makers Environmental, Michael Pinto presented “13 Future Trends in the
Restoration Industry“ and has since also written an update to several of his points.
One of the most notable trends he cites is a “A Tighter Connection Between Medicine
Pinto cites new diagnosing techniques to identify an illness called Chronic Inflammatory
Response Syndrome (CIRS), which legitimizes the tie between water-damaged buildings
(WDB) and sickness. He also cited research that has identified a genetic component to
this condition, a screening test (VCS), and most importantly, a treatment regimen.
Pinto also believed the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) demonstrates
the important ties between medicine and the environment. ERMI is a scientific test that
analyzes dust samples for 36 mold species. This test provides base information to identify
CIRS because 26 of the mold species are considered to be water damage indicators.
This test is important because one sample can be analyzed to identify the extent of water
damage in the building that could make someone susceptible to CIRS sick. Importantly,
this test provides an ERMI score, i.e. a HERTSMI-2 score that can be given to physicians
and will help them assess whether a building will make their patient sick.
Because of growing medical awareness and the fact that there are now medical tests and
drugs to diagnose and treat mold illness, Pinto believes one of the other outcomes of this
acknowledgement will be a more active justice system where plaintiffs will now be able
to get compensation because they now have science to back up their claims.
25% of the Population is Susceptible to Mold Illness
The most interesting aspect of the research on the effect that Sick Building Syndrome has
on patients pertains to genetics.
One of the biggest problems with mold sickness is that it impacts everyone differently.
Some may experience minor allergies, and other health conditions like asthma and
chronic sinusitis, while other mold sensitized patients may suffer severe illnesses.
One physician documented the health symptoms of 227 patients who lived in waterdamaged
buildings during a three year period and found 98% of his patients had one of
the gene types where their immune systems were not able to effectively deal with
contaminants from water-damaged buildings.
As stated by Pinto:
“In layman’s terms, two different genes have been isolated, which keep some people’s
immune systems from functioning properly when they have been exposed to contaminants
from water-damaged buildings. Instead of properly identifying and eliminating the
foreign invader, those body defense mechanisms increase the problem. When viewed with
a basic understanding of genetic distributions, this research made it clear that up to a
quarter of the population (25%) is at increased risk from exposure to water-damaged
This research is very significant because it demonstrates that up to 25% of the population
has a genetic pre-disposition that makes them more susceptible to mold illness and the
condition known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
Because of this research, the scientific community and legal system is now taking much
greater notice because diagnostic tests, lab tests and treatment tools are being developed
to help these patients. In short, the data is no longer anecdotal, but based on objective
What Is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)?
According to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, CIRS is:
“An acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following
exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic
organisms, including, but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and mycobacteria
as well as inflammagens such as endotoxins, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases,
mannans, c-type lectins and possibly spirocyclic drimanes, plus volatile organic
Listed below are the 37 symptoms associated with CIRS.
4. Muscle Cramps
5. Unusual Pain
6. Ice Pick Pain
8. Light Sensitivity
9. Red Eyes
10. Blurred Vision
12. Sinus Problems
14. Shortness of Breath
15. Abdominal Pain
17. Joint Pain
18. Morning Stiffness
19. Memory Issues
20. Focus/Concentration Issues
21. Word Recollection Issues
22. Decreased Learning of New Knowledge
25. Skin Sensitivity
26. Mood Swings
27. Appetite Swings
28. Sweats (especially night sweats)
29. Temperature Regulation or Dysregulation Problems
30. Excessive Thirst
31. Increased Urination
32. Static Shocks
36. Metallic Taste
For 75% of the population, when exposed to biotoxins caused by mold, the individuals’
immune system responds by binding with the invading poison that allows its cells to filter
the biotoxins through the liver, kidneys, and other organs.
In contrast, 25% of the population who have the genetic susceptibility to mold illness get
sick because their body’s immune system does not bind to the biotoxin, meaning it is not
eliminated and therefore continues to circulate, causing the many symptoms, documented
The “C” in CIRS refers to the term “Chronic” because individuals exposed to poisons
from mold are unable to eliminate the toxins from their body, resulting in on-going and
escalating sickness, particularly if the person is continually exposed to mold. This is the
primary reason that the first priority of medical practitioners treating mold sensitized
patients is to begin the detox process which also must coincide with movement away
from the building that is constantly exposing the person to the toxins.
The “I” in CIRS refers to the term “Inflammatory” because the constant exposure to the
toxins creates a cycle of sickness, meaning the individual’s immune system is constantly
trying to fight the toxins, leading to inflammation.
The “R” in CIRS refers to “Response” because the human body is designed to respond to
invading toxins. In the case of patients suffering from mold sickness, the immune system
is constantly trying to fight the toxins causing a stress on the complete immune system of
the individual, which in turn leads to other health conditions.
As stated by Pinto, the “S” in CIRS refers to “Syndrome” because:
“The symptoms are a result of many factors, including external exposures and internal
responses. The contaminants from water-damaged buildings should trigger the activation
of an immune response, but some people’s genetic structure does not allow the proper
recognition of the biotoxin. Since this combination of circumstances inhibits the
clearance of the poison from the body, these harmful substances continue to circulate and
create continual damage. With such individuals there is no linear dose/response
relationship, meaning that even trivial exposures can create severe problems.”
Is CIRS Life Threatening?
The major problem that individuals with CIRS face is their bodies immune systems
become severely compromised and weakened from the vicious cycle of invading poison,
immune response, and inflammation.
The end result is many of their bodies systems are damaged, leading to a wide range of
health conditions, some life threatening.
For this reason, many mold survivors have reported that they have abandoned the primary
residence that initially made them sick; instead, seeking shelter wherever they can find it,
especially very dry areas, with dessert like conditions where moisture is limited. These
drastic measures were taken by these individuals because their bodies have become so
sensitized to mold that even minor exposure triggers severe reactions.
Fortunately, the continued research on mold sickness is creating hope because treatments
been have developed that help individuals detox and eliminate the poisons, followed by
rebuilding the immune system so that it regains strength.
How Can This Knowledge Help Your Business?
At PLR Expo in 2015, Michael Pinto asked the audience of about 400 contractors if they
had heard of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome? Very few raised their hand.
Honestly, I was a bit surprised. Keep in mind, one of the trends that Pinto identified was
“Growing Public Awareness.” If consumers are getting more educated, you should also.
One of the goals of this article is to explain why some of your customers are sick from
mold and others are not. Now you know the answer: 25% of the population has a genetic
pre-disposition to mold illness and may suffer from CIRS.
Learn about CIRS and know the symptoms. In fact, when you meet with a prospective
client who has health issues that could possibly be caused by mold, ask them how many
of the 37 symptoms of CIRS they have.
If you suspect they have CIRS, ask them to consult with a physician who can verify the
diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan.
The next step is to work with your customer to properly remediate their home. It is no
longer just a matter of dealing with mold in just one part of the home when you are
dealing with a mold sensitized customer. You need to understand the big picture,
meaning you need to work on a plan that addresses spore deposition throughout the home
and also understand that the HVAC system could also be contaminated.
Addressing The Needs Of Mold Sensitized Individuals Will Increase Your Bottom
Recently, one of my clients began working on a mold project that was referred to them by
Wonder Makers Environmental. The mold sensitized homeowner was no longer living in
her home because her health kept getting worse as she suffered from CIRS and was
advised to move out until her home was properly remediated.
Wonder Makers referred this homeowner to a contractor who understood how to deal
with mold sensitized individuals. The mold remediator’s work plan addressed the source
of contamination, i.e. the moisture source. Once this problem was fixed, the scope of
work addressed the areas of the home that had mold growth. The work plan had three
1. Use proper standard of care, containment, negative air, air scrubbers, etc. to
remove porous mold contaminated content. The contractor also implemented
their mold prevention system backing it up with a 25 year guarantee.
2. Create a work plan to address the spore contamination in the HVAC system by
sub-contracting the clean up with a reputable firm
3. Address the spore deposition in the home by setting up a clean room where
contents could be cleaned with an effective solution, like Mold-B-Gone, and
HEPA vacuumed could be stored. It should be noted, the use of chemicals to
clean the contents is not necessary, though this contractor chose to use this
chemical because the ingredients are all natural, EPA approved, and on the FDA
The total price tag for this project was more than $20,000.
The customer is happy because the fungal ecology of her home is at normal levels and
she can live in her home again.
How many customers can you help if you simply ask the right questions?
How might your business grow if you position it as the expert on CIRS and begin
How many jobs will you win from competitors if your education efforts build more trust
Bottom line, there is a need for contractors that understand the needs of individuals
adversely affected by mold. The science of mold is advancing. The fact that up to 25%
of the population could be genetically pre-disposed to mold illness, means that
contractors that want to grow their businesses exponentially should begin preparing
themselves to service this market demand. How prepared are you?
Mold air sampling machine.
Mold Overview - Types of Mold Explained - ServiceMaster ADVANCED - Mobile, AL
We are the original ServiceMaster Restore disaster restoration company operating in Mobile and Baldwin County in South Alabama, serving the area for over 30 years. We have handled some of the largest fire damage, water damage and mold remediation cleanup jobs ever performed on the Gulf Coast and we would be honored to serve you. (251) 653-9333, (251) 928-1028 and (866) 653-9333.
Below is an article posted on LinkedIn by Mr. Sanjay Gupta. it is an overview and gives the reader some basic information. Another great site is http://www.epa.gov/mold/. There is a link to his site included below.
Mold Facts and Information
Originally published on June 5, 2015. by Sanjay Gupta
The purpose of this article is to answer the following questions about mold:
1. What causes mold growth?
2. What are the most common types and species of mold?
3. Why should I be concerned about mold?
4. How can I detect mold?
What Causes Mold Growth?
Mold is a fungus, as are mushrooms and yeast, and has a biological purpose in our eco-system: to consumes dead organic material. Understanding it’s biological importance is essential to understanding why it poses health hazards.
Problems occur with mold when it begins growing in an enclosed environment such as a home. Mold found inside homes and buildings originates from the outside. Mold spores enter buildings and homes through open doorways, windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to clothing, animals, shoes, bags and more!
The key ingredient mold needs to thrive and grow is moisture and a food source.
Sources of Moisture
Since mold is everywhere, it will only start growing when the spores settle on surfaces with excess moisture. The key to preventing mold growth is to control moisture. Maintaining an interior humidity level of between 30 to 40% will prevent mold growth.
Listed below are the most common sources of moisture. If you suspect mold growth, before the mold can be cleaned and removed, the sources of the moisture issues must be addressed first.
2. Backed-up sewers.
3. Leaky roofs and/or water leaks.
4. Humidifier which is not regularly cleaned and disinfected.
5. Damp basements or crawl spaces.
6. House plants and their debris.
7. Steam from cooking and showers.
8. Wet clothes hung to dry indoors.
9. Inadequate air exchange.
10. Excessive humidity.
11. Condensation, which is especially a problem during the winter, on poorly insulated surfaces.
Sources of Food
Mold is like a parasite because it will only grow if there is an ample mold source. Under the right conditions of temperature and moisture, mold will continue to feed. The problem with mold lies in the fact that most homes and buildings are made from dead organic material, which is the type of food that mold thrives on. Food sources for mold include the following:
1. Wood & wood products.
2. Paper and other paper products like cardboard and wallpaper
4. Fabric and upholstery
6. Painted walls.
8. Plaster (drywall).
9. Ceiling tiles
10. Insulation materials.
What Are The Most Common Types and Species of Mold?
Not all molds are the same; consequently, it is important to understand that identifying the types and species of mold is important because it helps you and the mold remediation professionals assess the potential health hazards that the growth poses.
Types of Mold
Of the 100,000 types of mold that have been identified, the three most common types have been identified as:
1. Allergenic Molds.
2. Pathogenic Molds.
3. Toxigenic Molds.
Allergenic molds are not usually life-threatening but do cause health concerns for individuals with allergies or asthma. Children and the elderly are most likely to experience health issues if there are allergenic molds present in the property.
Pathogenic molds are of particular concern if your immune system is weak or compromised because these can cause infections. This type of mold can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an acute response resembling bacterial pneumonia. An example is Aspergillus fumigatus, which can grow in the lungs of immune-compromised individuals.
Toxigenic Molds (aka “toxic molds”)
Toxigenic molds are the worse types of molds because they produce mycotoxins that will make anyone exposed to them sick. Mycotoxins are chemical toxins present within or on the surface of the mold spore, which can be inhaled, ingested, or touched. An example of this is an aflatoxin, one of the most potent carcinogens known to mankind. Aflatoxins grow on peanuts and grains, and on some other foods.
Species of Mold
Mold inspectors and indoor air quality professionals use various methods to identify the mold species.
Testing could be done with a tape or swab sample on visible mold.
Air quality samples may also be recommended because air borne mold spores are not visible to the eye. Air quality samples are advantageous because they can identify the concentration of indoor spores.
Once samples are taken, they should be sent to accredited laboratories to analyze them to determine the exact species of mold.
The five most prevalent species of mold are:
Alternaria mold is commonly found in your nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract and can cause allergic responses.
Aspergillus mold is usually found in warm, extremely damp climates, and a common occupant of house dust. This mold produces mycotoxins which is a poisonous chemical compound. This mold variety can cause lung infections including aspergillosis.
Cladosporium mold is a very common outdoor fungus that can find its way indoors and grow on textiles, wood and other damp, porous materials. This mold triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms.
Penicillium mold is a very common species found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation. It is known for causing allergies and asthma. Some species produce mycotoxins, one being the common antibiotic penicillin.
Stachybotrys mold is extremely toxic “black mold” that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs. This mold can be found on wood or paper.
We are the original ServiceMaster Clean (janitorial) & ServiceMaster Restore (disaster restoration) company operating in Mobile and Baldwin County in South Alabama, serving the area for over 30 years. We have handled some of the largest janitorial, fire damage, water damage and mold remediation cleanup jobs ever performed on the Gulf Coast and we would be honored to serve you. (251) 344-5105, (251) 653-9333, (251) 928-1028 and (866) 653-9333.
END OF ARTICLE
How To Clean Mold Contaminated Contents!
The Contents Conundrum*
This article was originally published by Contents Industry Review, Your Source for the Latest Contents Restoration News, Trends and Developments. Many thanks to David Gavilanes for his assistance. Image courtesy of Contents Industry Review.
Deciding if contents from structures with mold growth are contaminated, and what to do about them
Too often, contents are the forgotten stepchild of a mold remediation project. Inspectors and Indoor Environmental Professionals often focus on identifying the source of water intrusion and the subsequent fungal contamination with little regard for the furnishings and contents in the areas surrounding the contamination. Many project specifications talk about isolation of contaminated area with brief instructions (or the assumption) for movable contents to be repositioned so that they are not inside the isolated work zone.
Unfortunately, improperly assessed or addressed contents can be a source of significant cross-contamination to areas where considerable effort and expense has been expended to deal with mold contamination. This is an especially crucial issue if any of the occupants aresensitized to mold (or have Lyme disease or chemical sensitivity, either of which can result in cross sensitivities to mold). Therefore, regardless of whether the contents are addressed in the work plan of a third-party, cleaning and restoration contractors need to have some basic guidelines for attending to them when dealing with water damage and mold remediation projects.
The Initial Assessment
Even if contents are only being moved from one area to another as part of the setup for a mold remediation project, close attention should be paid to each and every item. Any material that has visible fungal growth (or anything that resembles fungal growth), a musty odor, or a “light fuzz” that could be dust deposition or mildew should immediately be segregated from the other materials. Of the items with visible contamination, nonporous materials can generally be cleaned satisfactorily. In contrast, the current standard of care calls for the disposal and replacement of soft, porous contents that are supporting fungal colonies.
Even if the contents do not have visible growth on them, they could still be reservoirs of fungal contaminants like spores, hyphae, and mycotoxins (chemical poisons that can be released from some fungal types). This microscopic contamination is characterized as Condition 2 by the IICRC’s S520 standard related to professional mold remediation. The S520 notes that dust from impacted items does not reflect the “normal fungal ecology” in terms of fungal types present and amounts. However, the good news is that the S520 document explains that contents contaminated by deposition of spores from adjacent growth can be cleaned.
Standard of Care versus the Doctor’s Recommendation
While many professionals in the cleaning and restoration industry are used to cleaning contents that at first glance seem to be unsalvageable, the reverse thinking often takes hold of occupants who are dealing with a mold contamination situation. Even in cases where the contents do not have visible fungal growth, they are concerned that the materials cannot be thoroughly decontaminated. Indeed, we have talked to several individuals, diagnosed with mold sensitivities, who were told by their doctors that the contents of their homes could never be cleaned well enough. The medical professional basically told them that all of those items needed to be disposed of.
In contrast, our research and experience confirm that contents acting as a reservoir for fungal contamination generally can be cleaned. However, from a practical and financial standpoint the general rule of thumb that we use when offering advice to clients is that the more contents that can be removed from the house, the more thorough the cleaning of both contents and the structure can be. Nevertheless, there are practical limitations. Large bureaus, beds, couches, and appliances are difficult to move, even to a cleaning station in the garage. Large pieces that are left in the house need to be thoroughly cleaned and then moved multiple times during the process of cleaning the structure. We do not recommend that they be covered and left in place because this hinders the proper cleaning of all surfaces.
Another important consideration is that the more consistent the occupant and cleaning contractor can be with surfaces and contents, the better the result for sensitized individuals.For both surfaces and contents, the process should begin with a HEPA sandwich method of cleaning. Additional activities for both the structure and any remaining contents can include air scrubbing, air washing, and fogging.
Using a Logical Process
As most cleaning and restoration contractors understand, once the decision has been made to undertake cleaning of some or all of the contents, a number of other questions come into play.Probably the biggest variable that needs to be determined is where and how the content cleaning will be accomplished. There are a few options:
1. Clean them on the way out of the house. This typically involves setting up a cleaning station in the garage or other area where contaminated contents from the house are staged, cleaned, and packed in clean containers. Although we prefer that plastic tubs with tightfitting lids be used as storage containers, cardboard boxes can be used as long as they are lined with plastic to protect the contents from moisture. Generally, the packing containers used on the way out of the house are not an issue—even old grocery boxes can be used, but after the items have been cleaned they should be stored and moved around in new boxes or plastic containers.
Some clients have even gone so far as to set up a washer and dryer in the garage with temporary water and power sources so that methodical cleaning can be conducted. We recommend, however, that any soft contents being saved be cleaned using the Esporta Wash System rather than regular washers and dryers. This is because that is the only system that we are aware of that has published data on the efficacy of cleaning mold reservoirs (as well as actual visible contamination) from soft goods.
2. Pack them and have them cleaned at a separate facility. The benefit to this approach is that the contents can then be cleaned utilizing a wide variety of specialized decontamination processes. In particular, this allows materials to be moved to a facility that has specialized laundry equipment, ultrasonic cleaning tanks, proper cleaning equipment for electronic components, and even areas for specialty cleaning of papers and books. Also available at some facilities, household contents can be subjected to other cleaning and decontamination procedures as appropriate, such as controlled exposure to ozone or hydroxyl radicals.
3. Pack the contents, store them until remediation has been completed, and then clean them on-site as they are moved back into the clean residence. While this approach has the benefit of the items being cleaned immediately before their reentry into the remediated structure, it does limit the cleaning methods that can be used. The biggest drawback to this approach is that many of the specialized cleaning procedures mentioned in the previous option are not practical at temporary locations.
Once a decision has been made as to how and where the contents will be cleaned, it is much easier to proceed with packing. In all cases, it is best to view this situation as an opportunity for the clients to de-clutter their lives. Content cleaning gets progressively more expensive as the number of items increases. Also, it is important to educate the client that, from a mold perspective, paper goods are the most difficult to clean properly and, therefore, are the most expensive. But for almost everything else, studies have shown that cleaning contaminated items costs only 20–25% as much as replacing them.
Selection of Cleaning Products/Processes
Regardless of whether it is hard goods or soft goods, a decision needs to be made about the particular cleaning agents that will be employed. While a good HEPA vacuum should always be used to remove loose particles from contents, a damp or wet cleaning method is also recommended for materials from a mold-contaminated structure. One of the primary reasons for this washing is the debate in the industry about what role residual mycotoxins play in the development of adverse health symptoms. Research over the past seven years has shown that some of the more noxious mycotoxins can not only be spread through the air, but when they settle on surfaces they tend to cling to that surface until the attraction is broken through chemical and physical methods. (This means that if there are sporting goods, such as a croquet set, in a mold-contaminated environment you could have a real sticky wicket on your hands!**)
For this reason antimicrobials that are formulated from quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) are often recommended for cleaning contents and surfaces in mold contamination situations. Quats are recommended for mold work because some research suggests that they are better than regular cleaners at removing mycotoxins from surfaces. Nevertheless, the oxidation potential of hydrogen peroxide based cleaners would, theoretically, also work to break that sticky bond between the mycotoxins and the surfaces.
Essential oil cleaners are another frequent choice for mold work. While their effectiveness against microorganisms is well documented, there is little available evidence about their ability to remove mycotoxins. Another class of cleaning products being used for mold remediation are salt-based products. However, once again, there is little available evidence about their ability to remove mycotoxins.
Cleaning Contents May Not Be a “Do It Yourself” Proposition
People who are considering cleaning household contents related to mold contamination situations for the first time rarely think that there is any sort of conundrum associated with the work. The reality is that cleaning these contents can pose a variety of unexpected difficulties and needs to be well thought out.
While this article contains a lot of information to digest, it also points out that the cleaning and restoration industry is blessed with a great variety of good products that work well in specific aspects of the mold remediation business. Contractors and occupants just have to choose wisely based on their particular situation. For sensitized individuals, this may mean that what at first appears to be a simple task of cleaning dust and fungal reservoirs from contents is actually something that they should leave to the professionals.
Another great source of information is: http://www.epa.gov/mold/.
END OF ARTICLE
Finally, at the risk of being redundant and providing too much information, we have put together a printable quick-start mold remediation guide and posted it below:
About ServiceMaster ADVANCED Cleaning & Restoration, The Master of Disaster.
The owner of ServiceMaster Advanced is certified in mold remediation. It is absolutely imperative that you hire someone who is certified and understands both how to remediate mold, and the health consequences of mold. We have done many many residential and commercial mold remediation jobs and we always get a certified industrial hygienist to provide clearance testing.
Based out of Mobile AL and Foley, AL, we serve the entire local area including Mobile, Citronelle, Saraland, Satsuma, Chickasaw, Prichard, Eight Mile, Semmes, Theodore, Grand Bay, Irvington, Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Bay Minette, Loxley, Stapleton, Spanish Fort, Daphne, Lillian, Fairhope, Silver Hill, Foley, Elberta, Seminole, Magnolia Springs, Orange Beach, Perdido Key, Gulf Shores and every community in Mobile and Baldwin Counties in South Alabama; and Pascagoula, Gulfport, Biloxi and every community in Jackson and Harrison Counties in Mississippi.
Our web site is loaded with informative articles and videos on mold remediation. Please view our site at: http://www.servicemastermobilealabama.com. It will give you a good idea of our standards. Also, please check the EPA guide on mold: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm. You will find that we absolutely adhere to the guidelines in this publication.
If you have gotten all the way through this article, it might be of interest to you that our firm was selected to perform mold remediation on the Sanger Theater in Mobile, Alabama by the City of Mobile. Out of respect for the City, we will not post pictures of the actual mold; we can however provide this link from AL.com which provides some information on this massive project: https://www.al.com/life/2019/09/mold-cleanup-a-massive-undertaking-in-mobile-saenger.html We were honored to have been selected.
When you call us, we will assess your issue, direct you to an independent testing company if necessary, and immediately contain the affected area if necessary. We only know one way to do the job - the right way.
Remember that YOU AND YOU ALONE, decide who works in your home or business. YOU decide who can most effectively handle your cleanup, of your home or business. Tell your insurance provider WHEN YOU FILE YOUR CLAIM that you want SERVICEMASTER ADVANCED, Enterprise number 7027, or call us directly. Make sure that there is no confusion. There are other mitigation companies, and even others with similar sounding names. We are ServiceMaster Advanced, The Master of Disaster. "WE WOULD BE HONORED TO SERVE YOU." (251) 653-9333, (251) 928-1028, or (251) 943-2230. www.servicemastermobilealabama.com, www.servicemasterbaldwincounty.com