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Mold Remediation

The golden rule of mold remediation is:
DO IT RIGHT OR DO IT AGAIN

When it comes to removing mold, you don't need to know everything about remediation but understanding the basics will help you resolve mold problems correctly and effectively and save you a lot of time, money and heartache.

The most important thing to do is educate yourself on the proper procedures. The second most important thing is knowing a thing or two about mold remediators.

PLEASE NOTE:
AMI is not in the mold remediation business. AMI mold inspectors are certified in mold remediation for the sole purpose of enabling them to recognize incorrect or improper remediation work during post-remediation clearance testing. We do not engage in any mold removal or mold remediation services because we firmly believe it is a conflict of interest for a mold inspection company to benefit financially from remediation work resulting from their inspections.   [For information on Conflicts of Interest see Mold Scams]

Due to the extensive information concerning mold remediation we have segmented this page into three sections to help you navigate quickly to your topic of interest.

1. Mold Remediation:  (Information about remediation work)
2. Mold Remediation Contractors 
3. EPA Publications and Web Links

Mold Remediation:

What is mold remediation?
Remediation is a term that can be generally described as a procedure of removing toxic or biohazard contaminants that pose human health consequences or threats to the environment from an infected area. Simply stated, remediation is a clean-up and disinfecting process.

Contaminants can be organic or inorganic materials. Toxic mold spores are considered by health care professionals to be organic or biohazard contaminants. Studies indicate that exposures to mold can cause a vast array of health problems in humans and animals. Remediation is necessary to eliminate or minimize the health risks posed by elevated levels of toxic mold spores in indoor air.

Federally Regulated protocols for mold inspections, mold testing, mold sampling and mold remediation have yet to be established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA or any other federal agency. Those agencies, however, have suggested guidelines for mold remediation. Most reputable mold remediation companies across the United States use these and the more formal guidelines established by the New York City Department of Health on May 7, 1993 (www.ci.nyc.ny.us/health). These steps and procedures spell out the appropriate methods to isolate the mold infected area, methods for debris removal and disposal while protecting the occupants of a building and the safety of the remediation workers.

Cost factors for remediation of indoor mold colonization varies depending on the level of the mold problem and associated damages. Costs of professional clean-up also vary depending on geographic location. If you have concerns regarding mold and mildew damage, click here to contact AMI for a consultation and site assessment, or, you can speak directly with one of our certified mold inspectors at 1-800-369-8532.

Mold should be removed as soon as it appears.
The goal of remediation is to remove or clean contaminated materials in a way that prevents the emission of mold spores and dust contaminated with fungi from leaving a work area and entering other occupied or non-abatement areas. At the same time, special care should be taken to protect the health of workers performing the abatement (remediation).

Any water intrusion should be stopped and cleaned immediately (within 24 to 48 hours). The more time that passes before clean up, drying, and removal of water damaged materials are addressed, the greater potential for mold contamination. In all situations, the source of water intrusion must be stopped or mold growth will recur.

Non-porous materials (e.g., metals, glass, and hard plastics) and semi-porous (e.g., wood, and concrete) that are structurally sound and are visibly moldy can be cleaned and reused. Cleaning should be done using a detergent solution.

Porous materials such as ceiling tiles and insulation, and wallboards with more than a small area of contamination should be removed and discarded. Porous materials (e.g., wallboard, and fabrics) that can be cleaned, can be reused, but should be discarded if possible. A professional restoration consultant should be contacted when restoring porous materials with more than a small area of fungal contamination. All materials to be reused should be dry and visibly free from mold. Routine visual inspections should be conducted to watch for reoccurrences.

Mold and Chlorine Bleach - Do NOT Use Bleach in an Attempt To Kill Mold
Chlorine Bleach (sodium hyporchlorite) is NOT an effective chemical for killing colonized mold. Numerous state and U.S. federal agencies, including the EPA, recommend the use of it but it is NOT EFFECTIVE for killing mold in building materials (wood, products, wall board, ceiling tiles, etc.). OSHA, another federal agency on the other hand, does not recommend the use of bleach. The EPA use to recommend using bleach to get rid of mold on their web site but they don't anymore. That's because bleach is not effective for removing mold. In fact, bleach usually makes mold problems worse. Bleach is 98% water. Once the active chemicals in bleach dissipate, all that's left is water. Water is what caused the mold problem to begin with. Using bleach on mold is like pouring gas on fire.

Five different levels of abatement are described below. The size of the area impacted by mold contamination primarily determines the type of remediation. The sizing levels are based on professional judgment and practicality; currently there is not adequate data to relate the extent of contamination to frequency or severity of health effects.

Level I:
Small Isolated Areas (10 sq. ft or less)
- e.g., ceiling tiles, small areas on walls

1. Small remediation jobs under 10 square feet can usually be conducted by a non-professional. Such persons should have knowledge of proper clean up methods, personal protection, and potential health hazards.

2. An OSHA approved respiratory protection device such as the N95 disposable respirator, available at Home Depot, should be worn at all time while in the abatement area. Gloves and eye protection should be worn also.

3. The work area should be unoccupied. Vacating people from spaces adjacent to the work area is not necessary but is recommended in the presence of infants (less than 12 months old), persons recovering from recent surgery, immune suppressed people, or people with chronic inflammatory lung diseases (e.g., asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and severe allergies).

4. Containment of the work area is optional. However, dust suppression methods, such as misting (not soaking) or covering surfaces with plastic prior to remediation, are recommended.

5. Contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned should be removed from the building in a sealed plastic bag. There are no special requirements for the disposal of moldy materials.

6. The work area and areas used by remedial workers for egress should be cleaned with a damp cloth and/or mop and a detergent solution.

7. All areas should be left dry and visibly free from contamination and debris.

Level II:
Mid-Sized Isolated Areas (10 - 30 sq. ft.)
- e.g., individual wallboard panels.

1. Mid-sized remediation jobs over 10 square feet can be conducted by a non-professional, however, careful assessment is recommended before beginning to help determine if a professional remediator would be better. Such persons should have knowledge of proper clean up methods, personal protection, and potential health hazards.

2. An OSHA approved respiratory protection device such as the N95 disposable respirator, available at Home Depot, should be worn at all time while in the abatement area. Gloves and eye protection should be worn also.

3. The work area should be unoccupied. Vacating people from spaces adjacent to the work area is not necessary but is recommended in the presence of infants (less than 12 months old), persons recovering from recent surgery, immune suppressed people, or people with chronic inflammatory lung diseases (e.g., asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and severe allergies).

4. The work area should be covered with a plastic sheet(s) and sealed with tape before remediation, to contain dust/debris in the abatement area. Seal ventilation ducts/grills in the work area and areas directly adjacent with plastic sheeting. (Blue Painter's Tape will usually not damage wall surfaces)

5. Dust suppression methods, such as misting (not soaking) or covering surfaces with plastic prior to remediation, are recommended.

6. Contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned should be removed from the building in sealed plastic bags. There are no special requirements for the disposal of moldy materials.

7. The work area and areas used by remedial workers for egress should be HEPA vacuumed (a vacuum equipped with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter) and cleaned with a damp cloth and/or mop and a detergent solution.

8. All areas should be left dry and visibly free from contamination and debris.

Level III:
Large Isolated Areas (30 - 100 square feet)
- e.g., several wallboard panels.

1. A mold inspection professional with experience performing microbial investigations should be consulted prior to remediation activities to provide oversight for the project. The following procedures at a minimum are recommended:

2. Personnel trained in the handling of hazardous materials and equipped with respiratory protection in accordance with the OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134, is recommended. Gloves and eye protection should be worn.

3. The work area and areas directly adjacent should be covered with a plastic sheet(s) and taped before remediation, to contain dust/debris.

4. Seal electrical switches and outlets and ventilation ducts/grills in the work area and areas directly adjacent with plastic sheeting. (Blue Painter's Tape will usually not damage wall surfaces)

5. The work area and areas directly adjacent should be unoccupied. Further vacating of people from spaces near the work area is recommended in the presence of infants (less than 12 months old), persons having undergone recent surgery, immune suppressed people, or people with chronic inflammatory lung diseases (e.g., asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and severe allergies).

6. Dust suppression methods, such as misting (not soaking) or covering surfaces with plastic prior to remediation, are recommended.

7. Contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned should be removed from the building in sealed plastic bags. There are no special requirements for the disposal of moldy materials.

8. The work area and surrounding areas should be HEPA vacuumed and cleaned with a damp cloth and/or mop and a detergent solution.

9. All areas should be left dry and visibly free from contamination and debris.
If abatement procedures are expected to generate a lot of dust (e.g., abrasive cleaning of contaminated surfaces, demolition of plaster walls) or the visible concentration of the fungi is heavy (blanket coverage as opposed to patchy), then it is recommended that the remediation procedures for Level IV are followed.

Level IV:
Extensive Contamination
(greater than 100 contiguous square feet)

A mold inspection professional with experience performing microbial investigations should be consulted prior to remediation activities to provide oversight for the project. The following procedures are recommended:

Personnel trained in the handling of hazardous materials equipped with:

Full-face respirators with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cartridges
Disposable protective clothing covering both head and shoes
Gloves

Containment of the affected area:

Complete isolation of work area from occupied spaces using plastic sheeting sealed with duct tape (including ventilation ducts/grills, fixtures, and any other openings)

The use of an exhaust fan with a HEPA filter to generate negative pressurization
Airlocks and decontamination room.

Vacating people from spaces adjacent to the work area is not necessary but is recommended in the presence of infants (less than 12 months old), persons having undergone recent surgery, immune suppressed people, or people with chronic inflammatory lung diseases (e.g., asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and severe allergies).

Contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned should be removed from the building in sealed plastic bags. The outside of the bags should be cleaned with a damp cloth and a detergent solution or HEPA vacuumed in the decontamination chamber prior to their transport to uncontaminated areas of the building. There are no special requirements for the disposal of moldy materials.

The contained area and decontamination room should be HEPA vacuumed and cleaned with a damp cloth and/or mop with a detergent solution and be visibly clean prior to the removal of isolation barriers.

Air monitoring should be conducted prior to occupancy to determine if the area is fit to reoccupy.

Proper Containment: This is a picture of a proper containment area.

Click on the image to see a larger picture. Notice the tight and secure appearance of the plastic and the tape seams. This prevents breaches (leaks) in the containment area which can can cause cross-contamination of non-effected areas. A professional containment area will always look like this.

 

Improper Containment: This is a picture of an improper containment area.

Click on the image to see a larger picture. There is only one reason for a containment area to look like this; and that is inexperience. If your containment materials sag, droop or or the the seams and zippers open or come loose from the surface, inform your contractor immediately.

 


Level V:
Remediation of HVAC Systems


5.1 A Small Isolated Area of Contamination (-10 square feet) in the HVAC System

1. Remediation can be conducted by a non-professional. Such persons should have knowledge of proper clean up methods, personal protection, and potential health hazards.

2. An OSHA approved respiratory protection device such as the N95 disposable respirator, available at Home Depot, should be worn at all time while in the abatement area. Gloves and eye protection should be worn also.

3. The HVAC system should be shut down prior to any remedial activities.

4. The work area should be covered with a plastic sheet(s) and sealed with tape before remediation, to contain dust/debris.

5. Dust suppression methods, such as misting (not soaking) or covering surfaces with plastic prior to remediation, are recommended.

6. Growth supporting materials that are contaminated, such as the paper on the insulation of interior lined ducts and filters, should be removed. Other contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned should be removed in sealed plastic bags. There are no special requirements for the disposal of moldy materials.

7. The work area and areas immediately surrounding the work area should be HEPA vacuumed and cleaned with a damp cloth and/or mop and a detergent solution.

8. All areas should be left dry and visibly free from contamination and debris.

9. A variety of biocides are recommended by HVAC manufacturers for use with HVAC components, such as, cooling coils and condensation pans. HVAC manufacturers should be consulted for the products they recommend for use in their systems.

5.2 Areas of Contamination (+10 square feet) in the HVAC System

1. A mold inspection professional with experience performing microbial investigations should be consulted prior to remediation activities to provide oversight for remediation projects involving more than a small isolated area in an HVAC system. The following procedures are recommended:

2. Personnel trained in the handling of hazardous materials equipped with:

*Respiratory protection (e.g., N95 disposable respirator), in accordance with the OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134, is recommended.

**Gloves and eye protection

***Full-face respirators with HEPA cartridges and disposable protective clothing covering both head and shoes should be worn if contamination is greater than 30 square feet.

3. The HVAC system should be shut down prior to any remedial activities.

4. Containment of the affected area:

*Complete isolation of work area from the other areas of the HVAC system using plastic
sheeting sealed with duct tape.

**The use of an exhaust fan with a HEPA filter to generate negative pressurization.

***Airlocks and decontamination room if contamination is greater than 30 square feet.

5. Growth supporting materials that are contaminated, such as the paper on the insulation of interior lined ducts and filters, should be removed. Other contaminated materials that cannot be cleaned should be removed in sealed plastic bags. When a decontamination chamber is present, the outside of the bags should be cleaned with a damp cloth and a detergent solution or HEPA vacuumed prior to their transport to uncontaminated areas of the building. There are no special requirements for the disposal of moldy materials.

6. The contained area and decontamination room should be HEPA vacuumed and cleaned with a damp cloth and/or mop and a detergent solution prior to the removal of isolation barriers.

7. All areas should be left dry and visibly free from contamination and debris.

8. Air monitoring should be conducted prior to re-occupancy with the HVAC system in operation to determine if the area(s) served by the system are fit to reoccupy.

9. A variety of biocides are recommended by HVAC manufacturers for use with HVAC components, such as, cooling coils and condensation pans. HVAC manufacturers should be consulted for the products they recommend for use in their systems.

Hazard Communication:
When fungal growth requiring large-scale remediation is found, the building owner, management, and/or employer should notify occupants in the affected area(s) of its presence. Notification should include a description of the remedial measures to be taken and a timetable for completion. Group meetings held before and after remediation with full disclosure of plans and results can be an effective communication mechanism. Individuals with persistent health problems that appear to be related to bioaerosol exposure should see their physicians for a referral to practitioners who are trained in occupational/environmental medicine or related specialties and are knowledgeable about these types of exposures. Individuals seeking medical attention should be provided with a copy of all inspection results and interpretation to give to their medical practitioners.

Summary:
In summary, the prompt remediation of contaminated material and infrastructure repair must be the primary response to fungal contamination in buildings. The simplest and most expedient remediation that properly and safely removes fungal growth from buildings should be used. In all situations, the underlying cause of water accumulation must be rectified or the fungal growth will recur. Emphasis should be placed on preventing contamination through proper building maintenance and prompt repair of water damaged areas.

Widespread contamination poses much larger problems that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis in consultation with a health and safety specialist. Effective communication with building occupants is an essential component of all remedial efforts. Individuals with persistent health problems should see their physicians for a referral to practitioners who are trained in occupational/environmental medicine or related specialties and are knowledgeable about these types of exposures.
 

Mold Remediation Contractors:

Choosing a mold remediation contractor can be either a great experience experience or a horrible one. There are so many different certifying bodies for mold remediators that it's difficult for the "outsider" to know what to look for. As a consumer, there are some very important things you should know when choosing a mold remediator.

1. No Licensing Requirements
Just because someone is a mold remediator does not mean he or she is a licensed contractor. In fact, the vast majority of mold remediators are not licensed. In California and most other States, remediation is classified as janitorial work. Janitors are not required to be licensed, nor are they subject to any training or qualifications that a building or remodeling contractor is regulated by.

2. No Licensing Body
At the time of this writing, there is no "official" certifying body for mold remediators (official meaning a public education institute, Federal Government Agency, or Federal Government sanctioned instruction or training facility). Don't be fooled by privately held organizations that included the words; "school", "academy", or "institute" in their business name. Anyone can start a company or program and call it a school or institute and even use those words in the business name. That does not imply or suggest that all organizations touting the words "school" or "institute" are inept. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), for example, is a fine organization and by far the most technically advanced resource for training in the remediation field. AMI only recommends IICRC certified mold remediators. But the fact remains that there is no State or Federal requirements or regulations for mold remediation contractors.

3. No Insurance Requirements
Liability and workers compensation insurance for mold remediators can cost tens of thousand of dollars per year. Because of the high cost, the majority of mold remediators are uninsured. Liability insurance covers damage done to your property. If your contractor has no liability insurance and accidentally breaks a priceless air loom or drives a nail into an electrical wire and burns your house down, the damage is not covered. Workers compensation insurance covers any workers that may be injured on the job. If am employee of your remediation contractor is hurt or disabled while working on your property and the contractor does not have workers compensation insurance, the employee can sue you. Always insist on proof of current insurance from your remediation and a phone number you can call to verify that payments are current.

4. No Price Regulations
There is no price or job cost regulations for mold remediation contractors. They can charge whatever they want. Most of the sub-standard remediators charge whatever they think they can get out of you depending on your zip code. The more reputable companies use a standardized estimating software program called Xactimate. Insurance companies typically insist on Xactimate pricing. You should too.

5. Conflict of Interest
Currently, the number one scam in the mold industry are companies that perform both mold inspections and mold remediation. The mold remediation business is highly profitable, much more so than the mold inspection business, and many mold remediators are performing mold inspections for the sole purpose of finding expensive mold remediation work for themselves. Unfortunately, most consumers simply don't know enough about mold or mold remediation to know when they are being bamboozled and end up spending thousands of dollars on repairs that were never necessary. At AMI, we believe that engaging in both the inspection business and the remediation business is clearly a conflict of interest. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of mold remediation fraud is make sure the person doing your mold inspection does not profit from what he finds.

6. Post-remediation Clearance Testing
After the remediation work is done and the job is ready to be put back together, always insist on a post-remediation inspection and air test. It's your only way of knowing that the remediation was successful. Never let your remediation contractor perform the clearance test. They are highly motivated to get paid and be off to the next job. Insist on third-party testing before signing off on the paperwork.

7. Encapsulation
Encapsulation is a final step that some remediators implement to help seal in any mold that may get left behind. It can also influence the post-remediation air test. The intended purpose of encapsulating after remediation is to coat the salvaged construction materials with a moisture barrier, thereby limiting the potential for mold to reoccur. Encapsulation is not necessarily wrong, although it is AMI's position is that; if all the mold has been removed, there shouldn't be anything left to encapsulate. However, if your contractor intends to use a spray-on encapsulant, insist on one that is clear. Some use a solid color encapsulant so the the post-remediation inspector cannot see the any mold that they missed. Some contractors use a product called KILZ, which is an inexpensive stain-killing paint that has no moisture barrier properties at all. Be sure to discuss this with your contractor ahead of time. Once KILZ or a solid color encapsulant is applied, it's too late.

8. The Up-Side
This information is offered to provide you the consumer with knowledge about mold remediation contractors that you might not otherwise hear. It is not meant to be derogatory or paint all mold remediators with the same brush. A qualified and honest mold remediation specialist is the best person to have working on your mold project. The up-side to hiring a certified mold professional is that the job will be done right. Builders, remodelers and handy-men may be highly skilled and compentent in their respective fields. But if they have not been properly trained and certified by an organization such as the IICRC, they can unknowingly turn a small remediation project into a complete nightmare.

How do you know if you're hiring a highly skilled, competent professional?

1. Insist on a contractor who is IICRC certified and require him or her to include a copy of their certification along with their proposal. Often times the business owner himself may be IICRC certified but the employees he sends out to your job are not. Ask your contractor if the workers are IICRC certified and if not, will he/she personally supervise them onsite.

2. Require your contractor to include a recently dated certificate of liability and workers compensation insurance along with their proposal. On large scale commercial jobs, ask for a certificate naming your company as an additional insured.

3. Ask for three references that are at least one year old and call them. A fresh remediation job always looks great right after the work is done. But if the work was not done correctly, it could take 6 to 9 months to find out.

For a list of qualified professional mold remediation contractors in your area, call:

1-800-369-8532

 

Mold Remediation Links

A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home
This Guide provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth.
[PDF] [HTML]

Una Breve Guía para el Moho, la Humedad y su Hogar
está disponible en el formato [PDF]

Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings
This document presents guidelines for the remediation/cleanup of mold and moisture problems in schools and commercial buildings; these guidelines include measures designed to protect the health of building occupants and remediators. [PDF] [HTML]

 


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