ESPECIALLY FOR CONSUMERS
Welcome to the section of our website that was created with you, the
consumer, in mind. Here we hope you will find important general information for your use
about mold, its health effects, and how it affects you, the individual, and the general
public. Here you will find suggestions on how to reduce your risk for mold, how to prevent
it and have a healthy home, as well as what to look for with ANY serviceperson or
contractor who may enter your home. For information regarding regulatory issues and
concerns, see our section regarding those issues.
With our primary goal of informing
the public about mold and the issues surrounding it, we are constantly striving to update
our informational database and research for new technologies that will enhance methods for
protecting the health and well-being of all individuals. As always, we invite your
comments and questions regarding any information you may find contained within these
Contacting any member of the MAAs administrative offices is easy! Simply click the
menu link below for easy e-mail. If you are corresponding about a member, please provide
the members identification number in your e-mail. Your comments will be forwarded,
if appropriate, for that member to respond directly to you. As always, we will return a
response to you within 48 hours.
The Association wants to hear any compliments you may have concerning our membership, our
site, or the Association itself. Simply e-mail us with your compliment, and we will post
it on our messaging board. If the compliment concerns a member, we will forward that
compliment directly to that member. All posted messages remain anonymous as to sender and
receiver, unless otherwise requested. The Association investigates compliments so that we
can discover the very best about our membership. There is no better way to communicate
your level of service satisfaction than to issue a compliment to those deserving to hear
when theyre "doing it right!"
The Association wants to hear your concerns about issues pertaining to mold or toxic mold.
In this way, we can bring the issue or topic of concern to the membership for review and
problem-solving. As always, we will respond to all concerns we receive. Simply e-mail us
with your concern and we will post it on our messaging board. Where appropriate, we will
forward a concern for review to specialists who can provide a best answer or possible
solutions. All posted concerns remain anonymous as to sender and receiver, unless
otherwise requested. Our response to your concern will be sent to you directly, as well as
posted on the messaging board. This is a great way to get people together to talk through
an issue that might otherwise never be resolved!
The Association also appreciates receiving any complaints regarding our site, the
Association itself, or its membership. We desire to resolve issues related to any of the
above whenever dissatisfaction occurs. In this way, we can resolve a problem before it
mushrooms, and provide better service from all standpoints. All complaints are sent
directly to the individuals or organizations concerned for direct communication and
resolution. All complaints are also investigated by the Association for overall resolution
and we will respond to your complaint within 48 hours. All complaints are also posted to
our message board; however, complaints are posted to the message board as anonymous for
both sender and receiver, unless specifically requested otherwise. This is a great way to
communicate your level of service dissatisfaction and communicating to those deserving to
hear when theyre "doing it wrong."
MOLD, MILDEW AND MOISTURE
What is Mold?
Molds, which are currently classified as inactive fungi,
are simple, microscopic organisms, and are present virtually everywhere, indoors and
outdoors. There are hundreds of thousands of known species of mold with thousands of these
species being common in the United States. Some of the most commonly found are species of Cladosporium,
Fusarium, Stachybotrys, Cephalosporium, Trichoderma, Penicillium
and Aspergillus. Molds, also mushrooms and yeasts, are needed to break down dead
material and recycle nutrients in the environment. Molds and mildew are currently
classified as fungi and protistans that grow on surfaces of objects, within pores, and in
deteriorated materials. Molds are very adaptable and can colonize dead and decaying
organic matter (e.g., textiles, leather, wood, paper) and even damp, inorganic material
(e.g., glass, painted surfaces, bare concrete) if organic nutrients such as dust or soil
particles are available. Mold is most likely to grow where there is water or dampness,
such as in bathrooms, basements, kitchens and damp or moist crawl spaces. However, mold
can grow almost anywhere. Because various genera grow and reproduce at different substrate
water concentrations and temperatures, molds occur in an extremely wide range of habitats.
Molds and mildews can cause discoloration and odor problems, and lead to allergic
reactions in susceptible individuals, as well as other more serious health problems.
How does mold grow?
It was previously believed that for mold growth to occur, it
needed a temperature range of above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below 100 degrees
Fahrenheit. We now know that it can grow well below and above that range, depending on a
variety of other conditions. Human comfort constraints limit the use of temperature
control to check mold growth.
Mold needs a nutrient base to grow,
specifically cellulose particles. Because molds grow by digesting the by-products that
other organisms leave behind on organic material, they can grow almost anywhere. Sometimes
new molds grow on old mold colonies. Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the
discoloration, frequently green, red, gray, brown or black, but also white and other
colors. Spores are almost always present in outdoor and indoor air, and almost all
commonly used construction materials and furnishings can provide nutrients to support mold
growth. Dirt on surfaces provides additional, easily consumed nutrients. Cleaning and
disinfecting with non-polluting cleaners and antimicrobial agents provides some protection
against mold growth, but is not a guarantee. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to
eliminate all nutrients.
And finally, mold needs moisture to grow.
Moisture control is the single-most important strategy for reducing mold growth, as it is
the most easily maintained or eliminated of the growth sources. Mold growth does not
require the presence of standing water; it can occur when high relative humidity or the
hygroscopic properties (the tendency to absorb and retain moisture) of surfaces allow
sufficient moisture to accumulate. However, relative humidity and the factors that govern
it are often misunderstood.
Climate and Molds
Fungal species that are allergenic have been identified
virtually everywhere they have been measured. They are common around 3,000 feet and are
found at altitudes as high as 7,000 to 10,000 feet. They are found in surprisingly high
concentrations in clouds and in the air during almost every type of climactic condition. Hormodendrum,
Alternaria, Fusarium, Helminthosporium, and the yeasts are considered
to be universal dominants, and with some variation are found in worldwide surveys. There
are seasonal patterns and indoor mold concentration is dependent on the outdoor
concentration. Aspergillus and Penicillium are usually non-seasonal and
regularly found indoors.
Fungi and molds are
found in soil, in water, on animals, on vegetation, in humans and in almost every part of
the environment. They are frequently found in many foods and beverages, as they are
incorporated during processing and manufacturing of these items. Molds float freely in the
air. A mere 20 m.p.h. breeze can cause mold spores to travel 200 miles in 10 hours. When
there is snow on the ground for at least five days there is a significant decrease in
airborne molds. Molds can produce large numbers of spores from a microscopic amount of
growth. Aspergillus, Penicillium, Rhizopus, Mucor, Fusarium
and Gliocladium are molds that do this and they are found in large amounts in both
the indoor and outdoor environments at all times. The most common airborne molds
include, in order: Hormodendrum, Alternaria, Penicillium and Aspergillus.
Others are: Helminthosporium, Aureobasidium, Phoma, Nigrospora,
Rhizopus, Mucor, Epicoccum, Stemphyllium, Curvularia, Fusarium,
Scoplariopsis, Cephalosporium, Chaetomium, Trichoderma, Streptomyces,
Candida, Cryptococcus, Rhodotorula, Rusts and Smuts.
Mold can form spores and resist heat
and cold. Molds have been isolated on rocks in the Sahara desert. Mold can even be found
in outer space! It has been found on the Russian space station "Mir" and other
orbiting bodies, and has prompted NASA to investigate how to deal with the problem.
Dryness and ventilation are keys (but light as a factor is a common misconception), as the
mold will be endless if the conditions that encourage it are not changed. Removing mold
should be done by someone other than a sensitive individual.
Can mold become a problem in my home or work
- Natural Climates:
- Barometric Pressure and Relative Humidity
- Temperature and Relative Humidity
- Hot Wind (above body temperature) and Cold Wind (wind chill)
- Positive Ions
- Precipitation and Fog
- Type and Amount of Atmospheric mold
- Local and Non-local Vegetation
- Inversion Layers and Stagnant Conditions
- Rapid Changes in All Variables
- Man-Made Climates:
- Indoor Cooling Devices (humidifiers, air conditioners)
- Atmospheric Dust from Auto Traffic on Unpaved Roads
- Heating Ducts containing Dust and Spores
- Damp Basements, Walls and Shower Curtains
- Mold Substrates from Agriculture, Imported Trees and Shrubs,
Yes! Mold will grow and multiply whenever conditions are
right; such as when there is sufficient moisture availability and when organic nutrients
are present. Poor indoor air quality is associated most often with inadequate ventilation,
but investigations are linking microbial growth with occupancy problems, construction
problems, moisture control problems and maintenance problems. Watch for the most common
sources of indoor moisture that may lead to mold problems in your home or workplace:
Sprinkler systems adding moisture to the structure
Repeated toilet back-ups
Overflow from sinks, sewers, tubs
Damp basements or crawl spaces
Steam streams from showers or cooking areas
Wet clothes drying indoors or clothes dryers exhausting
Indoor saunas, hot tubs or Jacuzzi areas
Water heater leaks
Poor drainage systems
Improperly installed, repaired or replaced HVAC systems
Warping floors and discoloration of
walls and ceilings can be indications of moisture problems. Condensation on or in walls
and floors and around window sills is also an important indication, but it can sometimes
be caused by an indoor combustion problem! Have burning appliances routinely inspected by
your local utility or a professional MAA heating contractor.
So what IS the concern about mold?
Molds have been recognized for centuries. From Biblical times
through today, we find references to its existence and the problems it creates. Maimomedes
in the 12th century described the frequent occurrence of wheezing in damp
weather. In 1726, Sir John Floyer noted violent asthma related to a wine cellar visit. In
1873, Blackley suggested that Chaetomium and Penicillium were related to
bronchial secretions. Van Leeuwen, in 1924, noted the relation of climate to asthma and
made a definitive correlation of mold spores to asthma. It was that same year that the
first case of asthma due to a mold was reported and that involved wheat rust.
Molds are typically filamentous,
spore-bearing organisms without chlorophyll. They do not require sunlight to thrive, which
enhances their insidious nature. They depend on outside sources for nourishment. There are
tens of thousands described species and predictably more species awaiting
discovery. Low temperatures and aging can favor the filamentous forms, while glucose,
blood or the absence of oxygen favor the yeast form. Living organisms constantly evolve.
Taxonomic categories need to be reassessed by a consensus of biologists. Intermediate
forms of fungi and molds are bound to exist and rise by hybridization and mutation. The
MAA supports the
belief that molds should be classified in their own kingdom.
Fungi and protistans function to
enrich human existence by maintaining the ecology. But they can also serve to do the exact
opposite and risk human well-being. They are present in large numbers and fungi
disintegrate organic matter. They damage food, fabrics, leather, and consumer goods. They
cause the majority of plant diseases. They certainly cause significant human and animal
diseases. Certain mushrooms and fungi are well known to be poisonous.
When moldy material becomes damaged or
disturbed, countless lightweight spores (reproductive bodies similar to seeds) are
released to travel freely through the air. When mold grows in one area, it can emit
particles that travel through the air. Generally, these particles will settle into one
area if there is little air movement. But some of the particles will inevitably stay
airborne, so that inhabitants can be exposed not just in the room where the mold is
growing, but throughout the entire house or workplace. If spores enter the return air
duct, the mold will be dispersed throughout the entire structure. We recommend using HEPA
filters to help trap and reduce the amount of mold spores being dispersed; however, they
will not completely eliminate the dispersal of mold spores.
Exposure occurs if people inhale the
spores, directly handle moldy materials, or accidentally ingest it. If indoor mold
contamination is extensive, it will cause very high and persistent airborne mold
exposures. Those who are exposed to high spore levels will become sensitized and develop
allergies to the mold or other health related problems. Under certain metabolic
conditions, many molds produce and then carry mycotoxins, natural organic compounds that
initiate a toxic response in vertebrates. The primary mode of human exposure to mycotoxins
is inhalation of spores and mold-contaminated material. Molds that are important potential
producers of toxins indoors are certain species of Fusarium, Penicillium,
and Aspergillus. In water-damaged buildings Stachybotrys chartarum
(a.k.a. Stachybotrys atra) and Aspergillus versicolor may also produce toxic
metabolites. A wide variety of information is available on the human and animal health
effects from ingestion of certain mycotoxins, and researchers have been exploring the
health implications of inhalation exposure to these substances since 1970. Two classes of
mycotoxins have been isolated from house dust samples: aflatoxins from some strains of Aspergillus
flavus and trichothecenes from some species and strains of Fusarium, Cephalosporium,
Stachybotrys and Trichoderma. In laboratory animals, inhalation of
trichothecene mycotoxins causes severe inhibition of protein synthesis and
immunosuppression. Several case reports have associated overgrowths of
trichothecene-producing fungi with human health effects such as cold and flu-like
symptoms, sore throats, headache and general malaise.
However, isolation of a toxigenic
mold from a structure does not imply the presence of mycotoxins, since the physical
conditions necessary for mycotoxin production are very specific, and are often different
from those required for growth of the parent mold. Likewise, failure to produce toxins in
vitro (in the laboratory) does not mean that a mold known to be toxogenic will not
produce toxins in a field situation. These rare but life-threatening problems tend to
overshadow the importance of allergy problems to molds as a pervasive aggravating factor
in chronic illness and disability in medical school education.
Molds also produce a large number of
volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. These chemicals are responsible for the musty
odors produced by growing molds. The most common VOC, ethanol, is a potent synergizer of
many fungal toxins.
HEALTH EFFECTS FROM MOLD
Most types of mold that are
routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals. However, too much exposure
to mold will cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. The
most common and typical symptoms of overexposure (although in combination) are:
- Flu-like symptoms (cough, congestion, runny nose, eye
- Aggravation of asthma
- Respiratory problems (wheezing, difficulty breathing,
shortness of breath)
- Dry, hacking cough
- Nose or throat irritation
- Skin rashes or irritation
- Impaired or altered immune system
- Memory problems or loss
- Mood swings
- Body aches and pains
Molds produce acute health effects
through toxin-induced inflammation, allergy or infection. There is no information at this
time on the effects of chronic, low-dose inhalation exposure to mycotoxins. Repeated or
high exposures to airborne mycotoxins cause mucous membrane irritation characterized by
eye, nose and throat irritation. When small spores are inhaled, they reach the lung and
induce an inflammatory reaction, creating toxic pneumonitis. Severe toxic pneumonitis
causes fever, flu-like symptoms and fatigue, also known as Organic Toxic Dust Syndrome
(OTDS). Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a particular form of granulomatous lung disease, is
a syndrome caused by inhalation of large concentrations of dust containing organic
material that includes fungal spores. It is generally an occupational hazard in
agriculture, but has also been reported in individuals exposed in the home and in the
workplace. Other symptoms attributed to mycotoxins or fungal VOCs include headache,
dizziness, dermatitis, diarrhea, and impaired or altered immune function.
Opportunistic fungal pathogens such
as Aspergillus are common in indoor air. A normal, healthy individual may resist
infection by these organisms in low exposures, although high exposures cause
hypersensitivity pneumonitis. However, any mold that can grow at body temperature can
become a pathogen in an immuno-suppressed host. Individuals undergoing chemotherapy, organ
or bone marrow transplantation or those with HIV/AIDS are especially susceptible to
invasive infection by the Aspergillus species.
Stachybotrys is a type of
mold that has been associated with health effects in people. It is a black, greenish-black
or greenish-gray mold that can grow on materials with a high cellulose content, such as
drywall sheetrock, dropped ceiling tiles, and wood, that become chronically moist or
water-damaged, due to excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation or flooding. Many
molds are black in appearance but are not Stachybotrys. For example,
the black mold commonly found between bathroom tiles is not Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys
can be positively identified only by a specially trained professional (e.g., mycologist)
through a microscopic exam. Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low;
however, as with other types of mold, at higher levels health effects occur. These include
allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms), dermatitis (rashes), sinusitis, conjunctivitis,
and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms are more general, such as inability to
concentrate and fatigue. Usually, symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed.
There has been some evidence linking Stachybotrys with pulmonary hemosiderosis in
infants who are generally less than six months old. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon
condition that results from bleeding in the lungs. In studied cases of pulmonary
hemosiderosis, the exposure to Stachybotrys came from highly contaminated dwellings, where
the infants were continually exposed over a long period of time.
How much mold can make me sick and who is at greatest risk?
in Human Disease:
Systemic Fungal Infections:
generally in immuno-suppressed patients such as those receiving chemotherapy. These are
life-threatening. Organisms such as Candida albicans can cause true bloodstream
Infections: such as mucocutaneous candidiasis (a skin and nail bed
disorder from candida), ringworm, "athletes foot."
Pneumonitis: which is lung disease caused by various mold exposures, often
occupationally related (such as Farmers Lung from moldy hay or corn, Cheese
Workers Lung from cheese mold, etc.).
Aspergilloma: which represent the invasive form of aspergillus.
It depends. For some individuals, a relatively small number of
mold spores trigger an asthma attack or lead to health problems. For other individuals,
symptoms occur only when exposure levels are much higher. And for others still, there may
be exposures for long periods of time before seeing any symptoms develop. Allergic persons
vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to the amount and the types to which they
react. A significant proportion of all asthmatics, about 29%, are sensitive to molds.
Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone
inside buildings; therefore, it is always best to identify and control moisture problems
quickly before mold grows and health problems develop. MAA members provide Rapid
Response Teams to help property owners reduce their risk for mold growth. Nonetheless,
mold growth is unsanitary, unsightly and undesirable. Basically, if you can see or smell
mold inside your home or workplace, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture and to
contain, cleanup and remove the mold, wearing the proper personal protective equipment
(PPE), if it is a small area (2x2 or less). If you can smell mold, call an
MAA professional, as it has advanced to a stage larger than 2x2. If you
cant see or smell it, but suspect it may be present, consult an MAA professional.
At present there are blood, urine,
skin and x-ray tests that can establish if an individual has been exposed to mold spores
or their toxins. If you believe that you or your children have symptoms that you suspect
are caused by exposure to mold, you should see a qualified physician or allergy
specialist. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure may also be
caused by many other illnesses. You should tell your physician about the symptoms and
about when, how and for how long you think you or your children were exposed. Some people
may have more severe symptoms or become ill more rapidly than others. These are usually:
Mold and Candida Allergies
- Individuals with existing respiratory conditions or asthma
- Individuals with allergies or chemical sensitivities
- Individuals with weakened immune systems (i.e., HIV
infection, cancer chemotherapy patients)
- Infants and young children
- The elderly or chronically ill persons
- Organ or bone marrow transplant patients
- Expectant mothers
If youre affected by mold allergy, with awareness and
dedication, you can have a higher quality of living. It is heavily suggested that you seek
the advice and counsel of a physician or allergist who is trained to aggressively look for
mold sensitivities as an underlying trigger for a multitude of serious symptoms. Once
properly diagnosed, there is a great deal of information on what allergy patients can do,
but these are not self-help conditions. The underlying medical condition(s) that
predispose to candida and mold overgrowth and sensitivity demand a rigorous medical
evaluation for good long-term results. Mold allergy patients may have one or more symptoms
which can vary over time, including:
|Symptoms:Headache -- including migraine.
Opthalmic -- including fluid, redness,
irritation, vision changes
Otologic -- including fluid, ringing,
vertigo, hearing changes
Respiratory -- including classic upper
respiratory symptoms, asthma, bronchitis, cough
Cardiovascular -- including changes in heart
rate and rhythm, palpitations, feeling faint, flushing, chills, sweats, chest pain
Gastrointestinal -- including nausea,
vomiting, diarrhea, upper and lower intestinal gas, irritable bowel, spastic colon,
colitis, rectal itching
Dermatologic -- including acne, eczema,
hives and other rashes
Muscular -- including pain, spasm, cramps,
weakness, fatigue, arthritis
Urologic -- including urgency, frequency,
painful urination, nocturia, enuresis genital pain or itching
Neuropsychiatric -- including depression,
mood swings, fatigue, spaciness, poor memory, personality changes, insomnia, numbness,
Dont assume anything
is a mold allergy, but also dont ignore that allergy-immune mechanisms may be the
bottom line. Do you have symptoms that are consistently triggered by exposure to molds? An
experienced physician or allergist can trigger a patients symptoms from specific
substances in a controlled way in order to discover what is really going on. A
professional evaluation of mold sensitivities may include:
- Provocative Challenges:
- X-Rays in certain cases
- Skin Testing:
Intradermal, individually tested molds
These methods in an experienced professionals hands can help identify
significant allergens, often determine associated symptoms, and afford requisite
information for mold allergy injection doses and decreasing a patients total mold
REDUCING YOUR RISK FOR MOLD
All molds need moisture to grow.
Mold can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. Most
often molds are confined to areas near the source of water. Removing the source of
moisture, such as through repairs or dehumidification, is critical to preventing mold
The MAA has a number of recommendations
for controlling the growth of mold in indoor environments; simply call our offices and
request the literature we have available. Since fungal spores are ubiquitous, the most
effective method of source control is elimination of moisture that supports mold growth.
This may involve fixing leaking pipes, windows or roofs, directing rainfall or irrigation
drainage away from exterior walls, the use of dehumidifiers where necessary, and
controlling humidity. Ventilation systems, especially those in large commercial buildings,
should be properly maintained and examined periodically for microbial contamination.
Air duct systems may be constructed
of bare sheet metal with fibrous glass insulation on the exterior, or sheet metal with an
internal fibrous glass liner, or they may be made entirely of fibrous glass. Bare sheet
metal systems and sheet metal with exterior fibrous glass insulation may be cleaned and
disinfected. If water damaged, ductwork made of sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass
liner or that is entirely of fibrous glass will often need to be removed and discarded.
Ductwork in difficult-to-reach locations may be abandoned. If you have other questions,
contact an MAA air duct cleaning professional or a licensed MAA contractor. Keep in
mind that these professionals should offer specialized cleaning, and ensure the use of
HEPA filters. These professionals should also re-inspect the air duct lines after cleaning
Sometimes air cleaners are promoted
to remove indoor mold or associated odors, and some of these are designed to produce
ozone. Ozone is a strong oxidizing agent that is used as a disinfectant in water and
sometimes to eliminate odors. However, ozone is a known lung irritant. Ozone generators
have been shown to sometimes produce indoor levels of ozone over the safe limit.
Furthermore, it has been shown that ozone is not effective in controlling molds and other
bio-contamination, even at concentrations far above safe health levels. Also, ozone may
damage materials in the home, for example, cause rubber items to become brittle. For these
reasons, we do not recommend the use of an ozone air cleaner in any occupied space.
When underlying moisture sources cannot be
readily eliminated, air conditioners and dehumidifiers can help control relative humidity.
When using dehumidifiers, water collection traps should be cleaned routinely as these are
another source of microbial growth. Visible mold (no larger than a 2x2 area)
can be removed by disinfection with a borate-type solution. The area being cleaned should
be well ventilated.
Basements may have mold if they are
wet or damp. Moisture seeping through concrete walls and floors will cause this dampness,
resulting in mold on walls, floors, carpeting and materials (including firewood) that are
stored in your basement. Bathrooms are more likely to have mold growth if exhaust fans are
not used while showering or bathing. Soap scum, shower walls, ceramic tile and fiberglass
are all possible surfaces for mold growth. Laundry rooms are common places to find mold if
damp towels and clothing are present. Unvented clothes drying, which produces high levels
of relative humidity, can also cause mold growth. Kitchens are possible sites for mold
growth if large amounts of water are boiled using no exhaust fan. Refrigerator pans in
automatic defrosting refrigerators also commonly have mold. Closets often have mold
growth, especially if clothing is stored damp or dirty or there is a cool outside wall in
Inspect your home regularly for the
indications and sources of indoor moisture and mold. Take the time to eliminate sources of
unnecessary moisture as quickly as possible. If a leak or flooding occurs, it is essential
to act quickly! CALL THE MAA FOR A LISTING TO AN MAA-QUALIFIED RAPID
RESPONSE TEAM. Use of a Rapid Response Team can save a property owner unnecessary
expenses on larger repairs or mold remediation at a later date by handling the problem up
front. Since mold grows within 24-48 hours, it makes sense to affect a solution before
another problem begins growing
- Stop the source of the leak or flooding
- Remove excess water with mops, towels or wet/dry vacuum
- Whenever possible, move wet items to dry in a well ventilated area outside to expedite drying.
- Move or pull up areas of wet carpet as soon as possible
- Open closet and cabinet doors
- Move furniture away from walls to increase air circulation
- Run portable fans to increase air circulation. Do NOT use
the homes central blower if flooding has occurred in any of the ducts.
- Do NOT use fans if mold may have already started to grow
(more than 48 hours since flooding or leaking)
- Run dehumidifiers and window air conditioners to lower
- Do NOT turn up the heat or use heaters in confined areas, as
higher temperatures increase the rate of mold growth.
- If water has soaked inside the walls, it may be necessary to
open wall cavities, remove baseboards, and/or paneling, and insulation be certain
to wear your personal protective equipment as a safety measure, even if mold has not
Additional ways in which you
can reduce your risk for mold are fairly common and easy to do:
- Cleaning and disinfecting with a borate-type solution, and
drying surfaces prevents mold growth. Mold will grow on damp surfaces within a couple of
days at normal temperatures.
- Reduce moisture levels in the bathroom by running an exhaust
fan during and after showers.
- Fix plumbing leaks and seepage to prevent the build-up of
moisture and prevent the growth of molds.
- Store clothing dry and clean to prevent growth of mold on
- Reduce humidity levels by discontinuing use of a humidifier
if the relative humidity is more than 40%, and use dehumidifiers and air conditioners when
levels of humidity are high.
- Ventilate with outside air during the winter when outside
temperatures are colder than indoor temperatures. Ventilating with warm summer air
typically increases the airs relative humidity in a basement.
- Increase the flow of air within your home. Moving furniture
away from walls and opening closet doors to permit air circulation limits the growth of
- Prevent condensation. Insulating walls and installing storm
or thermal pane windows keeps walls warm and limits condensation.
- In South Carolina we recommend that crawl spaces have a
foil-backed insulation or foil-backed foam board. We do not recommend using a fibrous
insulation that holds moisture against the wood. Leave open spaces at plumbing lines,
around chimneys, porches and steps to make the inspection process easier.
- Have a periodic mold inspection by an MAA-certified
professional, and ask for a listing of other trade professionals who are members of the
If you do decide to clean a small area, take steps to protect you and your familys
health. When handling or cleaning moldy materials, it is important to use a respirator to
protect yourself from airborne spores. Ensure good ventilation in the area that you are
cleaning. Wear protective clothing that is easily cleaned or discarded. Use rubber gloves;
we do not recommend latex gloves due to the fact that some individuals have latex
allergies. Ask family members or bystanders to leave the area while it is being cleaned.
Mold should be contained and cleaned as
soon as it appears (no larger than a 2x2 area), but AFTER the underlying
problem has been corrected! Persons cleaning mold should be free of symptoms and
allergies. Small areas of mold should be cleaned using a detergent/soapy solution or an
appropriate household cleaner. Gloves, disposable coveralls and a respirator should be
worn during cleaning. The cleaned area should be dried. Immediately clean all equipment
used. Dispose of any sponges, rags, coveralls and gloves used to clean the mold by
placing them in a double-plastic bag, tying off, and removing immediately to a garbage
If the mold returns quickly or spreads, it
may indicate an underlying problem such as a leak. Any underlying moisture problems must
be fixed to successfully eliminate mold problems. If mold contamination is extensive
(larger than 2x2), an MAA-certified mold professional should be consulted.
Mold can sampled by an MAA-certified
environmental consultant, mold professional and/or analyzed by an accredited laboratory
specializing in microbiology, and these tests can be very expensive. Minimum or maximum
testing can be performed, and is situation-dependent. There is no simple and cheap way to
sample the air in your home to find out what types of molds are present and where they are
airborne. We do not recommend the do-it-yourself home air test sampling kits that have
recently become available due to the lack of knowledge of the average individual
concerning cross-contamination or appropriate testing procedures. Any individual who
is not a trained and certified mold professional will not understand how to determine the
appropriate number of samples to take and where best to perform sampling. Further, there
is no guarantee that home test sample(s) will be analyzed by an accredited laboratory. If
sampling is not performed appropriately, then we feel that a property owner could receive
a false sense of security by the use of these kits.
The most effective way to treat mold is to
correct the underlying problem and contain, clean, condition and/or remove the affected area(s). However, although we recommend
small area cleaning (no more than a 2x2 area), for areas of larger growth, we
recommend seeking MAA-certified professional services. The reason for this is that
cleaning up mold can be hazardous during the cleaning process. You may be exposed to mold,
strong detergents and disinfectants. Spore counts can be 10 to 1000 times greater than
background levels when mold-contaminated materials are disturbed, and cross-contamination
may occur, which may simply make the problem larger at a later date.
There are a variety of simple ways that an individual may
decrease his/her total overall mold load:
Bedding and Clothing:
- Select a cotton towel for a pillow, as it can be washed
- Bedding should be natural fabrics, such as cotton.
- Damp shoes, boots and tennis shoes should be washed and
- Run more frequent and smaller wash loads and avoid a full
hamper of damp and soiled clothing.
- Dry clothes immediately after laundering.
- Worn clothing should be washed before returning to a closet
or drawer to avoid problems.
- Select a home that is away from moldy areas, that are higher
- Avoid a heavy accumulation of dust.
- Clean the filters of heaters, humidifiers and air
- Purchase furniture that can be easily cleaned or wiped down
that is less porous than traditional types of furniture.
- Protect your home from mold by keeping areas under the house
dry with cross-ventilation, or in some cases, a vapor barrier may be necessary and/or
forced air ventilation.
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside to help prevent
condensation of moisture, but do not vent into the crawl or attic spaces.
- Change air duct filters monthly using a HEPA filter.
- Dry shower curtain, shower or tub with a towel immediately
- Remove dried flowers, which can contain significant mold,
dust and dust mites.
- Wash bathroom and kitchen tiles and the grout frequently
using a borate-type solution.
- Frequently check corner areas, areas under the sink and
behind toilets for mold growth.
- Since trash compactors and garbage disposals can harbor
molds if not kept totally clean, clean the compactor with a borate-type solution weekly
and run a borate-type solution through the garbage disposal daily.
- Frequently clean and inspect plants, terrariums,
greenhouses, etc., as these are sites for mold growth.
- Keep your bathroom well ventilated, dry and clean.
- Problem closets may require a portable room filter.
- Store old newspapers, books and magazines in a well
ventilated and dry area.
- If a humidifier is used it must be thoroughly cleaned daily;
and do not use these near a stove.
- Maintain areas underneath sinks and dishwashers clutter-free
around plumbing pipes, etc.
- Do not use contact paper on shelving or under sinks, as the
glues and paper retain moisture and are conducive to mold growth.
- Eliminate conditions of high shade, such as dense overgrown
landscaping, due to longer retention periods for dampness.
- Have organic debris removed from perimeter areas of your
home, or large masses, piles and bundles of organic debris, because it retains moisture.
- Gardening, raking and mowing the lawn all release molds and
need to be avoided by a sensitive individual.
- We recommend the use of a leaf-catcher bag on lawn mowers to
help reduce organic materials being left behind by excess organic debris.
Top of Page
Biological pollutants, also called
bioaerosols, come from plant and animal material. Some are generated outside the home,
such as pollen, but enter the home through open doors and windows and on people and pets
entering the home. Other biological pollutants are generated in the home: mold growth in
the home releases spores into the air, animals generate dander, and insects generate
excrement and body parts that are small enough to become airborne. Bacteria and viruses
are infectious agents that are brought into the home in a number of ways. All of these
pollutants are particulates, that is, they are particles so small that they
"float" in the air. Larger particles settle out onto surfaces, but very small
particles stay suspended indefinitely. Surprisingly, indoor air is usually more
contaminated than outdoor air. Contaminants are in the form of gases and fine particles.
Household cleaning is generally ineffective in removing gaseous pollutants, but it can
affect the concentration of particles in the air. Fine particles (particulates) include
dust and smoke that enter a dwelling from outside, as well as particles that are generated
inside. Often indoor air is more polluted because most particulates are generated within
the living space. Internal sources of particulate contamination are smoke and grease
aerosol (airborne particles) from cooking and using self-cleaning ovens; mold and fungal
growth from moisture and high humidity; allergens produced by pets, insects and dust
mites; toxic lead dust from peeling lead-based paint; and airborne dust from vacuuming and
HAVING A HEALTHY HOME
Some particulates enter the house in
another form and become airborne. The dirt brought in from outside on shoes or pets is
deposited on the floor, where it is ground into small particles as it is walked on. The
smallest particles are suspended in the air, while the larger ones settle back on the
floor, only to be re-ground back onto the flooring. The outside dirt can be a carrier of
pesticides, pollen, fungi, bacteria, animal feces and insect parts.
Airborne particles can cause breathing
problems and allergies in sensitive individuals and severe health problems for persons
with asthma. Controlling the concentration of particulates can help relieve symptoms and
prevent disease. We will identify sources of particulate air pollution and means of
reducing airborne particles in homes by using effective cleaning methods and other control
strategies. Cigarette smoke and pollen are not covered, because household cleaning may not
affect their concentrations.
Cooking generates heat, humidity and three types of aerosols:
solid smoke particles, grease vapor that condenses into semi-liquid particles as it cools,
and grease spatter particles from uncovered frying. The self-cleaning oven produces
aerosol during the cleaning cycle, and significant amounts pass through the ovens
smoke eliminator into the air. A poorly designed system can increase the haze level in a
12x14 kitchen by 700%.
An exhaust fan can divert moisture and some
fraction of these particles before they become part of the room air. For a given air flow,
a vented range hood is more effective in exhausting moisture and particulates than a
ceiling or wall fan because the hood is closer to the generation source. The disadvantage
of a re-circulating hood is that it must clean the air it captures before returning it to
the room. The most effective hood has an intake configuration that matches the range top,
has the highest air flow consistent with a tolerable noise, and is set as close to the
range top as permitted by the mechanics of cooking (stirring, viewing food, etc.). Any
hood used with a gas range should not generate air currents that will distort the shape of
the flame from each burner. A re-circulating hood can be used if a vented hood is not
possible, but it must have a series of effective filters: (1) a washable, aluminum-mesh
filter to remove grease spatter particles; (2) a pleated, glass-fiber filter to remove
smoke; and (3) an activated carbon filter to capture odor. The self-cleaning mode of the
oven should never be operated without the exhaust fan on. This is especially true for the
initial break-in cycle. Use of an exhaust hood or an effective filtering system in a
re-circulating hood reduces cooking contaminants in the house, reducing the need to clean.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew in the home generate spores that become
airborne. Some spores settle on other surfaces to generate new mold colonies, while others
remain suspended for long periods of time and can be inhaled. Sensitive individuals
exhibit allergic reactions. Moisture or a high humidity level is required for mold growth.
There are many common places where molds grow. These include:
- Walls, floors, carpeting and on stored materials in damp
basements and crawl spaces
- Bathrooms without exhaust fans
- Laundry areas where dryers are not vented outside or clothes
are hung to dry
- Homes with new construction materials that have been left
uncovered outside prior to installation
- Homes where there have been spills, leaks or other water
- Homes where a humidifier or an unvented combustion heater is
Reducing humidity levels in the home is
essential. Shut off or adjust the humidifier if the relative humidity level is more than
50% or if condensation forms on windows. Use exhaust fans vented to the outside when
taking baths or showers and when cooking. Vent clothes dryers to the outside, but do not
vent in attic or crawl spaces. Do not use unvented kerosene or gas heaters. Repair all
plumbing leaks promptly. Do not store natural materials containing high levels of
moisture, such as firewood, inside the house. Reduce humidity with a commercial
dehumidifier, air conditioner or furnace. Increase the air flow to problem areas.
Keep surfaces clean and dry to remove
existing mold colonies and to prevent mold colonies from starting. Hard surfaces that have
mold growing on them should be cleaned, disinfected and dried. One of the most effective,
least expensive solutions to use for cleaning is a borate-type product. Products with an
EPA registration number are reliable disinfectants and have instructions for disinfecting.
Appliances that collect or distribute water need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly
to prevent mold growth. These include humidifiers, commercial dehumidifiers, air
conditioners and refrigerator drip pans.
Crawl spaces should have a vent every 8-10 feet (minimum). The
crawl space ground should be as level as possible (depending on the home and its
surroundings). The first intent of a vapor barrier is to act as a slide to assist in
gliding the air from the vents to reach its flow capacity. The second intent of a vapor
barrier is to keep the ground moisture content from rising up onto the structural members.
A maximum of 75% of the crawl space should be covered with a vapor barrier, if a vapor
barrier is used.
Forced air vents are used when the proper
air flow cannot be obtained by other conventional means. The forced air vents should not
be used in a standard vents place, but should have its own cut-in and may be used in
conjunction with a flex-arm to take the outside air to a particular area of the crawl
space. The arm should not be placed where it affects other air movements. Keep in mind
that there is no such thing as enough fresh air flow; however, lack of fresh air flow
allows for many other problems to occur under the home.
Fibrous insulation is not recommended for
the Tri-County area of South Carolina, or other relatively warm (year around) parts of the
country. This type of insulation holds moisture against the structural members and hides
signs of molds and fungus growth. In warmer climates, a foil wrap insulation should be
used and in colder climates, a foil foam should be used in lieu of fibrous insulation
(install with foil side facing you, not against the structure). These foil types should
not surround plumbing lines, chimney areas, or behind steps or porches, because these
areas are known to occasionally have moisture problems or leaks within the crawl space.
The non-coverage of these areas also allows for additional air flow to assist in drying
out after leaks or moisture problems occur, and also allows for easy inspection and
Dirt in a carpet or on a hard-surfaced floor are clusters of
very fine particles. Cleaning the floor with a broom or vacuum disturbs the dirt particles
and causes the smallest ones to become airborne. In perfectly still air, particles smaller
than 20 microns (about one-half the diameter of the finest human hair) stay suspended in
the air. Vacuum cleaning turns floor dirt into an air pollutant two ways:
- If the air from the vacuum discharges down, it disturbs
settled dirt particles and causes them to become airborne. When the cleaner discharges
down over a dirty carpet, research shows a 98% increase in household airborne dust
concentration in the following two-hour period.
- The bag in the vacuum cleaner is not a perfect filter. A
100-percent efficient filter would have such high resistance to air flow that the vacuum
cleaner would not work. The vacuums filter bag holds the larger particles and allows
the smaller ones to pass into the room air. Using a vacuum cleaner that discharges upward
can result in a 35% increase in airborne dust. As a result, the floor is cleaner, but the
air is dirtier.
Wet-cleaning hard-surfaced flooring is less
likely to cause particles to become airborne than in vacuuming or sweeping. However, good
cleaning techniques can help reduce the amount of fine particles discharged from the
vacuum cleaner. Begin at an edge of the carpet (in a doorway) with the wand of a canister
vacuum. Always work toward uncleaned carpet with the canister behind on cleaned carpet. An
upright cleaner or horizontally discharging canister cleaner does not disturb settled dirt
particles in the air discharge.
Some vacuum cleaners are designed with
blowers that handle high-efficiency (HEPA) filters. The filters capture at least 99.97% of
the smallest particles in the discharge air. Because these vacuums are expensive, they may
be justified only if someone in the household has severe dust allergies. Less expensive
alternatives are the special replacement bags now available, which claim to improve the
collection efficiency of older vacuum cleaners. Keep in mind, however, that improved
filtration efficiency comes at the expense of airflow, and good vacuum cleaning requires
both vacuum and air flow.
A central vacuum system with motor, suction
blower, and filter bag installed in the basement or garage may solve several problems of
portable cleaners. There is no air discharge into a homes living space; the vacuum
discharge air and small particles are exhausted to the outside. Being isolated from the
living area, the motor and blower noise is less evident in the room being vacuumed.
Dust Mites and Animal Dander
Dust mites are microscopic animals that use dead human skin
cells as a food source. Dust mite feces and body parts produce various allergens. They
cause sensitive individuals to experience sneezing, nasal obstruction and discharge,
redness, watering and itching of the eyes, wheezing and difficulty in breathing, and skin
rash and itching. For dust mites to reach concentrations high enough to cause problems,
certain environmental conditions must exist: a food source of skin cells, relative
humidity greater than 45 percent and a uniform temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Highest concentrations of the mites are found in carpets, fabric-covered partitions or
walls, and bedding and mattresses. Persons experiencing chronic symptoms should be tested
by an allergist. Pet dander is another allergen. Some individuals can experience allergic
symptoms when the dander becomes airborne. Others are sensitive to the saliva of pets.
If a household member is allergic to animal
dander, the solution that offers the most relief is to remove the animal from the house.
Vacuuming furnishings captures some dander but it does not offer much relief. Several
measures are effective in reducing the concentration of dust mites, as well as reducing
allergic symptoms in individuals sensitive to dust mites:
- Vacuum-cleaning intensively and regularly (once a week)
floors, carpets, fabric covered furniture, mattresses and bed frames. Use a cleaner with a
high-efficiency filter, if possible. This is no guarantee of success, because mites and
feces are very difficult to pull from carpet.
- Lowering the relative humidity of the room air to below 45%
and the temperature to below 68 degrees. The humidity should be reduced even more if the
temperature is increased.
- Ventilating with outside air if the infiltration rates (air
leakage) naturally are low.
- Using fitted sheets or allergen-tight covers over
- Replacing feather and down pillows with those that have
- Steam cleaning the carpet and fabric-covered furniture.
- Removing fabric furnishings, such as replacing the carpet
with hard-surface flooring.
- Washing bedding in hot water (130 degrees or hotter).
Paint used on both interior and exterior walls of homes before
1978 contained lead compounds. Dried paint solids can contain up to 40% lead. Paint solids
end up on the floor from peeling, chipping, oxidation or abrasion when doors and windows
are opened and closed. Young children risk lead poisoning. When they play on the floor
where lead dust is present, they put dust-contaminated hands and toys in their mouths.
Another source of lead is soil that has been permanently contaminated. The lead comes from
the exhaust fumes of vehicles that use leaded gasoline or exterior lead-based paint.
Children are at risk when they play on contaminated soil and from contaminated soil
tracked into the house.
Vacuum cleaning floors and carpets to
remove lead particles is ineffective. It can actually increase the amount of lead dust in
the air. Intensive vacuuming with a central vacuum system or a high-efficiency filter will
gradually reduce the lead concentration in the carpet. However, many repetitions are
needed to reduce the concentration. Two-stage steam cleaning, using special detergents and
combining vacuum cleaning with shampooing, also is not very effective. A large proportion
of lead remains in the carpet. In severe cases, the only solution is to remove and dispose
of the carpet. Repeatedly wet cleaning hard-surface floors and other hard surfaces, such
as window sills, is an effective method of removing lead dust. Removing shoes before
entering the house or using shoe-cleaning pads at entrances can sharply reduce lead
concentrations from contaminated soil.
Air ducts can be a source of dirt, dust or biological
contaminants and create an indoor air problem, but this is rare. Duct cleaning may release
contaminants into the home and become the source of a problem. Air distribution ducts in a
new home collect construction dust (sawdust, sheetrock dust) during and after
installation. With the initial flow of air, construction dust is blown into the rooms
through the air supply ducts, and dust in the return air ducts is caught in the furnace
filters. After a few days or weeks, only a thin coating of dust remains on the duct
surfaces because the dust is caught in the filters. Filters must be inspected regularly
and cleaned or replaced every 30 days. As a filter loads with dust and lint, it actually
becomes more efficient, but it must be cleaned or replaced because the air flow is
Several factors can cause dust to cling to
duct surfaces. Oily or greasy aerosol produced by cooking and other household activities
can attach to the ducts as it passes through. The moisture from bathing or showering,
cooking, or improperly vented dryers also acts as an adhesive on duct walls. When winter
humidity levels are low, air passing over a sheet metal air duct creates a static-electric
charge on the metal surface. The static charge attracts fine particles and the oil or
moisture coating holds them. Exhaust vents in the bathroom, from the clothes dryer and
from the kitchen range hood expel lint, grease and water vapor. If the home does not have
efficient venting, return ducts in the furnace become dust-laden. Air duct cleaning
disturbs the thin dust coating on the inside of the ducts. When the fan is running, the
unstable dust can be blown into the house.
Duct cleaning is not considered a routine
procedure for maintaining a heating and cooling system. Duct cleaning or replacement is
justified when there is water damage that causes mold to grow in the ductwork, debris
blocks the air flow, dust is seen coming from supply registers, or offensive odors are
coming from the ducts. Surface stains near the supply registers, especially from cigarette
smoke, are normal and do not justify commercial duct cleaning. MAA-certified duct
cleaning professionals employ one or more of these methods: contaminant removal (brushing
or vibration plus vacuum cleaning); encapsulation (spraying a sealer into the duct);
disinfection (using a fungicide to inhibit the growth of mold); and duct replacement.
Before contracting to have ducts cleaned, consumers should require a thorough explanation
of the procedures that will be used, and ensuring that the professional is
The control strategies discussed here
include exhausting particulates, lowering humidity and cleaning particulates from surfaces
to prevent them from becoming airborne. Residential air cleaners and filtration systems
may be considered for removing airborne particles.
MOLD INSPECTION, INVESTIGATION, HYGIENE AND
HOW TO FIND A QUALIFIED SERVICE PROVIDER
For areas which have mold that are
greater than 2x2, we recommend that a professional listed with the MAA be
consulted. Although the main reason is for your personal health and well-being and to
prevent cross-contamination, there are other important reasons:
- An MAA-certified mold inspection professional has been
specifically trained to make a thorough visual inspection of all areas of the structure;
- An MAA-certified mold investigation professional has been
specifically trained to investigate for mold infestations, thoroughly and precisely
through testing and sampling, and has the knowledge to do so when justified and safely;
- An MAA-certified mold hygiene professional has been
specifically trained to educate the public on how to properly maintain your home or
workplace and reduce your risk for additional mold infestation;
- An MAA-certified mold investigation professional has the
specialized testing equipment required and sends samples to accredited laboratories for
- Laboratory testing for mold not only can confirm its
presence, but can also identify the type of mold(s) found;
- MAA-certified mold investigation professionals can inform
you as to the quantity and type of mold infestation, and whether additional steps need to
- If additional steps do need to be taken, the MAA-certified
mold hygiene professional is able to write proper protocols for remediation and is
properly trained for oversight of that work;
- An MAA-certified investigation professional provides
accurate clearance testing;
- An MAA-certified mold professional keeps accurate records
concerning the structure and all work performed on the structure; and
- Some MAA-certified mold professionals offer mold bonds.
Is testing necessary? In some cases, a test
is not always necessary. A complete mold inspection, from an MAA-certified mold
inspector, will determine whether or not testing is necessary. If there is visible mold
present, or showing other factors or indications of mold, then an investigation is
warranted. Whatever the type of mold, "a moldy home is not a healthy home," and
any mold problem should be corrected immediately. There are many factors involved when
deciding on whether to further investigation or if testing is needed. If the mold
inspector is suspicious or finds just cause, if large areas are contaminated (larger than
a 2x2 foot section), or if there are many various areas contaminated, then it is
worthwhile to test, and the MAA does recommend doing so. If there are occupants with
high susceptibility to infection (recovering surgical patients, those with reduced
immunity or who are taking drugs that suppress the immune system), testing is warranted.
Also, if there is concern about the type(s) of mold present, testing (and only a lab
analysis) can identify this. Testing can warn of potential health problems and can
indicate the degree of safeguards and skill needed in clean-up.
Mold growth is almost always due to an
excess moisture problem in the area. Solving the moisture problem will slow the process of
mold growth, although the existing mold will need to be contained, cleaned and removed.
Solving the moisture problem can involve some detective work, and is not always easy. It
is not practical for a non-professional to test for the presence of biological
contaminants, but if contaminants are suspected, an investigation should be conducted to
remove and control them because of the health consequences. Left unchecked, mold can
continue to grow and cause health problems for both sensitive and non-sensitive people.
When tests are made, they compare types and levels of molds inside the structure to mold
types and levels in the outside air.
Mold growing on surfaces can occasionally
be seen (it is sometimes invisible) or smelled (it has a musty odor). Mold should be
suspected wherever there are water stains, standing water or moist surfaces. Conditions
that indicate high humidity levels include condensation on windows or walls, water pooled
in the basement and crawl space, rotting wood or other signs of water damage. But mold
also grows in wall cavities, under carpets, behind wall coverings, above ceilings, and in
other places where moisture can accumulate undetected. Before testing for mold, an
inspection by an MAA-certified professional should be made, and then an investigation,
if warranted, can be conducted to find building components that are damp or wet.
The MAA offers a number of specialized
publications for consumer information. These specialized materials will soon be available
online under the "Publications" section, along with the form for ordering, which
can be printed for mailing in your request, or you may call the MAAs offices and
request the publications.
So what, specifically, are the roles of these
The MAA recommends that professionals at each stage of the
process be specialized. There are many reasons for this specialization:
- It saves the consumer both time and money, when performed
properly, avoiding unnecessary expenses;
- It provides for more affordable mold risk management to a
wider economic populace;
- It prevents conflicts of interest within the industry,
thereby protecting the consumer, and a wide variety of industries affected by mold issues;
- It provides for verifiable evidence of impartial results and
a clear method of impartial documentation for truth in disclosure;
- It promotes integrity of all parties involved;
- It prevents "scare tactics" being used to sell
additional unwarranted services;
- It prevents unnecessary "media hype" used for
unwarranted personal gain that ultimately costs everyone more money;
- It promotes protection of all individuals concerned in the
process: the consumer, the professional, and others who may be affected by any issues
- It raises the standard of services, which promotes higher
customer satisfaction and a higher standard for benchmarking purposes;
- It promotes better data analysis exchange with regulatory,
scientific and clinical agencies for future scientific research purposes.
The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold
This professional performs basic mold inspections
on residential and commercial properties, consisting of an in-depth visual inspection of
ALL of the accessible areas of the structure(s) and submitting a comprehensive report of
the findings of that inspection to the client, and suggests, in writing, whether or not
there is further need for follow-up investigation. The inspection consists of a number of
steps: discussion of the scope of the inspection (what it will involve), signing an
agreement for the inspection to be performed, including a confidentiality agreement, an
in-depth questionnaire for the client concerning the habits of the inhabitant(s) of the
structure, the visual inspection itself, moisture readings taken during the inspection,
and conclusion report with recommendations and observations.
Inspectors and MAA-certified pest control industry professionals who are qualified to
perform CL-100s often also obtain a certification for mold inspection. They make ideal
inspectors, since they are already performing inspection work of a similar scope, and they
may then offer these services in addition to the general Home Inspection or CL-100
services they may already be providing.
The Certified Mold Inspector (CMI) should
NOT be performing any testing or sampling. Testing and sampling are expensive and may not
always be warranted.
The CMI visually observes that
there are no water leaks, no previous damages from water or humidity, moisture readings
are within acceptable levels in all areas, there is no visible evidence of mold or only
controllable amounts of mold are present, and the inhabitants have a good standard of
hygiene with no complaints of negative or adverse health symptoms. In this instance, there
is no need for sampling or testing.
On the other hand, testing or sampling may
be warranted, but still should not be performed by the CMI.
The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold
The CMI visually observes that
there was a water leak from an upstairs toilet in the master bedroom. The water leak was
old, the leak repaired. The CMI visually observes that an entire 8x10 foot section of wall
has a black mold on it in the childs bedroom downstairs, directly beneath the
bathroom. Moisture readings are high and the structure is kept exceptionally warm. The
owner of the property did not repair the wall at the time the leak occurred, and plans for
repair are being made for next month. The inhabitants otherwise have a good standard of
hygiene with no complaints of negative or adverse health symptoms. In this instance,
testing is warranted, and the CMI should suggest so in his report. The mold is obvious.
But why not sample at that time? Because there may be mold growing between the walls, and
between the ceiling and floor where it is not seen. This type of testing should be done by
a professional MAA-Certified Mold Investigator, (CMIV), who is trained to know WHERE to
test and the TYPE of sampling or testing which will be the most effective and
efficient. In this case, we do not need to sample for mold on a wall in which we
can SEE it, but it does need to be tested to determine the SCOPE of the infestation, the
type of mold in the ENTIRE SCOPE, and be tested with as few samples as possible to keep
the cost to the homeowner at a minimum. The CMIs visual observations and report
remain impartial. If the CMI does take a sample or samples, the property owner will still
need to call in a CMIV for testing
which means double testing for the property owner,
and thats unwarranted additional expense. And how is that? Well, lets look at
the scope of the CMIVs function, and you will better understand why.
This professional performs basic mold
investigations on residential and commercial properties, consisting of testing and
sampling of all NECESSARY accessible areas of the structure(s) and submitting a
comprehensive report of the findings of those tests to the client, and should suggest, in
writing, whether or not there is further need for follow-up survey with a mold hygienist.
The MAA-Certified Mold Investigator (CMIV) will also have previous experience as a CMI.
The investigation consists of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the
investigation (what it will involve) and the reasons for why the investigation is
warranted, signing an agreement for the investigation to be performed, including a
confidentiality agreement, a basic environmental questionnaire for the client concerning
the indoor and outdoor environments common to the structure(s), an overview and
double-check of the CMIs report, the actual investigation itself, additional
readings taken during the investigation, and conclusion report with recommendations and
Individuals who are
highly thorough and have knowledge of structures, and have been trained and certified by
the MAA, or those who have a background in some type of testing services from scientific
fields, or MAA-certified indoor air quality professionals often also obtain a
certification for mold investigation. They make ideal investigators, since they are
already performing, or have performed, investigation work of a similar scope, and they may
then offer these services in addition to the general services they may already be
When testing and sampling are being
performed, it should be unbiased and performed with a high degree of accuracy, efficiency
and to scientific guidelines and principles. The CMIV should NOT be the same individual as
your Inspector, nor should they be recommending remediation.
From the second example above under
the CMI, the CMIV arrives on the premises. During his investigation he discovers during
his walk-through of the noted areas that the CMI missed an apparent leak stain near the
floor in a hall closet upstairs located next to the bathroom. The CMIV notes this finding
on his report, correcting the oversight of the CMI; and notes that now a
test must be taken nearer to this area, which would not otherwise have been completed if
there had not been a finding in the closet. CMIV will test and/or sample only in areas
which he deems NECESSARY to obtain an accurate reading of type and number of spores
present. He will write a preliminary report, send the samples to an independent
and accredited laboratory for analysis. Upon receiving the
laboratorys report, he will then complete his own investigative report, submitting
the findings of the laboratory and make recommendations as to whether or not a
Certified Mold Hygienist should be consulted. In this instance, yes, he will recommend the
services, because the report findings show mold in quantities far above acceptable
levels, with some areas of contamination showing mold types known for producing
mycotoxins. The CMIV remains an observer, keeping his report findings unbiased, and a
second documentation of pertinent information on the structure is being made.
The CMIV makes no recommendations for
remediation, as this is part of the duties of the Certified Mold Hygienist; then the same
CMIV may be used again should clearance testing be necessary and will provide the
clearance letter. In this way, the clearance testing will be unbiased and there will be no
conflicts of interest, as the clearance testing also serves as a system for
The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold
This professional performs a variety of high level
functions with respect to mold for residential and commercial properties. However, for
industrial properties, the MAA recommends the services of a Certified Industrial
Hygienist, or a Certified Environmental Hygienist, as these large properties require a
much higher level of technical education and experience specific to industrial needs.
Although, this does not mean that a CIH or a CEH may not be used for residential or
commercial properties, it is simply that the level of expertise of a CIH or CEH may not
necessarily be needed for these properties. However, although the choice of the level of
hygienist preferred is left to the client, we recommend that an MAA-certified Mold
Hygienist, an MAA-certified Residential Hygienist or an MAA-certified Commercial
Hygienist be considered, as each have specific and distinct specialty areas. Among the
functions of the CMH are analyses of all tests performed thus far, and a highly in-depth
review of the structure and problems noted. The CMH recommends the services of an
allergist or physician, if needed. The CMH educates and trains clients in mold awareness,
hygiene and how to better manage risk of mold infestation. The CMH also recommends for
remediation if necessary, to what level and degree it is necessary, and writes the
remediation protocols. The CMH oversees the remediation process and ensures guidelines are
followed. The CMH is also responsible for writing the clearance testing requirements of
the project. The CMH will also have previous experience as a CMI, a CMIV, and as a
Certified Mold Remediator (CMR) because they must ensure that all reports thus far are
correct and to guidelines, and also because they write the remediation and clearance
testing protocols, which can only be done properly with previous experience in these
The Hygiene process
should consist of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the process (what it will
involve, and sometimes called the Survey) and the reasons for why the services are
warranted, signing an agreement for the services to be performed, including a
confidentiality agreement, an in-depth questionnaire for the client concerning a number of
different issues with respect to the property, the inhabitants, and the environments; an
overview and double-check of the all reports thus far, and additional observations made
during the process. If remediation is recommended, the CMH will write the remediation
protocols and the clearance testing requirements and a preliminary report will be made.
Individuals with a broad range of
environmental knowledge and skills who are highly accurate and have a biological,
clinical, microbiological, or environmental science, or other technically trained
background in addition to a thorough knowledge of structures make good CMHs. Individuals
who work as physical engineers, mechanical engineers, or in the field of indoor air
quality or other technically trained professionals, and the like, often also obtain a
certification as a hygienist. They make ideal CMHs, since they are already performing, or
have performed, work of a similar scope, and they may then offer these services in
addition to the services they may already be providing.
It is critical that your CMH be unbiased
and performs their work with a high degree of accuracy and to scientific principles. It is
also critical that the Hygienist be well versed in the regulatory requirements for
Hazardous Materials, Biohazards, Safety, and Universal Precautions. To avoid any conflict
of interest, the CMH should NOT be the same individual as your Inspector, Investigator or
Remediator, as this individual oversees and double-checks all work performed. Why should
this be so?
A commercial property has been inspected by
a CMI, who recommended obtaining services of a CMIV. The CMIV, upon receiving the
laboratory report, recommended further services of an MAA-certified Commercial
Hygienist. The CH found it necessary for this structure to be remediated, as the findings
showed Stachybotrys present, and there were 167 personnel working inside the structure who
were being exposed to the spores. These personnel were reporting incidences of symptoms
associated with Stachybotrys exposure. The CH recommended that these personnel seek the
services of a qualified physician or allergist. The CH also wrote the remediation
protocols and the guidelines for clearance testing. After the remediation was completed,
the original CMIV performed clearance testing per the CHs guidelines. The structure
did not clear testing. The CMH must then discover WHY it did not clear testing. There
are many possibilities: It could be that the remediation was not performed to standard
within certain areas, or it could be that something was missed, or it could be that a
completely different problem exists which must be resolved, such as no visible residue,
inaccessible areas or voids within the structure, unseen areas or voids within or near the
structure containing molds, or other highly unusual or unforeseen circumstances. Whatever
the reason, the CH is responsible for ensuring that the quality of work is performed to
standard and that the problems are resolved until all areas clear testing. So you see, if
the CH were the Inspector, Investigator or Remediator, they would then be clearing their
own work, rather than clearing some elses work.
The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold
This professional performs mold remediation
services (often called mitigation or removal) on residential, commercial and industrial
properties, consisting of removing ALL components and contents which are infested with
hazardous or toxic mold within the structure(s), clean-up of those contents where
possible, proper removal of hazardous debris to an appropriate facility, and submitting a
comprehensive report of the work completed during services to the client. An
MAA-Certified Mold Remediator (CMR) will have experience in hazardous materials handling
(HAZMAT) and will be trained in universal precautions and regulatory requirements for
pesticide application (with respect to biocides and fungicides). The remediation will
consist of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the remediation (what it will
involve) and the reasons for remediation with both the CMH and the client, signing an
agreement for the remediation to be performed, including a confidentiality agreement, the
actual remediation itself, and a report of services actually performed while providing
services, noting any recommendations and observations.
professionals with knowledge of structures, or those who have a background in some type of
general contracting or repair work, and individuals who perform abatement services often
also obtain a certification for mold remediation. They make ideal remediators, since they
are already performing, or have performed, remediation work of a similar scope, and they
may then offer these services in addition to the general services they may already be
When remediation work is being performed,
it should be completed with care and respect for the clients property and privacy,
and should be done with a high degree of efficiency, and according to regulatory
guidelines and the CMHs written plan. The Certified Mold Remediator (CMR) should NOT
be the same individual as your CMH, CMI or CMIV. Some CMRs offer restoration services if
they have the necessary qualifications, credentialing and licensing from appropriate
It is important to note, that if
remediation services are required, that it will be expensive. Remediation work is
specialized-labor intensive, requires the use of expensive specialized equipment, and
requires the handling of hazardous materials in much less than pleasant work conditions.
Please do not expect remediation services at a price that is not consistent with the needs
to complete the work. Some agencies and some companies expect remediation work at bids so
low that it forces the remediator to make a choice between cutting back on the specialized
labor or the control standards (which affects quality). A good, well-versed and trained
remediator would not remediate such projects.
A CMH has determined that a residential
property needs remediation, as it was found that there were high levels of Penicillium,
Stachybotrys and Aspergillus in most of the living areas of the residence. The CMH writes
the remediation protocols and the guidelines for clearance testing. The CMR bids on the
remediation, but the insurance company kicks back the bid as being too high. A second and
third bid produce the same result. During this timeframe, the residents of the structure
are not living in their home, and the expense of a hotel is adding up quickly. Until a
remediator is found which can bid the project so low, the mold continues grow and further
contaminate additional areas of the structure. Eventually a remediator is found, but by
this time, the size of the project has grown, and a new protocol must be written. This
continues until someone recognizes that it will eventually cost more than originally bid.
On the other hand, you also need to be
careful to avoid gouging by a remediator.
In the same scenario above, the client gets
three bids from local remediators. Of these three bids, two are similar in pricing, but
one is much higher than the other two. All quotes include the remediation to the protocols
of the CMH, all three bids state similar qualifications of individuals with same amount of
labor hours involved. None of the three bids include restoration services. This may be an
example of a remediator bidding higher than is warranted. However, the third bidder should
be telephoned and questioned per the bid and what is included, because he may have taken
additional steps in certain areas not noted on the hygienists report, or there may
be unlisted work not on the written bid. Whichever is the case, it is important to obtain
three quotes and go with the best quote for the work to be performed, taking into account
the quality of the remediator, making certain the quotes are for the same services and
number of labor hours. This should give you a fair idea of what is an acceptable bid
range. A precautionary note: do not sacrifice quality for price.
MAA Masters Certified Mold Specialists (MCMS)
This designation is offered by the MAA to those
professionals who have demonstrated a high quality of excellence within their past and
combined designation fields. Those who have achieved this designation will carry seven
specialized category designations along with their basic designations.
Those who have achieved
all seven levels and have passed the written and field examinations, and completed their
thesis, will carry the MCMS designation. For those who are in the process of achieving it,
they may carry the following in addition to their basic category(ies):
- A Certified Mold Inspector may also carry:
- Visual Control Inspector (VCI)
- A Certified Mold Investigator may also carry:
- Control Assessment Investigator (CAI)
- Control and Clearance Testing Inspector (CCTI)
- A Certified Mold Remediator may also carry:
- Defect Correction Contractor (DCC)
- A Certified Mold Hygienist may also carry:
- Residential Hygienist (RH)
- Commercial Hygienist (CH)
- Environmental Hygienist (EH)
Masters Certified courses offered through the MAA take at least three years to
obtain, and all course examinations, both written and field, are pass-fail with no errors
accepted. These highly skilled Specialists will know the "whole structure" and
will be able to define the cause of any mold-related issue. They are the leadership of the
industry and the most knowledgeable of all mold professionals.
Keeping all of these roles in mind should
help you in choosing a well-qualified MAA-certified professional to perform the mold
services you require. There are always things you should ask any professional when
searching for services:
- Check credentials -- make certain they have been certified;
- Ask where they obtained their certification;
- Ask how long they have been performing the services;
- Ask for references
If you choose a professional who is a
member of the MAA, they will carry with them an identification card that displays our
logo with their membership number. You may call our offices at any time and we will
assist you in finding information about these professionals that will be helpful. We will
be able to tell you about their work history, client referrals to our office, customer
compliments and complaints, or whether they have any regulatory citations against their
work record. We can also provide you with a list of qualified individuals in good standing
who meet our stringent guidelines from which you can select for quotes. We can help by
providing answers to any questions you may have concerning your needs for mold services.
And, the MAA can offer you a list of those individuals who have been trained by our
organization, ensuring that you receive the highest quality services.
Why should professionals and technicians entering my
premises be MAA-certified?
All Mold Assessment Association members join
with us because they share the same mission, vision and values with respect to both the
publics and the industrys issues of mold and toxic mold; and so their efforts
and purposes, and their provision of services (whatever the specialty) are united. All
members adhere to and respect our motto and the twelve canons of our code of ethics.
With respect to you, the consumer of these
services, MAA-certified professionals and technicians offer the following benefits:
- Four specialized categories of mold assessment
professionals, each dedicated to performing his/her specialty function knowledgeably and
precisely to provide higher quality services and to serve as an association-based system
of checks and balances for quality control;
- Masters Certified Mold Specialists who have been through a
rigorous seven-stage certification program, offering the highest level of specialization
in mold assessment services;
- MAA-certified professionals and technicians from related
trades who have been specially trained in a mold awareness program specific to their
specialty areas, including: home inspectors, termite and pest control technicians,
plumbers, HVAC technicians and other indoor air quality specialists, builders and general
contractors, repair and home improvement contractors, remodeling and/or restoration
specialists, electricians, paint and wallpaper technicians, and the like;
- MAA-certified professionals and technicians from a vast
array of industries that are affected by mold-related issues who have been specially
trained in a mold awareness program specific to their professions, including: attorneys,
clinicians, insurance agents and adjusters, real estate agents and brokers, property
managers, scientists, teachers, and the like;
- MAA members participate in an association-based
benchmarking program, which opens new pathways for continuous quality and performance
improvement with respect to the provision of their services;
- MAA members participate in data exchange and analyses
programs to assist appropriate agencies in current and future mold research; and
- Obtaining the services of an MAA member means having the
combined strength of the above knowledges and specialties working together to solve
mold-related issues and problems, with the goal of public well-being and better serving
the mold assessment needs of each and every consumer of those services.
And finally, as a not-for-profit
organization, we thank in advance all of the generous individuals from both the membership
and the South Carolina community-at-large, for their dues and donations. These donations
serve to help provide the very best in training specialists and training equipment,
speakers for public forums, and in providing economic relief for certain individuals
within the South Carolina community that have been severely and adversely affected by
mold. In special thanks to those who have made donations, their names are posted on our
Those who may be interested in making
donations for these programs, may do so by calling our office and requesting a Donation form
at (843) 744-3310. All donors will be posted on the listing, which will soon be making its
way to this web site.
|MAA-certified mold professionals follow strict
guidelines and protocols for the
provision of mold services. We also offer Mold Seminars for the public, employers
and property owners, as well as Mold Awareness Courses for various trades, professionals,
property managers and facilities managers.