Why does mold come back after treatment?
The surface that mold is growing on is critical to understanding the best way to kill it. For example: black mold on bathroom grout. The home remedy is spraying with bleach or a bleach tile cleaner. This kills the spore casing (the blackness), but the mold is still there. Mold has a “root-like” system growing in the grout called mycelium. This is the actual body of the plant. It releases enzymes that dissolve organic material and cellulose and convert it to useful sugars and minerals to provide food for the plant. Cleaners that do not penetrate into the grout and kill the mycelium do not kill the mold. They only kill the spore casings (“flower”) and the mold grows back. ASEC uses special nontoxic fungicides with enzymes designed to penetrate specific surfaces: wood, grout, concrete, drywall, etc. When we are done, the mold is dead, not temporarily set back.
How do you remove mold from a home?
Different circumstances require different techniques, but the basics are similar:
- Test to determine what types of mold are growing. This will determine the protective level for clean up and the specific fungicide to be used. Moisture testing will determine the extent of possible contamination.
- enting off the contaminated area prevents spreading spores through out the entire house. Never spray mold without respiratory protection (magenta/carbon filter mask, paper masks do not protect you) and contain the contamination. Treatment solutions seldom kill the spores. The mold knows it is dying and releases millions (if not billions) of spores.
- Negative pressure HEPA filters must be in place to clean the air of all contaminants, including the spores. These should be running before, during, and after the remediation. Tenting serves no purpose if the contaminates inside the tent are not removed prior to removing the tent.
- Wear protection. Disposable suits, respiratory protection Use only carbon filter masks (magenta); paper masks do not protect you from MVOC’s (Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds, like mycotoxins) or spores. Special gloves must also be worn. Stachrybotrys and some forms of Aspergillus can release MVOCs and spores onto the skin. They can grow in your skin and in your lungs. Mold can be very dangerous, especially during cleanup.
- All contaminated materials: flooring, insulation, drywall, plaster, wood, etc. must be double bagged or placed in containers to be removed from the contamination site. They must be removed from the home immediately and stored a safe distance from the home. They should be sent to the landfill as soon as possible. In heavy or severe contamination, a transfer tent should be set up so that contamination area workers do not carry debris through the house.
- All surfaces (including additional walls, ceilings, cabinets, and floors) should be treated with appropriate enzymes first, and then followed with high concentrations of nontoxic fungicides. If your abatement company claims to get rid of mold by painting all surfaces with Kilz paint, call ASEC. Years of testing have proven that painting a moldy surface with paint (like Kilz) locks in moisture and mold enzymes that dry rot the wood ten times faster than an unpainted surface. Kilz is a wonderful product and should or can be used after the remediation, not as the remediation. Beware of “dry ice”, ozone generation, and ionization techniques. In ideally controlled high concentrations for prolonged periods in laboratories, these techniques can work. In your home, crawl space, or attic it is not a feasible solution.
- Crawl spaces require special attention. Many times the mold is caused by water intrusion or pipe leaks. These problems must be resolved prior to remediation. See the section on crawl space remediation.
- Attic remediation also requires special attention. Most attic mold is caused by lack of ventilation, bathroom fans venting into an attic instead of out the roof, or leaky roofs. In all cases the insulation will absorb the moisture and grow mold. Moldy insulation must be removed while the moisture problem is remedied. Insulation in attics cannot have the mold removed successfully. See the section on attic remediation.
- ASEC recommends that the tent stay in place until repairs are complete. This will keep dust and debris out of the home. Before removal, all tents must be sprayed. Remove with the least movement as possible. Carefully roll up all tarps without creating dust.
10. Retest the home for mold to make sure the contamination was kept contained and the mold is gone.
What is toxic mold?
Any mold that can release mycotoxins is considered toxic mold. These can include Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, Serpula, Penecillium, and some others. Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus are considered very toxic by ASEC Scientists because they give off a mycotoxin called aflatoxin, which is both a toxin and a carcinogen. Aspergillus clavatus is a very serious allergen. The mold that is considered to be responsible for “sick building syndrome” is Stachybotrys chartarium. Layman consider Stachybotrys to be “the toxic mold”. It is capable of causing diseases that can result in death. A veterinarian in Florida reported two cats that were living in a water damaged, mold infested house killed by Stachybotrys chartarium. All of the above mentioned molds could cause serious illness; grow in or on the human body causing diseases. Untreated, death is possible. Nobody that ASEC is aware of has ever been killed directly by the mycotoxins these molds can produce. Molds release mycotoxins as a defense mechanism to kill other mold competing for their food source. Mycotoxins are not released to kill animals and humans like in some horror movie. Always treat mold seriously. Mold is more dangerous than most people give it credit. This is quite apparent when we inspect homes and find families living in a house where black mold is growing everywhere and have no concerns. If Health Departments become aware of this, they condemn the house until it is remediated. Aspergillosis is a lung disease where the mold grows in the lung in a large ball. It can cause immune deficiency that causes infections the body cannot fight. Like AIDS, the virus does not kill, immune deficiency does. See the section on common mold varieties found in Colorado.
How do I know I have mold?
Many varieties of mold cannot be seen with the human eye. Special cameras or mold tests can be conducted to determine what is affecting your home. Mold remediation companies that charge thousands of dollars for mold testing are not necessarily being fair. The best way to test things yourself is to go to the hardware store; buy a mold test for outside and one for each room you want to test ($10 each). Pour the contents of the liquid agar in the petri dish and cover immediately. Wait for the agar to solidify. Mark and open a petri dish in each room you want tested. Make sure you note the time you open the dish. Place one dish outside (very important). Leave the dishes open for one hour. Close and tape the dishes shut. Store the dishes in a dark, warm cabinet or drawer for at least four days. When you take the dishes out after four days, count the number of colonies of each color. Compare the numbers to the counts from the outside. If the outside counts are less than the inside, you may have a mold problem. Mold counts should typically be less inside than outside. If you can smell musty odors in a room, especially a damp area, test it. If you can actually see the mold growing, why test; do something about it, call ASEC.
Is mold dangerous for my family or pets?
Yes, never take mold exposure lightly. All of the people ASEC has worked with in the past who have strong chemical sensitivities have one thing in common; they lived in a home that had black mold problems. Mold can do permanent damage to your body. Unlike other exposures, humans do not create a resistance to mold; the more exposure, the more symptoms that develop. Most pets are mammals. They are more susceptible to mold and radon exposure than humans. When veterinarians find a pet with lung cancer; they usually tell the owner to test the home for high radon. The same is true for mold-induced diseases. Symptoms of nasal drip, fatigue, headaches, sinusitis, flu like symptoms, itchy skin, toe and finger nail distortion and discoloration, respiratory infections are just a few of the symptoms of mold exposure. It is amazing how healthy some people become after ASEC removes mold from the house.
Does mold grow in ductwork?
Very rarely, unless the duct is full of organic matter (food source). Mold that is detected coming from ductwork generally comes from mold that is growing in the furnace, on coils, and condensation trays. For this reason, most duct cleaning services do not carry any form of fungicide for cleaning ducts. They will clean the ducts, but Federal Clean Air legislation prohibits the use of most fungicides. A good duct cleaning company should always include fan blade or squirrel cage, cooling condenser coil, and condensation tray cleaning.
What cuases mold to grow in my home?
Moisture is required for mold to grow. The presence of a food source, anything organic, moderate temperatures, and reduced sunlight make mold thrive. The longer your roof leaks, the longer your plumbing leaks, the longer any water source continues, the higher the risk for mold. Long-term leaks can develop Serpula and Stachybotrys. These are molds you do not want in your home. Mold can go dormant if the water source dries up. It can come back to life many years later if the water source comes back. Mold spores are everywhere. Given the opportunity, even in brand new homes, it will thrive. The outside air carries hundreds of species of mold. Humans can bring spores in on their clothes, shoes, sports equipment, camping equipment, anything that has been outdoors. Pets carry many species of mold into the house, including soil borne species like Stachybotrys and many species of Aspergillus. Many molds grow in the garden and come in with fruits, vegetables, and flowers. You can never totally eliminate mold in your home. Just do not give it a place to grow.