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Mold cleanup job mistakes: cross contamination. One of the most common and most costly mistakes we hear about from readers are mold cleaning projects that blow moldy dust (or track sewage) throughout the otherwise un-affected areas of a building. Here we explain how an cross contamination by moldy dust or relying just on "mold sprays and paints" can end up costing unnecessarily when hiring a mold cleaning company.
This article series describes common mistakes people make when attempting to clean up mold. Photo at page top courtesy of Anabec systems.
CROSS CONTAMINATION of MOLD - Be sure to protect from mold spore cross contamination of other building areas when cleaning up mold
Small mold cleanup projects (less than 30 sq.ft.) can normally be handled as a simple building cleaning or renovation project and without expensive negative air and dust containment barriers.
a "small project" you should remain alert for the discovery of a previously unrecognized large area of contaminated materials. If the
small project discovers that it has become a large one, work should stop to permit set-up of proper dust and particle containment.
When a large building area (more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous moldy material) is to be cleaned, use of negative air and dust containment are appropriate.
Our photo shows a typical use of plastic pipe frames to support a 6-mil poly dust barrier giving a passage through a building into the mold cleanup area. Our page top photo shows a typical two-barrier air-lock that provides entry and exit into the work area through the containment.
Protect the building areas outside or around the one being cleaned from mold contamination by following published mold remediation guidelines such as the
NY City Mold Cleanup guidelines.
For large products (more than 30 sq.ft. of contaminated contiguous surface), the procedure involves tenting or sealing off the work area
using plastic barriers, combined with establishing negative air pressure inside the work area so that particles and dust do not tend to escape the
It is important that the mold contractor protect workers performing remediation using appropriate masks, clothing, etc.
Occupants, particularly people at extra risk of mold-related illness should not perform nor be present during this work. We sometimes meet mold cleanup crews who do not understand English, have been given no instruction, and have not been giving any protective gear.
Don't spray or power-wash moldy wood or other moldy surfaces without proper containment as you may be simply spreading mold spores around the indoor environment where you will
infect other materials.
Do not take down the mold demolition dust containment barrier before the building has successfully passed a mold remediation clearance inspection and test. If the cleanup was not complete, properly performed, and successful, early dust barrier removal risks cross-contamination into other building areas.
Very troublesome has been our observation of frequent complete failures of "mold dust containment" systems set up by un-trained workers.
The result is invariably an increase in the ultimate mold remediation project cost when additional wiping and HEPA vacuuming have to be performed in areas not previously contaminated with mold.
Containment and Negative Air Errors at mold remediation projects include improper containment barrier construction that leaves holes and leaks, collapsing containment systems that simply don't stay in place, combined with workers who simply keep on with demolition even though the containment barrier has collapsed.
It's not too difficult to spot incompetent mold containment barriers (photo at left).
But some mold dust containment barrier setups are downright stupid.
At a New York City mold remediation project we found that the low-budget mold remediation company selected by our client hung plastic up like a shower curtain, (not reaching the ceiling) by suspending it using duct tape strips tied around the fire sprinkler heads along the ceiling!
Not only had the remediator taken down the containment barrier before the project had successfully passed a mold clearance inspection and test, they had left their duct tape plastic strips tied to the fire sprinklers (photo at left).
Luckily no one stumbled into the "shower curtain" containment system or the building would have had a new shower of its own, with new mold problems.
And luckily the building had not caught on fire - we don't know how the duct tape might have interfered with proper functioning of the sprinkler heads in the event of a fire.
Also ineffective is simply "air scrubbing", running power dryers, or power dehumidifiers in a moldy dusty area, without also performing the cleanup and fixing any ongoing water entry problems or water leaks.
Turning on a large air filtration machine with no ducting to outdoors.
The result may stir up and remove dust that is airborne, but an air scrubber is completely incapable of removing mold from building surfaces nor can it pick up debris on the floor across the room, any more than you can vacuum your living room carpet by standing in the kitchen and waving your vacuum cleaner wand in the air.
Our photo (left) shows a "post mold remediation" condition we observed while inspecting a property for a large homeowners' insurance provider. Things didn't look quite right:
A drier and dehumidifier were left running in a moldy crawl space that was still wet (see that dark spot at center of the photo)
Demolition was incomplete (see the fiberglass insulation in the upper left of the photo)
There was no evidence that any dust containment had ever been in place, though this crawl space communicated with the rest of the building via several major air pathways.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Kansas State University, department of plant pathology, extension plant pathology web page on wheat rust fungus: see http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/path-ext/factSheets/Wheat/Wheat%20Leaf%20Rust.asp
"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home",
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
US EPA - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Building [Copy on file at /sickhouse/EPA_Mold_Remediation_in_Schools.pdf ] - US EPA
US EPA - Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf - en Espanol
Associations: Sick House, Sick Building, SBS - Air Quality, Government, Private Associations and Information Resources
Atlas of Clinical Fungi, 2nd Ed., GS deHoog, J Guarro, J Gene, & MJ Figueras, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, 2000, ISBN 90-70351-43-9 (you can buy this book at Amazon) - The Atlas of Clinical Fungi is also available on CD ROM
"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
"Disease Prevention in Home Vegetable Gardens,"
Department of Plant Microbiology and Pathology,
Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri Extension - extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6202
Fifth Kingdom, Bryce Kendrick, ISBN13: 9781585100224, is available from the InspectAPedia online bookstore - we recommend the CD-ROM version of this book. This 3rd/edition is a compact but comprehensive encyclopedia of all things mycological. Every aspect of the fungi, from aflatoxin to zppspores, with an accessible blend of verve and wit. The 24 chapters are filled with up-to-date information of classification, yeast, lichens, spore dispersal, allergies, ecology, genetics, plant pathology, predatory fungi, biological control, mutualistic symbioses with animals and plants, fungi as food, food spoilage and mycotoxins.
Ozone Warnings - Use of Ozone as a "mold" remedy is ineffective and may be dangerous.
Rot concerns in buildings-some building mold such as Meruliporia incrassata "Poria" risks serious rot and hidden structural damage
US EPA: Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf - en Espanol
OTHER IAQ ISSUES: How To Find and Address Other Indoor Air or Indoor Environment Contaminants Besides Mold
Mold or allergens may not be the only or even the main indoor environmental contaminant. Don't let media attention to mold
cause so much enviro-scare fear that other, possibly more urgent hazards go un-addressed.
Rodents, Mice, Squirrel Control - I find high levels of mouse and rodent dander, fecal dust, and urine-contaminated dust in some buildings,
and high levels of these materials in building insulation in those locations. If you have a mouse problem, particularly if mice and their waste (fecals or urine) are contaminating
the building HVAC or building insulation, may need both steps to clean up or remove infected materials and steps to stop an ongoing
rodent problem. If squirrels are a problem, the cleanup needs to include closing off entry openings into the building. Get some
help from a licensed pest control expert.