Photograph: a professional toxic mold investigator is shown here properly dressed and wearing a respirator, but missing gloves, as he begins to inspect a very moldy basement -  © Daniel FriedmanMold Cleanup Safety
Safety and Health Procedures When Looking for or Cleaning Up Mold Contamination in Buildings
     


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Safety procedures for mold contamination investigators. Here we cite the importance of using good safety procedures when looking for mold or when cleaning up mold in buildings and we provide links to mold inspection, testing, and remediation guidelines.

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Mold Safety Warnings for Do-It-Yourself'ers & for Occupants of Moldy Buildings

Very mold contaminated floor framing and subfloor (C) D FriedmanSerious Mold Inspection or Cleanup Mistakes

Here are the most common and most serious mistakes that we encounter when reviewing mold inspection and mold cleanup or "remediation" jobs.

  1. Failure to protect the inspector, worker or occupants from toxic or allergenic mold that may be disturbed and brought to elevated levels in the building during inspection and testing.

    These errors include failure to wear proper protective equipment during inspection and remediation work, and failure to establish and maintain adequate dust control measures during a mold remediation project.

    The second example often results in an extended and unnecessarily costly mold cleanup job, while the first example can lead to temporary or even more serious illness of the inspector or occupants.
  2. Failure to find and remove the problem mold in a building. Too often, incomplete inspection, incompetent testing, or hasty "magic bullet" approaches to mold remediation result in incomplete work, and often they even result in removing materials that were not the mold problem while leaving the problem mold in place.

    We have reviewed too many projects for which the building owners have paid a high fee for work that did little or nothing to remove the mold problem.
  3. Mold Cleanup Project Containment Failures: perhaps the most common mold remediation project failure after failing to properly and thoroughly inspect and diagnose the locations and causes of mold reservoirs prior to starting work, is failure to properly control dust and debris caused by demolition and removal of moldy materials such as carpeting, drywall, or plaster.
  4. Reliance on shortcuts for mold inspection, mold testing, and mold remediation.

    Examples are sole reliance on infra-red inspection or mold sniffing dogs or air tests to find mold in buildings, inadequate dryout methods after flooding in buildings, and use of bleach or fungicides as a substitute for actual cleaning or removal of problem mold.

    Such measures are ineffective and in some cases, they can be dangerous for building occupants.

Mold Cleanup Safety Procedures & Remediation Procedures

Guidelines defining what's a "large amount" of mold and what's reasonable for a homeowner to handle have been published by several states including New York and California.

Links to key documents describing mold cleanup and mold remediation procedures are
at ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD

People who are allergic, asthmatic, infant, elderly, immune-impaired, etc., should not disturb mold and should not be in the area where mold remediation is being performed. Consult with your doctor, health department or other professional before tackling this job yourself.

Reader Question: is it safe to be in a building during mold restoration? Is raw sewage safe to live around?

Hi: I have three questions: 1. During mold restoration, can I be present in my home or is it considered condemned until all mold is removed? 2. Raw sewage has been dripping in between my walls, ruining cabinets and floors from the unit above me toilet. Is this raw sewage okay to live around along with the mold it caused? Thank you for a well-informed website.

It was discovered last week that the unit above where I live the sewer pipe has a crack which causes liquids from the toilet to spray when flushed. This spraying has saturated (interior) side of the walls. I cannot tell you how long this has been going on but I know it has been over several months. Initially (during the warmer weather) I smelled like a dead mouse or rat had died but I could never find any remains of an animal.

When a plumber busted open the walls, the walls were saturated and showing clear signs of cluster of black mold in numerous spots. It was just everywhere. The liquid has seeped through the dry wall, under my floors, baseboard, cabinets, and behind the tile walls in my bathroom. My floors were seeping liquid through the seams.

To make things worse, every time I am home I feel nauseated, confused, and I feel like I have the flu or the onset of a terrible cold. I never I had any breathing problems my entire life but recently I was diagnosed with Bronchitis twice within six months. I am really wondering if these damages are causing my health problems. To make matters worse I have black flies which I Goggled and these flies are called sewer flies.

The flies were my biggest indication that I had major problems. Can people live around such bacteria without problems? Are my health problems for real? If I ever get a restoration clean-up for the mold can I still live there while the mold is being treated? - Y.D. 12/2/2013

Reply: maybe but in some cases no, and no.

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that would permit a more accurate, complete, and authoritative answer than we can give by email alone. You will find additional depth and detail in articles at our website. That said I offer these comments:

1. Can you remain in your home during mold cleanup?

No one can reliably and honestly answer your first question as posed because the email contains not a shred of information about the mold conditions in your home.

But a *general* answer is that a small mold cleanup project (less than 30 sq.ft.) is typically performed by a homeowner or handyman without special precautions.

Larger areas of mold remediation that require professional attention almost always must also include steps to isolate the contaminated work area from the rest of the building, if for no other reason than to avoid spreading moldy dust throughout the building thus causing a still-larger cleanup project.

In a perfect world of perfect dust containment, negative air in the work area and similar measures, and in a perfect world where nobody accidentally turns off a fan or knocks down a plastic barrier, the remainder of the building should be safe for normal occupants.

But even in the best of cases, if a building is occupied by elderly, infant, asthmatic, immune-impaired or similarly vulnerable people, anybody with an ounce of sense will ask that they be out of the building before, during and even after the mold cleanup project until the building has passed a successful post-remediation inspection and test.

Consult your doctor: given your description of the contamination in your home and of your building-related health complaints, it would make sense to consult your own doctor for advice as soon as you can.

Small areas of mold, if that's all you've got, say less than 30 sqft of contiguous moldy material, are usually handled as a normal cleanup job without heroic efforts, For a small or DIY mold cleanup project see

Larger areas of mold contamination, or if a larger area is discovered in cleaning the small one, do indeed merit professional cleaning. When a professional mold cleanup job seems to be needed, these articles will be helpful

2. Raw sewage contamination hazards in buildings

Again I have not a shred of information about the location nor extent of sewage contamination so I can only answer in very general terms: raw sewage contamination in a building is a source of pathogens that can cause serious illness in occupants.

It may not be obvious, but bacterial and viral pathogens can, for example, become airborne as microdroplets or even as attached to fine airborne dust during building cleanup. ​​

More information about sewage backups is at

In sum, from your follow-up notes expanding your description it sounds as if the home suffered substantial water leakage, mold contamination is likely to be widespread, and sewage contamination is present. If so there are likely to be significant health hazards present.

Watch out: on moving contents out of a water, mold or sewage contaminated building that you do not simply carry contaminants along somewhere else;

 

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