Extremen mold contamination indoors (C) Daniel FriedmanIndoor Mold Contamination Emergency?
What to Do & When to Hire a Professional

  • DEFINITION of MOLD EMERGENCY - CONTENTS: how do I know if the mold in my building should be handled as an emergency? What difference does that make?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to decide if a mold, odor or other indoor air emergency exists, what to do in an emergency, and how to determine if professional mold inspection & testing are needed
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Indoor mold contamination emergency response: this article describes how you may decide that the moldy conditions inside a building are serious enough to treat as an emergency.

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How to Identify a Building Mold Emergency, Odor Emergency, or Indoor Air Quality Emergency

Mold contamination (C) D FriedmanWatch out: because individual health risks and site conditions vary widely, no publication can always identify nor solve all problems caused by indoor air contamination.

If you believe that an indoor air quality or contamination emergency exists, get out of the building and seek professional help from emergency services such as dialing 911 from a telephone outside of and away from the building. See IAQ EMERGENCY STEPS for four key actions to take. 

But here we provide assistance that will help in identifying an emergency and more assistance that will help determine when you need to hire a professional.

Even a non-emergency situation may require expert professional advice on diagnosis of problem causes and procedures to clean up mold or to remedy other IAQ issues.

At page top and above left we show examples of severe indoor mold contamination. In the extremely mold-contaminated building shown at page top there is no question that if this building had been occupied, it should not be. In an interesting technical experiment the author tested every surface of every different type of building material found inside the structure.

The results were interesting: different mold genera/species had strong preferences for different materials (no surprise). These variations underscore the importance of strategic sample location selection when screening less obviously contaminated buildings for mold. For example I found completely different mold genera/species growing on the surface of a hollow-core luan interior door than on its edges.

Definition of Mold Emergency: Five Conditions Indicating an Indoor Mold, Odor, or Gas Emergency

Moldy books (C) Daniel Friedman

The US EPA identifies five conditions that require immediate or "emergency" response [we have added a few items]: [6]

  1. Breathing difficulties that are widespread among building occupants, such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or respiratory irritation. [An individual with breathing difficulties is an individual emergency but may not represent a building emergency.] Also see MOLD RELATED ILLNESS SYMPTOMS
  2. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: sounding of a CO detector alarm, or [apparently building-related] headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and combustion odors from heating equipment such as a heating boiler, furnace, or a fireplace, coalstove, or woodstove.

    See CARBON MONOXIDE - CO and HEATING SYSTEM ODORS and WOOD STOVE OPERATION & SAFETY. Other gases, concentrated indoors, can also be dangerous but may be harder to detect (Carbon Dioxide - CO2). At GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS we provide information about a wider range of indoor gas hazards.
  3. Diagnosis of the presence of Legionnaire's disease or tuberculosis in the building or among building occupants. Also see Legionella BACTERIA & HVAC Equipment.
  4. Flooded or water-damaged carpeting. [Note that the "emergency" here is the need for quick response to prevent a more costly mold contamination problem in the building.] Also see CARPET MOLD / ODOR TESTS and FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP. [If you see a large area of mold in the building, more than 30 square feet of contiguous mold such as the black mold on drywall in a flooded basement shown in our photo (above left), you will need a professional to evaluate and another to correct the problem.]
  5. Obvious life-threatening emergencies such as [a sounding smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, or other evidence of a carbon monoxide danger or an actual fire in the building], hazardous material spills, [or warnings by officials of an earthquake, tsunami, flooding, or similar disaster that is imminent]

Watch out: a mold-related indoor IAQ emergency condition may exist but may be less obvious, as we explain below.

In the moldy book photo shown at above-left we illustrate a more subtle but serious indoor mold condition. In an in-use basement library area we found books that from a distance just looked "a little moldy". But the air disturbance caused by merely walking past these books sent visible clouds of green Aspergillus sp. mold spores into the air in extemely high concentrations - a condition we verified in our laboratory

Worse, when the remediators installed rapid dehumidifying equipment, the sudden plummet in indoor humidity so excited the Aspergillus that it sent still much higher levels or spores into building air. Proper dust and mold containment measures were very important at this building to avoid jeapordizing people occupying the in-use upper floors.

If you are not sure if a mold emergency exists

Additional information helpful in deciding if an emergency condition exists can be read at

Key Mold Emergency Articles


Continue reading at MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


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