A Brief History of Mold Damage
Where does this pesky mold come from?
It’s the middle of monsoon season in Phoenix and Tucson and that means one thing – Mold Damage. Maybe you’re noticing spots of water are appearing on your ceiling or the dishwasher isn’t quite getting the dishes clean and water keeps showing up on the floor. A few weeks later a noxious smell fills through your home or workplace. The smell is coming from a type of fungus that has thrived for millions of years and is believed to exist through more than 100,000 species1 – it’s mold. And any mold damage requires mold removal.
With so many ways for water and moisture to collect indoors, the far majority of the more than 100 million homes and commercial buildings in the United States have or will experience some kind of structural dampness.
Water itself isn’t a problem, but the mold that cultivates in these moist environments are; along with dust mites, cockroaches, rodents, and other microbial growth that are attracted to these water sources. And with these infestations come serious health risks to be aware of, but more importantly, to be actively eliminating.
It’s only recently that the public began asking more questions, and scientists giving more thought, as to what connections could exist between indoor dampness and health problems. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies released the Damp Indoor Spaces and Health report1.
The groundbreaking report shed new light on the health risks of living or working in close proximity to uncontrolled water and moisture sources. Several common health issues including chronic wheezing, coughing, sneezing, upper respiratory illness, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and asthma were found to have an association with indoor dampness.
In Table ES-1, the IOM report maps the exposure to damp indoor environments to a list of health problems.
The IOM report was an eye opener for everyone since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported on a study in 2014 that Americans spend on average 87% of their time in enclosed buildings.2 It paved the way for new guidelines in regards to how we treat water damage and cleanup, especially mold removal.
This has been especially true in the time immediately following deadly hurricanes and floods that have been impacting the U.S. coastal areas for decades. Such a report was released by the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) in 2006 as the Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods.3
In their summary the CDC found the following reasoning and recommendations for greatly reducing the health risks associated with water damage. One of the most important notes from this report was that the CDC did not distinguish between the vast number of species of mold but stated that generally all mold should be treated as a danger to the health of occupants and furthermore be quickly and correctly remediated.
Extensive water damage after major hurricanes and floods increases the likelihood of mold contamination in buildings. This report provides information on how to limit exposure to mold and how to identify and prevent mold-related health effects. Where uncertainties in scientific knowledge exist, practical applications designed to be protective of a person’s health are presented. Evidence is included about assessing exposure, clean-up and prevention, personal protective equipment, health effects, and public health strategies and recommendations. The recommendations assume that, in the aftermath of major hurricanes or floods, buildings wet for >48 hours will generally support visible and extensive mold growth and should be remediated, and excessive exposure to mold-contaminated materials can cause adverse health effects in susceptible persons regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination.
Since these IOM and CDC reports were released, there has been an increasing number of health and government agencies investigating and reporting on the health implications of water damage and mold. In 2013 the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health released their report NIOSH Alert: Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings.4
The publication marks a paradigm shift in how we think about mold in our homes, schools, and work. The NIOSH report identifies the importance for residential home and commercial building owners to develop and implement sound practices aimed at regularly inspecting for and removing, if necessary, mold and their water sources.
But equally important as mold removal is the planning and work needed in the prevention of water damage and mold growth. The NIOSH Alert presents several action plans for mold prevention. A few of these are listed below.
- Always respond when occupant health concerns are reported.
- Regularly inspect building areas such as roofs, ceilings, walls, basements, crawl spaces, and slab construction for evidence of dampness; take prompt steps to identify and correct the causes of any dampness problems found.
- Conduct regularly scheduled inspections of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and promptly correct any problems.
- Prevent high indoor humidity through the proper design and operation of HVAC systems.
- Dry any porous building materials that have become wet from leaks or flooding within 48 hours.
- Clean and repair or replace any building materials that are moisture-damaged or show evidence of visible mold growth.
- Follow remediation guidelines such as those established by the following agencies: — Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings [EPA 2008] — New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s New York City Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments [NYC DOHMH 2008] — American Industrial Hygiene Association’s Recognition, Evaluation, and Control of Indoor Mold [AIHA 2008]
Current Mold Exposure Symptoms Identified by Health Communities
The 2004 IOM report “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health” set the stage for linking several health symptoms to the presence of indoor dampness. But in the more than ten years since, there has been an abundance of research conducted that now suggests even stronger links than previously believed.
Currently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify several symptoms tied to the impact of mold on people.5 It is common to hear people in their homes or workplaces speak of such symptoms as being brought on by allergies, especially from outdoor pollen and other plant life. But collected CDC research shows that a large percentage of these persons can contribute their symptoms less to outdoor agents and more to the presence of indoor mold.
This is especially true in light of that EPA statistic of Americans spending on average 87% of their time in enclosed buildings. This information highlights the importance of evaluating your home or facility as a candidate for mold removal.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Reported Symptoms of Mold Exposure5
|Mild Symptoms of Mold Exposure
||Severe Symptoms of Mold Exposure
The CDC further warns that indoor exposure of mold in homes with children and in childcare centers has been linked to respiratory illness in what would otherwise be healthy kids. This includes research findings by Dr. Tiina Reponen and her team at the University of Cincinnati that have been studying connections between mold exposure and asthma in children for more than a decade.
In the study funded by NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that a child’s risk of developing asthma for life increased 80% if they grew up in a home that tested positive for moderate mold presence.6
Such a large increase is catching the attention of health practitioners who are now more regularly asking probing questions of parents of respiratory ill children to determine if there is a strong possibility of moderate mold growth in the home.
One of the largest institutions of such health practitioners is the Mayo Clinic that identifies a similar range of symptoms associated with the presence of indoor mold7. They have gone on further to specifically include symptoms tied to mold allergy and asthma.
Mayo Clinic Reported Symptoms of Mold Exposure7
|Mild Symptoms of Mold Exposure
||Symptoms of Mold Allergy and Asthma
It’s clear that the impact of mold exposure on our health, and especially growing children and the elderly, is only beginning to be understood. New research will continue to find connections along with recommendations for reducing our health risks in the presence of indoor dampness and mold.
But regardless of forthcoming guidelines, it’s commonly agreed between government and health agencies that the quick remediation mold is necessitated in any environment.
Mold Removal and Remediation Options
One option for mold remediation would be for the immediate occupants or building owner to attempt the removal, however, this is not generally encouraged. Nearly every city in America has trained, experienced, and licensed companies to properly manage water damage and mold removal. This includes teams of diversified experts with the correct cleaning machinery and solutions, protective gear, emergency protocols, and testing equipment.
While purchasing machinery, gear, solutions, and equipment could be done, the costs would exceed the fee of working directly with a professional company. Furthermore, the years of experience could not be purchased. Consequently, the best options for mold removal really are among choosing which professional company to work with.
In Phoenix and Tucson, AZ Royalty Renovation is the premiere company that brings this level of experience and expertise in water damage and mold removal. You can contact our company at 520-505-3280.
- Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies. (2004). Damp Indoor Spaces and Health. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11011/damp-indoor-spaces-and-health
- Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. (2014). The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants http://www.nature.com/jes/journal/v11/n3/full/7500165a.html
- Centers for Disease and Contol (CDC). (2006). Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr5508.pdf
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2013). NIOSH Alert: Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-102/pdfs/2013-102.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). Molds in the Environment. http://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm#mold
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2012). Household Molds Linked to Childhood Asthma. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/household-molds-linked-childhood-asthma
- Mayo Clinic. (2016). Mold Allergy. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mold-allergy/symptoms-causes/dxc-20200846