Mold can grow almost anywhere; learning to identify, report and remediate it correctly is something we can all do.
MOLD AND YOUR HEALTH: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
People are exposed to molds every day, usually by touching or breathing them. Because molds naturally exist outdoors and indoors, living in a totally mold-free environment is practically impossible. As molds grow, spores can be released into the air where they can be easily inhaled. People who inhale large numbers of spores may get sick. Possible health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to clean up molds in indoor environments.
Many molds can cause health effects and sometimes dust can cause the same health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants and, sometimes, toxins that may cause adverse reactions in humans. A reaction to mold depends on how much a person is exposed to, the age of the person and the person’s sensitivities or allergies. The same amount of mold may cause health effects in one person, but not in another. Sometimes dust on HVAC system components is misdiagnosed as mold by building occupants. Fort Meade Department of Public Work’s mission is to clean this area regardless of the material on the HVAC component.
Under the majority of circumstances, Army does not test for mold taking the alternate approach of eliminating the moisture source and cleaning up the suspect area whether it is mold, dust, lint or water soaked materials. When faced with mold or fungal growth in a building, most people seem to perceive the growth itself as the problem. But, fungal growth is actually only a symptom of the real problem which is moisture. By first fixing the problem which might be a leaking roof, water condensation on a water line, broken pipe, or heavy rains infiltration, Army’s approach is to eliminate the water source thus depriving the mold of its essential element to survive and reproduce. The need to determine the mold type, which delays the process further, is irrelevant once the problems have been eliminated.
Some physicians have recommended testing for mold specific antibodies. The presence of antibodies only indicates that you have been exposed to a substance at some time. It does not tell you when you were exposed, where the exposure took place, or how much of the mold you were exposed to. Having a positive test for mold-specific-antibodies alone is generally considered insufficient to prove that health effects reported by individuals in moisture-damaged buildings are caused by exposure to mold.
We will make every effort to locate and identify what the cause is of what you smell in your quarters or office. This effort will include looking in the space above your suspended ceiling tiles if that’s the case and making small exploratory holes in the base of sheetrock walls to put a scope in the hole to view the interior of the wall cavity for possible mold growth. We will not tear down walls looking for suspected mold. If we cannot find a possible cause, we will notify the DPW Engineering Branch and request a HVAC system inspection of your building and a revue of the Post Operations Contractor Preventative Maintenance records for your facility.
First thing: all black molds are not toxic. There are many thousands of different species of mold living and found in the United States alone.
Stachybotrys Chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excess humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for it’s growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal. For more info, visit: CDC.gov
Individuals with persistent symptoms should see their physician and every effort should be made to relocate these individuals to another office until the previous office’s working conditions have been corrected or remediated.
Like in your home, preventative maintenance, such as cleaning with household products when you see mold first appearing, is the prudent thing to do. The Mid Atlantic states are a high humidity area and it is just a result of the air conditioning operation to produce condensation (moisture) on some of the unit’s components. As you would do in your home refrigerator, air conditioner exhaust grill or shower area, simply wipe off the presumed mold with a mild detergent cloth. We recommend that you should use rubber gloves as you would at home.
We will make every effort to clean up the mold in a timely manner. Unfortunately, monetary constraints play a big role in the decision making process and priority status assigned to the work order process. Rest assured, we take your concerns seriously and will work towards correcting the environmental conditions in your office as soon as possible.
The microbial growth found in buildings is a part of nature and is similar to the microbes found in natural compost. It is not a material that needs to be considered as hazardous to the environment. Therefore, construction materials contaminated with microbial growth should be disposed of according to the codes and local requirements laid down for the disposal of construction materials. There are no codes or standards that consider these materials to be a health waste, unless the mold-contaminated construction materials contain asbestos, lead, or other regulated materials.
In summary, Stachybotrys Chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and other molds may cause health symptoms that are nonspecific. At present there is no test that proves an association between Stachybotrys Chartarum and particular health symptoms. Individuals with persistent symptoms should see their physician. However, if Stachyybotrys or other molds are found in a building, prudent practice recommends that they be removed. CDC.gov
While indoor mold problems are often in the control of property management, many can also be caused by tenant or occupant controlled activities. For that reason, the issue is a shared responsibility that requires both parties to monitor their activities proactively.
For questions on environmental mold hazards, call DPW: 703-696-3263.