Mold Awareness, Prevention, Guidelines for Reporting and Remediation
Molds are part of the fungi kingdom, which includes yeasts, molds, smuts and mushrooms. Molds are ubiquitous—many thousands of mold species can be found indoors and outdoors throughout the year. They can grow almost anywhere, as long as optimal temperatures, moisture, oxygen, and food sources, such as organic matter are present. Growth of mold thrives in warm, humid places such as bathrooms, kitchens, or basements.
Mold spores cannot be eliminated, but actions to prevent and remediate can be taken. Mold spores can enter buildings through open doors, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can be brought indoors on clothing, shoes, bags, and even pets.
Mold will grow where there is moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been a flood. Mold grows on paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles and wood. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
In order to prevent the active growth of mold, moisture sources and indoor relative humidity must be controlled. The following are essential in minimizing the potential for mold growth:
- Repair plumbing leaks as soon as possible.
- Prevent moisture condensation.
- Keep HVAC drip pans clean, flowing properly, and unobstructed.
- Perform regularly scheduled building HVAC inspections and maintenance, including filter changes.
- Maintain indoor relative humidity at levels to prevent the potential for mold growth.
- Venting moisture-generating appliances to the outside where possible.
- Venting cooking areas and bathrooms.
- Clean and dry suspect areas within 48 hours. If carpets and upholstery cannot be dried a professional assessment is required.
- Identify areas of water infiltration, identify the cause and take preventive action to prevent recurrence in a timely fashion.
- Provide adequate drainage around buildings and sloping the ground away from building foundations.
Potential Health Effects
Potential health effects from environmental mold spore exposure vary from person to person. Most persons who do not have mold-related allergies are not affected by typical airborne spores. However, individuals with allergies or sensitivities to mold or have immunodeficiency may have more adverse reactions. For these individuals, molds can cause headaches, nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, aggravation of asthma symptoms, or in some cases skin irritation. People with severe allergies and immuno-compromised individuals need to follow their physician’s guidance.
Testing For Mold
Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a building, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommended routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are more often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining potential health risk. Furthermore, standards for judging what is and is not acceptable or a tolerable quantity of mold have not been established.
Because of the variation in the effect of mold on individuals, there are currently no government regulation regarding the presence or control of indoor mold. However, most experts agree that the prevention of active mold growth is prudent, in order to prevent potential problems.
Reporting Mold Concerns
If you suspect or see visible mold growing in any campus building, please notify facilities management as soon as possible by following these steps:
- Submit a work request online at https://georgetown.oncfi.com/archibus/login.axvw or call (202) 687-3432.
- Provide as much information as possible such as:
- Description of the concern (e.g. visible mold on ceiling).
- Indicate if there is standing water, wet or damp walls/floors, recent floods or storms, or a history of water leaks.
- Contact information (name, building/room number, phone number)
The Facilities Office reviews all requests relating to mold and directs safety managers to conduct mold assessments within two business days. If the area of mold growth is less than 10 square feet, remediation and cleaning efforts will be addressed in-house by trained facilities staff. When mold is detected, it is disinfected and the space is HEPA vacuumed to remove mold spores. For larger areas of mold, third-party mold remediation professionals are brought in to conduct the cleanup. If the humidity in the space needs to be lowered to prevent future mold formation, industrial dehumidifiers are installed and the space is monitored to ensure the humidity stays within an acceptable range. When water intrusion is identified during the assessment, a facilities work request will be initiated so that a repair is scheduled.
All housekeeping staff who may be requested to clean an area of mold (< 10 sq. ft.) are provided training. Required training for mold is included in the Hazard Communication Training: