Mold and Microbial Growth Awareness, Prevention, Guidelines for Reporting and Remediation
Information regarding Mold Sampling/Testing
- Is Sampling/Testing for Mold Necessary (USEPA)? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards… read more
- Sampling for Mold: A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace (OSHA): Is it necessary to sample for mold? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Air sampling for mold may not be part of a routine assessment because decisions about appropriate remediation strategies often can be made on the basis of a visual inspection… read more
- Testing and Remediation of Dampness and Mold Contamination, Indoor Environmental Quality (CDC/NIOSH): Mold in the Workplace: There are no established health-based standards for acceptable levels of biological agents in indoor air. We do not recommend routine air sampling for mold with building air quality evaluations because air concentrations of molds cannot be interpreted with regard to health risks. …….We have found that thorough visual inspections and/or detection of problem areas via musty odors are more reliable… read more
What are home test kits for mold and why are they not recommended?
At home (Do-it-yourself) mold test kits do not offer quantitative and reliable results for suspect microbial growth (SMG). When fruit is left out on the counter, given enough time, mold will grow. This is a very similar effect for at home kits. These kits typically use a petri dish with agar and collect mold spores that fall from the air called “gravity” or “settling” and create an environment (food source) for the mold to grow. A positive result in a petri dish does not indicate that a space has a mold problem. Molds grow easily and the agar is a perfect nutrient for the mold to cultivate. By creating this habitable environment also creates inaccurate data for assessing suspect microbial growth in your room/home.
The best course of action if you suspect microbial growth is to submit a work request. A trained Facilities Maintenance staff member will respond to inspect the space to identify any visual growth or sources of water that should not be present. Inspection requires an understanding of building construction, water sources, and other factors that may not be apparent to many people. Without water infiltration, SMG will not likely grow.
To sum up, at home kits are not reliable for the following reasons:
- They do not provide accurate data or identify sources where microbial growth can grow.
- Consumer Reports do not recommend kits as they have also found them to be inaccurate. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2007/04/be-on-the-lookout-for-mold/index.htm
- Petri dishes with agar encourage mold growth to occur which is not an accurate assessment of the Indoor Air Quality present in the space.
- Mold spores are everywhere. ALL homes have spores, and the outside air. If you open a Petri dish and take a sample you will get mold.
- Doesn’t fix the problem.
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 (microbial growth) will grow where there is moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been a flood. Microbial growth grows on paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles and wood. Microbial growth can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
In order to prevent the active growth of microbial materials, 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 microbial growth 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.
Seasonal Allergies – Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen and tend to start around late-February and last until the end of summer. Even allergies to ragweed should resolve by fall, around mid-October. If your allergy symptoms occur year-round or after pollen season is over, you may instead be having a reaction to mold. The symptoms to microbial growth exposure and seasonal allergies are very similar and more often than not are attributed to pollen. Typically, suspect microbial growth concerns increase at the beginning and end of allergy seasons.
How do I know the difference? If you still have symptoms while indoors and especially after pollen season, your symptoms may be caused by microbial growth. Visual signs of mold (water intrusion, growth, high heat and humidity etc.) are the main signs that microbial growth is present.
Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of microbial growth in a building, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommended routine sampling. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of microbial growth, 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 have not been established.
Because of the variation in the effect of microbial growth on individuals, there are currently no government regulations regarding the presence or control of indoor microbial growth. However, most experts agree that the prevention of active growth is prudent, in order to prevent potential problems.
Reporting Suspect Microbial Growth
If you suspect or see visible microbial growth in any campus building, please notify facilities management as soon as possible by following these steps:
- Submit a work request online at https://georgetown-isd.webtma.net/ or call (202) 687-3432.
- Provide as much information as possible such as:
- Description of the concern (e.g. visible growth 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 and directs safety managers to conduct assessments within two business days. If the area of microbial growth is less than 10 square feet, remediation and cleaning efforts will be addressed in-house by trained facilities staff. When microbial growth is detected, it is disinfected and the space is HEPA vacuumed to remove spores. For larger areas of microbial growth, third-party remediation professionals are brought in to conduct the cleanup. If the humidity in the space needs to be lowered, 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 management 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 cleaning is included in the Hazard Communication Training: