Molds are naturally occurring in the environment and are found almost everywhere, including indoors. However, at high concentrations, molds can affect the health of humans, especially immunocompromised or hypersensitive individuals. Exposure to molds, and the mycotoxins they produce, can lead to adverse health effects, such as fungal infections, rash, fever, headache, fatigue, or asthma.
Mold has been a known indoor air quality concern since at least 1994, and a lot has been learned about mold in the years since. However, to date, there are still no federal regulations governing mold. A few states (New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Maryland) and municipalities (New York City and San Francisco) have started to establish remedial standards and guidelines. Additionally, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification, or IICRC for short, has established what have become the industry standards for mold remediation and water restoration; the ICCRC S500 & S520. Yet, no one agency or entity has determined or established acceptable levels for exposure to airborne mold spores. Today, the commonly excepted industry guidelines suggest that the total and individual mold spore concentrations in an indoor environment should be similar to and/or less than the outdoor air.
So, what do we know about what causes mold? We know that mold will grow indoors and outdoors when two (2) specific conditions exist; the mold has a moisture source and a suitable organic food source. Suitable food sources in an indoor environment could be drywall, wood, and ceiling tiles; and soil, leaves, or other various plant matter in the outdoor environment. When these two (2) conditions exist, mold can start to develop within 24-hours, and it’s possible to see visible mold growth within 48-hours if the conditions persist.
Indications of an indoor mold problem can include signs of visible mold growth or musty odors. In some cases, a minor amount of mold growth may be identified on a wall, which could indicate a much great issue within the wall cavity, or what has been referred to as “the iceberg effect.” However, what a lot of people misunderstand about indoor mold issues is that they don’t actually have a “mold problem”; they have a “moisture problem.” But, simply removing the moisture and the moisture source is not sufficient once you know mold is present. In fact, removing moisture can increase exposure to mold as it dries, and the release of spores can be more vigorous. This is why hiring a qualified environmental consultant to conduct a mold assessment and sampling may be necessary as a part of your investigative or remedial strategy.