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Mold Assessment Association
www.moldassessment.org  email: sales@moldassessment.org


ESPECIALLY FOR CONSUMERS

Welcome to the section of our website that was created with you, the consumer, in mind. Here we hope you will find important general information for your use about mold, its health effects, and how it affects you, the individual, and the general public. Here you will find suggestions on how to reduce your risk for mold, how to prevent it and have a healthy home, as well as what to look for with ANY serviceperson or contractor who may enter your home. For information regarding regulatory issues and concerns, see our section regarding those issues.

With our primary goal of informing the public about mold and the issues surrounding it, we are constantly striving to update our informational database and research for new technologies that will enhance methods for protecting the health and well-being of all individuals. As always, we invite your comments and questions regarding any information you may find contained within these pages.

CONTACT US
Contacting any member of the MAA’s administrative offices is easy! Simply click the menu link below for easy e-mail. If you are corresponding about a member, please provide the member’s identification number in your e-mail. Your comments will be forwarded, if appropriate, for that member to respond directly to you. As always, we will return a response to you within 48 hours.

COMPLIMENTS
The Association wants to hear any compliments you may have concerning our membership, our site, or the Association itself. Simply e-mail us with your compliment, and we will post it on our messaging board. If the compliment concerns a member, we will forward that compliment directly to that member. All posted messages remain anonymous as to sender and receiver, unless otherwise requested. The Association investigates compliments so that we can discover the very best about our membership. There is no better way to communicate your level of service satisfaction than to issue a compliment to those deserving to hear when they’re "doing it right!"

CONCERNS
The Association wants to hear your concerns about issues pertaining to mold or toxic mold. In this way, we can bring the issue or topic of concern to the membership for review and problem-solving. As always, we will respond to all concerns we receive. Simply e-mail us with your concern and we will post it on our messaging board. Where appropriate, we will forward a concern for review to specialists who can provide a best answer or possible solutions. All posted concerns remain anonymous as to sender and receiver, unless otherwise requested. Our response to your concern will be sent to you directly, as well as posted on the messaging board. This is a great way to get people together to talk through an issue that might otherwise never be resolved!

COMPLAINTS
The Association also appreciates receiving any complaints regarding our site, the Association itself, or its membership. We desire to resolve issues related to any of the above whenever dissatisfaction occurs. In this way, we can resolve a problem before it mushrooms, and provide better service from all standpoints. All complaints are sent directly to the individuals or organizations concerned for direct communication and resolution. All complaints are also investigated by the Association for overall resolution and we will respond to your complaint within 48 hours. All complaints are also posted to our message board; however, complaints are posted to the message board as anonymous for both sender and receiver, unless specifically requested otherwise. This is a great way to communicate your level of service dissatisfaction and communicating to those deserving to hear when they’re "doing it wrong."


ABOUT MOLD, MILDEW AND MOISTURE

What is Mold?
Molds, which are currently classified as inactive fungi, are simple, microscopic organisms, and are present virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. There are hundreds of thousands of known species of mold with thousands of these species being common in the United States. Some of the most commonly found are species of Cladosporium, Fusarium, Stachybotrys, Cephalosporium, Trichoderma, Penicillium and Aspergillus. Molds, also mushrooms and yeasts, are needed to break down dead material and recycle nutrients in the environment. Molds and mildew are currently classified as fungi and protistans that grow on surfaces of objects, within pores, and in deteriorated materials. Molds are very adaptable and can colonize dead and decaying organic matter (e.g., textiles, leather, wood, paper) and even damp, inorganic material (e.g., glass, painted surfaces, bare concrete) if organic nutrients such as dust or soil particles are available. Mold is most likely to grow where there is water or dampness, such as in bathrooms, basements, kitchens and damp or moist crawl spaces. However, mold can grow almost anywhere. Because various genera grow and reproduce at different substrate water concentrations and temperatures, molds occur in an extremely wide range of habitats. Molds and mildews can cause discoloration and odor problems, and lead to allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, as well as other more serious health problems.

How does mold grow?
It was previously believed that for mold growth to occur, it needed a temperature range of above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We now know that it can grow well below and above that range, depending on a variety of other conditions. Human comfort constraints limit the use of temperature control to check mold growth.

Mold needs a nutrient base to grow, specifically cellulose particles. Because molds grow by digesting the by-products that other organisms leave behind on organic material, they can grow almost anywhere. Sometimes new molds grow on old mold colonies. Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the discoloration, frequently green, red, gray, brown or black, but also white and other colors. Spores are almost always present in outdoor and indoor air, and almost all commonly used construction materials and furnishings can provide nutrients to support mold growth. Dirt on surfaces provides additional, easily consumed nutrients. Cleaning and disinfecting with non-polluting cleaners and antimicrobial agents provides some protection against mold growth, but is not a guarantee. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to eliminate all nutrients.

And finally, mold needs moisture to grow. Moisture control is the single-most important strategy for reducing mold growth, as it is the most easily maintained or eliminated of the growth sources. Mold growth does not require the presence of standing water; it can occur when high relative humidity or the hygroscopic properties (the tendency to absorb and retain moisture) of surfaces allow sufficient moisture to accumulate. However, relative humidity and the factors that govern it are often misunderstood.

Climate and Molds
Fungal species that are allergenic have been identified virtually everywhere they have been measured. They are common around 3,000 feet and are found at altitudes as high as 7,000 to 10,000 feet. They are found in surprisingly high concentrations in clouds and in the air during almost every type of climactic condition. Hormodendrum, Alternaria, Fusarium, Helminthosporium, and the yeasts are considered to be universal dominants, and with some variation are found in worldwide surveys. There are seasonal patterns and indoor mold concentration is dependent on the outdoor concentration. Aspergillus and Penicillium are usually non-seasonal and regularly found indoors.

  • Natural Climates:
    • Barometric Pressure and Relative Humidity
    • Temperature and Relative Humidity
    • Hot Wind (above body temperature) and Cold Wind (wind chill)
    • Positive Ions
    • Precipitation and Fog
    • Type and Amount of Atmospheric mold
    • Local and Non-local Vegetation
    • Inversion Layers and Stagnant Conditions
    • Rapid Changes in All Variables
  • Man-Made Climates:
    • Indoor Cooling Devices (humidifiers, air conditioners)
    • Atmospheric Dust from Auto Traffic on Unpaved Roads
    • Heating Ducts containing Dust and Spores
    • Damp Basements, Walls and Shower Curtains
    • Mold Substrates from Agriculture, Imported Trees and Shrubs, House Plants

Fungi and molds are found in soil, in water, on animals, on vegetation, in humans and in almost every part of the environment. They are frequently found in many foods and beverages, as they are incorporated during processing and manufacturing of these items. Molds float freely in the air. A mere 20 m.p.h. breeze can cause mold spores to travel 200 miles in 10 hours. When there is snow on the ground for at least five days there is a significant decrease in airborne molds. Molds can produce large numbers of spores from a microscopic amount of growth. Aspergillus, Penicillium, Rhizopus, Mucor, Fusarium and Gliocladium are molds that do this and they are found in large amounts in both the indoor and outdoor environments at all times. The most common airborne molds include, in order: Hormodendrum, Alternaria, Penicillium and Aspergillus. Others are: Helminthosporium, Aureobasidium, Phoma, Nigrospora, Rhizopus, Mucor, Epicoccum, Stemphyllium, Curvularia, Fusarium, Scoplariopsis, Cephalosporium, Chaetomium, Trichoderma, Streptomyces, Candida, Cryptococcus, Rhodotorula, Rusts and Smuts.

Mold can form spores and resist heat and cold. Molds have been isolated on rocks in the Sahara desert. Mold can even be found in outer space! It has been found on the Russian space station "Mir" and other orbiting bodies, and has prompted NASA to investigate how to deal with the problem. Dryness and ventilation are keys (but light as a factor is a common misconception), as the mold will be endless if the conditions that encourage it are not changed. Removing mold should be done by someone other than a sensitive individual.

Can mold become a problem in my home or work environment?
Yes! Mold will grow and multiply whenever conditions are right; such as when there is sufficient moisture availability and when organic nutrients are present. Poor indoor air quality is associated most often with inadequate ventilation, but investigations are linking microbial growth with occupancy problems, construction problems, moisture control problems and maintenance problems. Watch for the most common sources of indoor moisture that may lead to mold problems in your home or workplace:

    • Flooding
    • Leaky roofs
    • Sprinkler systems adding moisture to the structure
    • Plumbing leaks
    • Repeated toilet back-ups
    • Overflow from sinks, sewers, tubs
    • Damp basements or crawl spaces
    • Steam streams from showers or cooking areas
    • Humidifiers
    • Wet clothes drying indoors or clothes dryers exhausting indoors
    • Indoor saunas, hot tubs or Jacuzzi areas
    • Water heater leaks
    • Poor drainage systems
    • Improperly installed, repaired or replaced HVAC systems

Warping floors and discoloration of walls and ceilings can be indications of moisture problems. Condensation on or in walls and floors and around window sills is also an important indication, but it can sometimes be caused by an indoor combustion problem! Have burning appliances routinely inspected by your local utility or a professional MAA heating contractor.

So what IS the concern about mold?
Molds have been recognized for centuries. From Biblical times through today, we find references to its existence and the problems it creates. Maimomedes in the 12th century described the frequent occurrence of wheezing in damp weather. In 1726, Sir John Floyer noted violent asthma related to a wine cellar visit. In 1873, Blackley suggested that Chaetomium and Penicillium were related to bronchial secretions. Van Leeuwen, in 1924, noted the relation of climate to asthma and made a definitive correlation of mold spores to asthma. It was that same year that the first case of asthma due to a mold was reported and that involved wheat rust.

Molds are typically filamentous, spore-bearing organisms without chlorophyll. They do not require sunlight to thrive, which enhances their insidious nature. They depend on outside sources for nourishment. There are tens of thousands described species and predictably more species awaiting discovery. Low temperatures and aging can favor the filamentous forms, while glucose, blood or the absence of oxygen favor the yeast form. Living organisms constantly evolve. Taxonomic categories need to be reassessed by a consensus of biologists. Intermediate forms of fungi and molds are bound to exist and rise by hybridization and mutation. The MAA supports the
belief that molds should be classified in their own kingdom.

Fungi and protistans function to enrich human existence by maintaining the ecology. But they can also serve to do the exact opposite and risk human well-being. They are present in large numbers and fungi disintegrate organic matter. They damage food, fabrics, leather, and consumer goods. They cause the majority of plant diseases. They certainly cause significant human and animal diseases. Certain mushrooms and fungi are well known to be poisonous.

When moldy material becomes damaged or disturbed, countless lightweight spores (reproductive bodies similar to seeds) are released to travel freely through the air. When mold grows in one area, it can emit particles that travel through the air. Generally, these particles will settle into one area if there is little air movement. But some of the particles will inevitably stay airborne, so that inhabitants can be exposed not just in the room where the mold is growing, but throughout the entire house or workplace. If spores enter the return air duct, the mold will be dispersed throughout the entire structure. We recommend using HEPA filters to help trap and reduce the amount of mold spores being dispersed; however, they will not completely eliminate the dispersal of mold spores.

Exposure occurs if people inhale the spores, directly handle moldy materials, or accidentally ingest it. If indoor mold contamination is extensive, it will cause very high and persistent airborne mold exposures. Those who are exposed to high spore levels will become sensitized and develop allergies to the mold or other health related problems. Under certain metabolic conditions, many molds produce and then carry mycotoxins, natural organic compounds that initiate a toxic response in vertebrates. The primary mode of human exposure to mycotoxins is inhalation of spores and mold-contaminated material. Molds that are important potential producers of toxins indoors are certain species of Fusarium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus. In water-damaged buildings Stachybotrys chartarum (a.k.a. Stachybotrys atra) and Aspergillus versicolor may also produce toxic metabolites. A wide variety of information is available on the human and animal health effects from ingestion of certain mycotoxins, and researchers have been exploring the health implications of inhalation exposure to these substances since 1970. Two classes of mycotoxins have been isolated from house dust samples: aflatoxins from some strains of Aspergillus flavus and trichothecenes from some species and strains of Fusarium, Cephalosporium, Stachybotrys and Trichoderma. In laboratory animals, inhalation of trichothecene mycotoxins causes severe inhibition of protein synthesis and immunosuppression. Several case reports have associated overgrowths of trichothecene-producing fungi with human health effects such as cold and flu-like symptoms, sore throats, headache and general malaise.

However, isolation of a toxigenic mold from a structure does not imply the presence of mycotoxins, since the physical conditions necessary for mycotoxin production are very specific, and are often different from those required for growth of the parent mold. Likewise, failure to produce toxins in vitro (in the laboratory) does not mean that a mold known to be toxogenic will not produce toxins in a field situation. These rare but life-threatening problems tend to overshadow the importance of allergy problems to molds as a pervasive aggravating factor in chronic illness and disability in medical school education.

Molds also produce a large number of volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. These chemicals are responsible for the musty odors produced by growing molds. The most common VOC, ethanol, is a potent synergizer of many fungal toxins.

HEALTH EFFECTS FROM MOLD

Most types of mold that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals. However, too much exposure to mold will cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. The most common and typical symptoms of overexposure (although in combination) are:

    • Flu-like symptoms (cough, congestion, runny nose, eye irritation)
    • Aggravation of asthma
    • Respiratory problems (wheezing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath)
    • Dry, hacking cough
    • Nose or throat irritation
    • Skin rashes or irritation
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Diarrhea
    • Dermatitis
    • Impaired or altered immune system
    • Memory problems or loss
    • Mood swings
    • Nosebleeds
    • Body aches and pains

Molds produce acute health effects through toxin-induced inflammation, allergy or infection. There is no information at this time on the effects of chronic, low-dose inhalation exposure to mycotoxins. Repeated or high exposures to airborne mycotoxins cause mucous membrane irritation characterized by eye, nose and throat irritation. When small spores are inhaled, they reach the lung and induce an inflammatory reaction, creating toxic pneumonitis. Severe toxic pneumonitis causes fever, flu-like symptoms and fatigue, also known as Organic Toxic Dust Syndrome (OTDS). Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a particular form of granulomatous lung disease, is a syndrome caused by inhalation of large concentrations of dust containing organic material that includes fungal spores. It is generally an occupational hazard in agriculture, but has also been reported in individuals exposed in the home and in the workplace. Other symptoms attributed to mycotoxins or fungal VOCs include headache, dizziness, dermatitis, diarrhea, and impaired or altered immune function.

Opportunistic fungal pathogens such as Aspergillus are common in indoor air. A normal, healthy individual may resist infection by these organisms in low exposures, although high exposures cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis. However, any mold that can grow at body temperature can become a pathogen in an immuno-suppressed host. Individuals undergoing chemotherapy, organ or bone marrow transplantation or those with HIV/AIDS are especially susceptible to invasive infection by the Aspergillus species.

Stachybotrys is a type of mold that has been associated with health effects in people. It is a black, greenish-black or greenish-gray mold that can grow on materials with a high cellulose content, such as drywall sheetrock, dropped ceiling tiles, and wood, that become chronically moist or water-damaged, due to excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation or flooding. Many molds are black in appearance but are not Stachybotrys. For example, the black mold commonly found between bathroom tiles is not Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys can be positively identified only by a specially trained professional (e.g., mycologist) through a microscopic exam. Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low; however, as with other types of mold, at higher levels health effects occur. These include allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms), dermatitis (rashes), sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms are more general, such as inability to concentrate and fatigue. Usually, symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed. There has been some evidence linking Stachybotrys with pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants who are generally less than six months old. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon condition that results from bleeding in the lungs. In studied cases of pulmonary hemosiderosis, the exposure to Stachybotrys came from highly contaminated dwellings, where the infants were continually exposed over a long period of time.

Fungus in Human Disease:
  • Systemic Fungal Infections: generally in immuno-suppressed patients such as those receiving chemotherapy. These are life-threatening. Organisms such as Candida albicans can cause true bloodstream infection, etc.
  • Superficial Fungal Infections: such as mucocutaneous candidiasis (a skin and nail bed disorder from candida), ringworm, "athlete’s foot."
  • Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis: which is lung disease caused by various mold exposures, often occupationally related (such as Farmer’s Lung from moldy hay or corn, Cheese Worker’s Lung from cheese mold, etc.).
  • Aspergillosis and Aspergilloma: which represent the invasive form of aspergillus.

How much mold can make me sick and who is at greatest risk?
It depends. For some individuals, a relatively small number of mold spores trigger an asthma attack or lead to health problems. For other individuals, symptoms occur only when exposure levels are much higher. And for others still, there may be exposures for long periods of time before seeing any symptoms develop. Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to the amount and the types to which they react. A significant proportion of all asthmatics, about 29%, are sensitive to molds.

Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone inside buildings; therefore, it is always best to identify and control moisture problems quickly before mold grows and health problems develop. MAA members provide Rapid Response Teams to help property owners reduce their risk for mold growth. Nonetheless, mold growth is unsanitary, unsightly and undesirable. Basically, if you can see or smell mold inside your home or workplace, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture and to contain, cleanup and remove the mold, wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), if it is a small area (2’x2’ or less). If you can smell mold, call an MAA professional, as it has advanced to a stage larger than 2’x2’. If you can’t see or smell it, but suspect it may be present, consult an MAA professional.

At present there are blood, urine, skin and x-ray tests that can establish if an individual has been exposed to mold spores or their toxins. If you believe that you or your children have symptoms that you suspect are caused by exposure to mold, you should see a qualified physician or allergy specialist. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure may also be caused by many other illnesses. You should tell your physician about the symptoms and about when, how and for how long you think you or your children were exposed. Some people may have more severe symptoms or become ill more rapidly than others. These are usually:

    • Individuals with existing respiratory conditions or asthma
    • Individuals with allergies or chemical sensitivities
    • Individuals with weakened immune systems (i.e., HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy patients)
    • Infants and young children
    • The elderly or chronically ill persons
    • Organ or bone marrow transplant patients
    • Expectant mothers

Mold and Candida Allergies
If you’re affected by mold allergy, with awareness and dedication, you can have a higher quality of living. It is heavily suggested that you seek the advice and counsel of a physician or allergist who is trained to aggressively look for mold sensitivities as an underlying trigger for a multitude of serious symptoms. Once properly diagnosed, there is a great deal of information on what allergy patients can do, but these are not self-help conditions. The underlying medical condition(s) that predispose to candida and mold overgrowth and sensitivity demand a rigorous medical evaluation for good long-term results. Mold allergy patients may have one or more symptoms which can vary over time, including:

Symptoms:

Headache -- including migraine.
Opthalmic -- including fluid, redness, irritation, vision changes
Otologic -- including fluid, ringing, vertigo, hearing changes
Respiratory -- including classic upper respiratory symptoms, asthma, bronchitis, cough
Cardiovascular -- including changes in heart rate and rhythm, palpitations, feeling faint, flushing, chills, sweats, chest pain
Gastrointestinal -- including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, upper and lower intestinal gas, irritable bowel, spastic colon, colitis, rectal itching
Dermatologic -- including acne, eczema, hives and other rashes
Muscular -- including pain, spasm, cramps, weakness, fatigue, arthritis
Urologic -- including urgency, frequency, painful urination, nocturia, enuresis genital pain or itching
Neuropsychiatric -- including depression, mood swings, fatigue, spaciness, poor memory, personality changes, insomnia, numbness, tingling

Don’t assume anything is a mold allergy, but also don’t ignore that allergy-immune mechanisms may be the bottom line. Do you have symptoms that are consistently triggered by exposure to molds? An experienced physician or allergist can trigger a patient’s symptoms from specific substances in a controlled way in order to discover what is really going on. A professional evaluation of mold sensitivities may include:

  • Provocative Challenges: nasal, bronchial
  • Blood Testing
  • X-Rays in certain cases
  • Skin Testing: Intradermal, individually tested molds

These methods in an experienced professional’s hands can help identify significant allergens, often determine associated symptoms, and afford requisite information for mold allergy injection doses and decreasing a patient’s total mold load.

REDUCING YOUR RISK FOR MOLD

All molds need moisture to grow. Mold can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. Most often molds are confined to areas near the source of water. Removing the source of moisture, such as through repairs or dehumidification, is critical to preventing mold growth.

The MAA has a number of recommendations for controlling the growth of mold in indoor environments; simply call our offices and request the literature we have available. Since fungal spores are ubiquitous, the most effective method of source control is elimination of moisture that supports mold growth. This may involve fixing leaking pipes, windows or roofs, directing rainfall or irrigation drainage away from exterior walls, the use of dehumidifiers where necessary, and controlling humidity. Ventilation systems, especially those in large commercial buildings, should be properly maintained and examined periodically for microbial contamination.

Air duct systems may be constructed of bare sheet metal with fibrous glass insulation on the exterior, or sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner, or they may be made entirely of fibrous glass. Bare sheet metal systems and sheet metal with exterior fibrous glass insulation may be cleaned and disinfected. If water damaged, ductwork made of sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner or that is entirely of fibrous glass will often need to be removed and discarded. Ductwork in difficult-to-reach locations may be abandoned. If you have other questions, contact an MAA air duct cleaning professional or a licensed MAA contractor. Keep in mind that these professionals should offer specialized cleaning, and ensure the use of HEPA filters. These professionals should also re-inspect the air duct lines after cleaning for breakage.

Sometimes air cleaners are promoted to remove indoor mold or associated odors, and some of these are designed to produce ozone. Ozone is a strong oxidizing agent that is used as a disinfectant in water and sometimes to eliminate odors. However, ozone is a known lung irritant. Ozone generators have been shown to sometimes produce indoor levels of ozone over the safe limit. Furthermore, it has been shown that ozone is not effective in controlling molds and other bio-contamination, even at concentrations far above safe health levels. Also, ozone may damage materials in the home, for example, cause rubber items to become brittle. For these reasons, we do not recommend the use of an ozone air cleaner in any occupied space.

When underlying moisture sources cannot be readily eliminated, air conditioners and dehumidifiers can help control relative humidity. When using dehumidifiers, water collection traps should be cleaned routinely as these are another source of microbial growth. Visible mold (no larger than a 2’x2’ area) can be removed by disinfection with a borate-type solution. The area being cleaned should be well ventilated.

Basements may have mold if they are wet or damp. Moisture seeping through concrete walls and floors will cause this dampness, resulting in mold on walls, floors, carpeting and materials (including firewood) that are stored in your basement. Bathrooms are more likely to have mold growth if exhaust fans are not used while showering or bathing. Soap scum, shower walls, ceramic tile and fiberglass are all possible surfaces for mold growth. Laundry rooms are common places to find mold if damp towels and clothing are present. Unvented clothes drying, which produces high levels of relative humidity, can also cause mold growth. Kitchens are possible sites for mold growth if large amounts of water are boiled using no exhaust fan. Refrigerator pans in automatic defrosting refrigerators also commonly have mold. Closets often have mold growth, especially if clothing is stored damp or dirty or there is a cool outside wall in the closet.

Inspect your home regularly for the indications and sources of indoor moisture and mold. Take the time to eliminate sources of unnecessary moisture as quickly as possible. If a leak or flooding occurs, it is essential to act quickly! CALL THE MAA FOR A LISTING TO AN MAA-QUALIFIED RAPID RESPONSE TEAM. Use of a Rapid Response Team can save a property owner unnecessary expenses on larger repairs or mold remediation at a later date by handling the problem up front. Since mold grows within 24-48 hours, it makes sense to affect a solution before another problem begins growing…

  • Stop the source of the leak or flooding
  • Remove excess water with mops, towels or wet/dry vacuum
  • Whenever possible, move wet items to dry in a well ventilated area outside to expedite drying.
  • Move or pull up areas of wet carpet as soon as possible
  • Open closet and cabinet doors
  • Move furniture away from walls to increase air circulation
  • Run portable fans to increase air circulation. Do NOT use the home’s central blower if flooding has occurred in any of the ducts.
  • Do NOT use fans if mold may have already started to grow (more than 48 hours since flooding or leaking)
  • Run dehumidifiers and window air conditioners to lower humidity
  • Do NOT turn up the heat or use heaters in confined areas, as higher temperatures increase the rate of mold growth.
  • If water has soaked inside the walls, it may be necessary to open wall cavities, remove baseboards, and/or paneling, and insulation – be certain to wear your personal protective equipment as a safety measure, even if mold has not grown.

Additional ways in which you can reduce your risk for mold are fairly common and easy to do:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting with a borate-type solution, and drying surfaces prevents mold growth. Mold will grow on damp surfaces within a couple of days at normal temperatures.
  • Reduce moisture levels in the bathroom by running an exhaust fan during and after showers.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and seepage to prevent the build-up of moisture and prevent the growth of molds.
  • Store clothing dry and clean to prevent growth of mold on clothes.
  • Reduce humidity levels by discontinuing use of a humidifier if the relative humidity is more than 40%, and use dehumidifiers and air conditioners when levels of humidity are high.
  • Ventilate with outside air during the winter when outside temperatures are colder than indoor temperatures. Ventilating with warm summer air typically increases the air’s relative humidity in a basement.
  • Increase the flow of air within your home. Moving furniture away from walls and opening closet doors to permit air circulation limits the growth of molds.
  • Prevent condensation. Insulating walls and installing storm or thermal pane windows keeps walls warm and limits condensation.
  • In South Carolina we recommend that crawl spaces have a foil-backed insulation or foil-backed foam board. We do not recommend using a fibrous insulation that holds moisture against the wood. Leave open spaces at plumbing lines, around chimneys, porches and steps to make the inspection process easier.
  • Have a periodic mold inspection by an MAA-certified professional, and ask for a listing of other trade professionals who are members of the MAA.


If you do decide to clean a small area, take steps to protect you and your family’s health. When handling or cleaning moldy materials, it is important to use a respirator to protect yourself from airborne spores. Ensure good ventilation in the area that you are cleaning. Wear protective clothing that is easily cleaned or discarded. Use rubber gloves; we do not recommend latex gloves due to the fact that some individuals have latex allergies. Ask family members or bystanders to leave the area while it is being cleaned.

Mold should be contained and cleaned as soon as it appears (no larger than a 2’x2’ area), but AFTER the underlying problem has been corrected! Persons cleaning mold should be free of symptoms and allergies. Small areas of mold should be cleaned using a detergent/soapy solution or an appropriate household cleaner. Gloves, disposable coveralls and a respirator should be worn during cleaning. The cleaned area should be dried. Immediately clean all equipment used. Dispose of any sponges, rags, coveralls and gloves used to clean the mold by placing them in a double-plastic bag, tying off, and removing immediately to a garbage can.

If the mold returns quickly or spreads, it may indicate an underlying problem such as a leak. Any underlying moisture problems must be fixed to successfully eliminate mold problems. If mold contamination is extensive (larger than 2’x2’), an MAA-certified mold professional should be consulted.

Mold can sampled by an MAA-certified environmental consultant, mold professional and/or analyzed by an accredited laboratory specializing in microbiology, and these tests can be very expensive. Minimum or maximum testing can be performed, and is situation-dependent. There is no simple and cheap way to sample the air in your home to find out what types of molds are present and where they are airborne. We do not recommend the do-it-yourself home air test sampling kits that have recently become available due to the lack of knowledge of the average individual concerning cross-contamination or appropriate testing procedures. Any individual who is not a trained and certified mold professional will not understand how to determine the appropriate number of samples to take and where best to perform sampling. Further, there is no guarantee that home test sample(s) will be analyzed by an accredited laboratory. If sampling is not performed appropriately, then we feel that a property owner could receive a false sense of security by the use of these kits.

The most effective way to treat mold is to correct the underlying problem and contain, clean, condition and/or remove the affected area(s). However, although we recommend small area cleaning (no more than a 2’x2’ area), for areas of larger growth, we recommend seeking MAA-certified professional services. The reason for this is that cleaning up mold can be hazardous during the cleaning process. You may be exposed to mold, strong detergents and disinfectants. Spore counts can be 10 to 1000 times greater than background levels when mold-contaminated materials are disturbed, and cross-contamination may occur, which may simply make the problem larger at a later date.

Mold Load
There are a variety of simple ways that an individual may decrease his/her total overall mold load:
                      

  • Bedding and Clothing:
    • Select a cotton towel for a pillow, as it can be washed frequently.
    • Bedding should be natural fabrics, such as cotton.
    • Damp shoes, boots and tennis shoes should be washed and dried immediately.
    • Run more frequent and smaller wash loads and avoid a full hamper of damp and soiled clothing.
    • Dry clothes immediately after laundering.
    • Worn clothing should be washed before returning to a closet or drawer to avoid problems.
  • Home:
    • Select a home that is away from moldy areas, that are higher and drier.
    • Avoid a heavy accumulation of dust.
    • Clean the filters of heaters, humidifiers and air conditioners monthly.
    • Purchase furniture that can be easily cleaned or wiped down that is less porous than traditional types of furniture.
    • Protect your home from mold by keeping areas under the house dry with cross-ventilation, or in some cases, a vapor barrier may be necessary and/or forced air ventilation.
    • Vent the clothes dryer to the outside to help prevent condensation of moisture, but do not vent into the crawl or attic spaces.
    • Change air duct filters monthly using a HEPA filter.
    • Dry shower curtain, shower or tub with a towel immediately after use.
    • Remove dried flowers, which can contain significant mold, dust and dust mites.
    • Wash bathroom and kitchen tiles and the grout frequently using a borate-type solution.
    • Frequently check corner areas, areas under the sink and behind toilets for mold growth.
    • Since trash compactors and garbage disposals can harbor molds if not kept totally clean, clean the compactor with a borate-type solution weekly and run a borate-type solution through the garbage disposal daily.
    • Frequently clean and inspect plants, terrariums, greenhouses, etc., as these are sites for mold growth.
    • Keep your bathroom well ventilated, dry and clean.
    • Problem closets may require a portable room filter.
    • Store old newspapers, books and magazines in a well ventilated and dry area.
    • If a humidifier is used it must be thoroughly cleaned daily; and do not use these near a stove.
    • Maintain areas underneath sinks and dishwashers clutter-free around plumbing pipes, etc.
    • Do not use contact paper on shelving or under sinks, as the glues and paper retain moisture and are conducive to mold growth.
  • Yard:
    • Eliminate conditions of high shade, such as dense overgrown landscaping, due to longer retention periods for dampness.
    • Have organic debris removed from perimeter areas of your home, or large masses, piles and bundles of organic debris, because it retains moisture.
    • Gardening, raking and mowing the lawn all release molds and need to be avoided by a sensitive individual.
    • We recommend the use of a leaf-catcher bag on lawn mowers to help reduce organic materials being left behind by excess organic debris.      


HAVING A HEALTHY HOME

Biological pollutants, also called bioaerosols, come from plant and animal material. Some are generated outside the home, such as pollen, but enter the home through open doors and windows and on people and pets entering the home. Other biological pollutants are generated in the home: mold growth in the home releases spores into the air, animals generate dander, and insects generate excrement and body parts that are small enough to become airborne. Bacteria and viruses are infectious agents that are brought into the home in a number of ways. All of these pollutants are particulates, that is, they are particles so small that they "float" in the air. Larger particles settle out onto surfaces, but very small particles stay suspended indefinitely. Surprisingly, indoor air is usually more contaminated than outdoor air. Contaminants are in the form of gases and fine particles. Household cleaning is generally ineffective in removing gaseous pollutants, but it can affect the concentration of particles in the air. Fine particles (particulates) include dust and smoke that enter a dwelling from outside, as well as particles that are generated inside. Often indoor air is more polluted because most particulates are generated within the living space. Internal sources of particulate contamination are smoke and grease aerosol (airborne particles) from cooking and using self-cleaning ovens; mold and fungal growth from moisture and high humidity; allergens produced by pets, insects and dust mites; toxic lead dust from peeling lead-based paint; and airborne dust from vacuuming and duct cleaning.

Some particulates enter the house in another form and become airborne. The dirt brought in from outside on shoes or pets is deposited on the floor, where it is ground into small particles as it is walked on. The smallest particles are suspended in the air, while the larger ones settle back on the floor, only to be re-ground back onto the flooring. The outside dirt can be a carrier of pesticides, pollen, fungi, bacteria, animal feces and insect parts.

Airborne particles can cause breathing problems and allergies in sensitive individuals and severe health problems for persons with asthma. Controlling the concentration of particulates can help relieve symptoms and prevent disease. We will identify sources of particulate air pollution and means of reducing airborne particles in homes by using effective cleaning methods and other control strategies. Cigarette smoke and pollen are not covered, because household cleaning may not affect their concentrations.

Cooking
Cooking generates heat, humidity and three types of aerosols: solid smoke particles, grease vapor that condenses into semi-liquid particles as it cools, and grease spatter particles from uncovered frying. The self-cleaning oven produces aerosol during the cleaning cycle, and significant amounts pass through the oven’s smoke eliminator into the air. A poorly designed system can increase the haze level in a 12’x14’ kitchen by 700%.

An exhaust fan can divert moisture and some fraction of these particles before they become part of the room air. For a given air flow, a vented range hood is more effective in exhausting moisture and particulates than a ceiling or wall fan because the hood is closer to the generation source. The disadvantage of a re-circulating hood is that it must clean the air it captures before returning it to the room. The most effective hood has an intake configuration that matches the range top, has the highest air flow consistent with a tolerable noise, and is set as close to the range top as permitted by the mechanics of cooking (stirring, viewing food, etc.). Any hood used with a gas range should not generate air currents that will distort the shape of the flame from each burner. A re-circulating hood can be used if a vented hood is not possible, but it must have a series of effective filters: (1) a washable, aluminum-mesh filter to remove grease spatter particles; (2) a pleated, glass-fiber filter to remove smoke; and (3) an activated carbon filter to capture odor. The self-cleaning mode of the oven should never be operated without the exhaust fan on. This is especially true for the initial break-in cycle. Use of an exhaust hood or an effective filtering system in a re-circulating hood reduces cooking contaminants in the house, reducing the need to clean.

Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew in the home generate spores that become airborne. Some spores settle on other surfaces to generate new mold colonies, while others remain suspended for long periods of time and can be inhaled. Sensitive individuals exhibit allergic reactions. Moisture or a high humidity level is required for mold growth. There are many common places where molds grow. These include:

  • Walls, floors, carpeting and on stored materials in damp basements and crawl spaces
  • Bathrooms without exhaust fans
  • Laundry areas where dryers are not vented outside or clothes are hung to dry
  • Homes with new construction materials that have been left uncovered outside prior to installation
  • Homes where there have been spills, leaks or other water damage
  • Homes where a humidifier or an unvented combustion heater is used

Reducing humidity levels in the home is essential. Shut off or adjust the humidifier if the relative humidity level is more than 50% or if condensation forms on windows. Use exhaust fans vented to the outside when taking baths or showers and when cooking. Vent clothes dryers to the outside, but do not vent in attic or crawl spaces. Do not use unvented kerosene or gas heaters. Repair all plumbing leaks promptly. Do not store natural materials containing high levels of moisture, such as firewood, inside the house. Reduce humidity with a commercial dehumidifier, air conditioner or furnace. Increase the air flow to problem areas.

Keep surfaces clean and dry to remove existing mold colonies and to prevent mold colonies from starting. Hard surfaces that have mold growing on them should be cleaned, disinfected and dried. One of the most effective, least expensive solutions to use for cleaning is a borate-type product. Products with an EPA registration number are reliable disinfectants and have instructions for disinfecting. Appliances that collect or distribute water need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent mold growth. These include humidifiers, commercial dehumidifiers, air conditioners and refrigerator drip pans.

Crawl Spaces
Crawl spaces should have a vent every 8-10 feet (minimum). The crawl space ground should be as level as possible (depending on the home and its surroundings). The first intent of a vapor barrier is to act as a slide to assist in gliding the air from the vents to reach its flow capacity. The second intent of a vapor barrier is to keep the ground moisture content from rising up onto the structural members. A maximum of 75% of the crawl space should be covered with a vapor barrier, if a vapor barrier is used.

Forced air vents are used when the proper air flow cannot be obtained by other conventional means. The forced air vents should not be used in a standard vent’s place, but should have its own cut-in and may be used in conjunction with a flex-arm to take the outside air to a particular area of the crawl space. The arm should not be placed where it affects other air movements. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as enough fresh air flow; however, lack of fresh air flow allows for many other problems to occur under the home.

Fibrous insulation is not recommended for the Tri-County area of South Carolina, or other relatively warm (year around) parts of the country. This type of insulation holds moisture against the structural members and hides signs of molds and fungus growth. In warmer climates, a foil wrap insulation should be used and in colder climates, a foil foam should be used in lieu of fibrous insulation (install with foil side facing you, not against the structure). These foil types should not surround plumbing lines, chimney areas, or behind steps or porches, because these areas are known to occasionally have moisture problems or leaks within the crawl space. The non-coverage of these areas also allows for additional air flow to assist in drying out after leaks or moisture problems occur, and also allows for easy inspection and identification.

Vacuum Cleaning
Dirt in a carpet or on a hard-surfaced floor are clusters of very fine particles. Cleaning the floor with a broom or vacuum disturbs the dirt particles and causes the smallest ones to become airborne. In perfectly still air, particles smaller than 20 microns (about one-half the diameter of the finest human hair) stay suspended in the air. Vacuum cleaning turns floor dirt into an air pollutant two ways:

  • If the air from the vacuum discharges down, it disturbs settled dirt particles and causes them to become airborne. When the cleaner discharges down over a dirty carpet, research shows a 98% increase in household airborne dust concentration in the following two-hour period.
  • The bag in the vacuum cleaner is not a perfect filter. A 100-percent efficient filter would have such high resistance to air flow that the vacuum cleaner would not work. The vacuum’s filter bag holds the larger particles and allows the smaller ones to pass into the room air. Using a vacuum cleaner that discharges upward can result in a 35% increase in airborne dust. As a result, the floor is cleaner, but the air is dirtier.

Wet-cleaning hard-surfaced flooring is less likely to cause particles to become airborne than in vacuuming or sweeping. However, good cleaning techniques can help reduce the amount of fine particles discharged from the vacuum cleaner. Begin at an edge of the carpet (in a doorway) with the wand of a canister vacuum. Always work toward uncleaned carpet with the canister behind on cleaned carpet. An upright cleaner or horizontally discharging canister cleaner does not disturb settled dirt particles in the air discharge.

Some vacuum cleaners are designed with blowers that handle high-efficiency (HEPA) filters. The filters capture at least 99.97% of the smallest particles in the discharge air. Because these vacuums are expensive, they may be justified only if someone in the household has severe dust allergies. Less expensive alternatives are the special replacement bags now available, which claim to improve the collection efficiency of older vacuum cleaners. Keep in mind, however, that improved filtration efficiency comes at the expense of airflow, and good vacuum cleaning requires both vacuum and air flow.

A central vacuum system with motor, suction blower, and filter bag installed in the basement or garage may solve several problems of portable cleaners. There is no air discharge into a home’s living space; the vacuum discharge air and small particles are exhausted to the outside. Being isolated from the living area, the motor and blower noise is less evident in the room being vacuumed.

Dust Mites and Animal Dander
Dust mites are microscopic animals that use dead human skin cells as a food source. Dust mite feces and body parts produce various allergens. They cause sensitive individuals to experience sneezing, nasal obstruction and discharge, redness, watering and itching of the eyes, wheezing and difficulty in breathing, and skin rash and itching. For dust mites to reach concentrations high enough to cause problems, certain environmental conditions must exist: a food source of skin cells, relative humidity greater than 45 percent and a uniform temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Highest concentrations of the mites are found in carpets, fabric-covered partitions or walls, and bedding and mattresses. Persons experiencing chronic symptoms should be tested by an allergist. Pet dander is another allergen. Some individuals can experience allergic symptoms when the dander becomes airborne. Others are sensitive to the saliva of pets.

If a household member is allergic to animal dander, the solution that offers the most relief is to remove the animal from the house. Vacuuming furnishings captures some dander but it does not offer much relief. Several measures are effective in reducing the concentration of dust mites, as well as reducing allergic symptoms in individuals sensitive to dust mites:

  • Vacuum-cleaning intensively and regularly (once a week) floors, carpets, fabric covered furniture, mattresses and bed frames. Use a cleaner with a high-efficiency filter, if possible. This is no guarantee of success, because mites and feces are very difficult to pull from carpet.
  • Lowering the relative humidity of the room air to below 45% and the temperature to below 68 degrees. The humidity should be reduced even more if the temperature is increased.
  • Ventilating with outside air if the infiltration rates (air leakage) naturally are low.
  • Using fitted sheets or allergen-tight covers over mattresses.
  • Replacing feather and down pillows with those that have synthetic fillings.
  • Steam cleaning the carpet and fabric-covered furniture.
  • Removing fabric furnishings, such as replacing the carpet with hard-surface flooring.
  • Washing bedding in hot water (130 degrees or hotter).

Lead Dust
Paint used on both interior and exterior walls of homes before 1978 contained lead compounds. Dried paint solids can contain up to 40% lead. Paint solids end up on the floor from peeling, chipping, oxidation or abrasion when doors and windows are opened and closed. Young children risk lead poisoning. When they play on the floor where lead dust is present, they put dust-contaminated hands and toys in their mouths. Another source of lead is soil that has been permanently contaminated. The lead comes from the exhaust fumes of vehicles that use leaded gasoline or exterior lead-based paint. Children are at risk when they play on contaminated soil and from contaminated soil tracked into the house.

Vacuum cleaning floors and carpets to remove lead particles is ineffective. It can actually increase the amount of lead dust in the air. Intensive vacuuming with a central vacuum system or a high-efficiency filter will gradually reduce the lead concentration in the carpet. However, many repetitions are needed to reduce the concentration. Two-stage steam cleaning, using special detergents and combining vacuum cleaning with shampooing, also is not very effective. A large proportion of lead remains in the carpet. In severe cases, the only solution is to remove and dispose of the carpet. Repeatedly wet cleaning hard-surface floors and other hard surfaces, such as window sills, is an effective method of removing lead dust. Removing shoes before entering the house or using shoe-cleaning pads at entrances can sharply reduce lead concentrations from contaminated soil.

Air Ducts
Air ducts can be a source of dirt, dust or biological contaminants and create an indoor air problem, but this is rare. Duct cleaning may release contaminants into the home and become the source of a problem. Air distribution ducts in a new home collect construction dust (sawdust, sheetrock dust) during and after installation. With the initial flow of air, construction dust is blown into the rooms through the air supply ducts, and dust in the return air ducts is caught in the furnace filters. After a few days or weeks, only a thin coating of dust remains on the duct surfaces because the dust is caught in the filters. Filters must be inspected regularly and cleaned or replaced every 30 days. As a filter loads with dust and lint, it actually becomes more efficient, but it must be cleaned or replaced because the air flow is gradually reduced.

Several factors can cause dust to cling to duct surfaces. Oily or greasy aerosol produced by cooking and other household activities can attach to the ducts as it passes through. The moisture from bathing or showering, cooking, or improperly vented dryers also acts as an adhesive on duct walls. When winter humidity levels are low, air passing over a sheet metal air duct creates a static-electric charge on the metal surface. The static charge attracts fine particles and the oil or moisture coating holds them. Exhaust vents in the bathroom, from the clothes dryer and from the kitchen range hood expel lint, grease and water vapor. If the home does not have efficient venting, return ducts in the furnace become dust-laden. Air duct cleaning disturbs the thin dust coating on the inside of the ducts. When the fan is running, the unstable dust can be blown into the house.

Duct cleaning is not considered a routine procedure for maintaining a heating and cooling system. Duct cleaning or replacement is justified when there is water damage that causes mold to grow in the ductwork, debris blocks the air flow, dust is seen coming from supply registers, or offensive odors are coming from the ducts. Surface stains near the supply registers, especially from cigarette smoke, are normal and do not justify commercial duct cleaning. MAA-certified duct cleaning professionals employ one or more of these methods: contaminant removal (brushing or vibration plus vacuum cleaning); encapsulation (spraying a sealer into the duct); disinfection (using a fungicide to inhibit the growth of mold); and duct replacement. Before contracting to have ducts cleaned, consumers should require a thorough explanation of the procedures that will be used, and ensuring that the professional is MAA-certified.

The control strategies discussed here include exhausting particulates, lowering humidity and cleaning particulates from surfaces to prevent them from becoming airborne. Residential air cleaners and filtration systems may be considered for removing airborne particles.
      

MOLD INSPECTION, INVESTIGATION, HYGIENE AND REMEDIATION:

HOW TO FIND A QUALIFIED SERVICE PROVIDER

For areas which have mold that are greater than 2’x2’, we recommend that a professional listed with the MAA be consulted. Although the main reason is for your personal health and well-being and to prevent cross-contamination, there are other important reasons:

  • An MAA-certified mold inspection professional has been specifically trained to make a thorough visual inspection of all areas of the structure;
  • An MAA-certified mold investigation professional has been specifically trained to investigate for mold infestations, thoroughly and precisely through testing and sampling, and has the knowledge to do so when justified and safely;
  • An MAA-certified mold hygiene professional has been specifically trained to educate the public on how to properly maintain your home or workplace and reduce your risk for additional mold infestation;
  • An MAA-certified mold investigation professional has the specialized testing equipment required and sends samples to accredited laboratories for appropriate analysis;
  • Laboratory testing for mold not only can confirm its presence, but can also identify the type of mold(s) found;
  • MAA-certified mold investigation professionals can inform you as to the quantity and type of mold infestation, and whether additional steps need to be taken;
  • If additional steps do need to be taken, the MAA-certified mold hygiene professional is able to write proper protocols for remediation and is properly trained for oversight of that work;
  • An MAA-certified investigation professional provides accurate clearance testing;
  • An MAA-certified mold professional keeps accurate records concerning the structure and all work performed on the structure; and
  • Some MAA-certified mold professionals offer mold bonds.

Is testing necessary? In some cases, a test is not always necessary. A complete mold inspection, from an MAA-certified mold inspector, will determine whether or not testing is necessary. If there is visible mold present, or showing other factors or indications of mold, then an investigation is warranted. Whatever the type of mold, "a moldy home is not a healthy home," and any mold problem should be corrected immediately. There are many factors involved when deciding on whether to further investigation or if testing is needed. If the mold inspector is suspicious or finds just cause, if large areas are contaminated (larger than a 2x2 foot section), or if there are many various areas contaminated, then it is worthwhile to test, and the MAA does recommend doing so. If there are occupants with high susceptibility to infection (recovering surgical patients, those with reduced immunity or who are taking drugs that suppress the immune system), testing is warranted. Also, if there is concern about the type(s) of mold present, testing (and only a lab analysis) can identify this. Testing can warn of potential health problems and can indicate the degree of safeguards and skill needed in clean-up.

Mold growth is almost always due to an excess moisture problem in the area. Solving the moisture problem will slow the process of mold growth, although the existing mold will need to be contained, cleaned and removed. Solving the moisture problem can involve some detective work, and is not always easy. It is not practical for a non-professional to test for the presence of biological contaminants, but if contaminants are suspected, an investigation should be conducted to remove and control them because of the health consequences. Left unchecked, mold can continue to grow and cause health problems for both sensitive and non-sensitive people. When tests are made, they compare types and levels of molds inside the structure to mold types and levels in the outside air.

Mold growing on surfaces can occasionally be seen (it is sometimes invisible) or smelled (it has a musty odor). Mold should be suspected wherever there are water stains, standing water or moist surfaces. Conditions that indicate high humidity levels include condensation on windows or walls, water pooled in the basement and crawl space, rotting wood or other signs of water damage. But mold also grows in wall cavities, under carpets, behind wall coverings, above ceilings, and in other places where moisture can accumulate undetected. Before testing for mold, an inspection by an MAA-certified professional should be made, and then an investigation, if warranted, can be conducted to find building components that are damp or wet.

The MAA offers a number of specialized publications for consumer information. These specialized materials will soon be available online under the "Publications" section, along with the form for ordering, which can be printed for mailing in your request, or you may call the MAA’s offices and request the publications.

So what, specifically, are the roles of these professionals?
The MAA recommends that professionals at each stage of the process be specialized. There are many reasons for this specialization:

  • It saves the consumer both time and money, when performed properly, avoiding unnecessary expenses;
  • It provides for more affordable mold risk management to a wider economic populace;
  • It prevents conflicts of interest within the industry, thereby protecting the consumer, and a wide variety of industries affected by mold issues;
  • It provides for verifiable evidence of impartial results and a clear method of impartial documentation for truth in disclosure;
  • It promotes integrity of all parties involved;
  • It prevents "scare tactics" being used to sell additional unwarranted services;
  • It prevents unnecessary "media hype" used for unwarranted personal gain that ultimately costs everyone more money;
  • It promotes protection of all individuals concerned in the process: the consumer, the professional, and others who may be affected by any issues involved;
  • It raises the standard of services, which promotes higher customer satisfaction and a higher standard for benchmarking purposes;
  • It promotes better data analysis exchange with regulatory, scientific and clinical agencies for future scientific research purposes.

The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold Inspector (CMI)
This professional performs basic mold inspections on residential and commercial properties, consisting of an in-depth visual inspection of ALL of the accessible areas of the structure(s) and submitting a comprehensive report of the findings of that inspection to the client, and suggests, in writing, whether or not there is further need for follow-up investigation. The inspection consists of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the inspection (what it will involve), signing an agreement for the inspection to be performed, including a confidentiality agreement, an in-depth questionnaire for the client concerning the habits of the inhabitant(s) of the structure, the visual inspection itself, moisture readings taken during the inspection, and conclusion report with recommendations and observations.

MAA-certified Home Inspectors and MAA-certified pest control industry professionals who are qualified to perform CL-100s often also obtain a certification for mold inspection. They make ideal inspectors, since they are already performing inspection work of a similar scope, and they may then offer these services in addition to the general Home Inspection or CL-100 services they may already be providing.

The Certified Mold Inspector (CMI) should NOT be performing any testing or sampling. Testing and sampling are expensive and may not always be warranted.

For example:

The CMI visually observes that there are no water leaks, no previous damages from water or humidity, moisture readings are within acceptable levels in all areas, there is no visible evidence of mold or only controllable amounts of mold are present, and the inhabitants have a good standard of hygiene with no complaints of negative or adverse health symptoms. In this instance, there is no need for sampling or testing.

On the other hand, testing or sampling may be warranted, but still should not be performed by the CMI.

For example:

The CMI visually observes that there was a water leak from an upstairs toilet in the master bedroom. The water leak was old, the leak repaired. The CMI visually observes that an entire 8x10 foot section of wall has a black mold on it in the child’s bedroom downstairs, directly beneath the bathroom. Moisture readings are high and the structure is kept exceptionally warm. The owner of the property did not repair the wall at the time the leak occurred, and plans for repair are being made for next month. The inhabitants otherwise have a good standard of hygiene with no complaints of negative or adverse health symptoms. In this instance, testing is warranted, and the CMI should suggest so in his report. The mold is obvious. But why not sample at that time? Because there may be mold growing between the walls, and between the ceiling and floor where it is not seen. This type of testing should be done by a professional MAA-Certified Mold Investigator, (CMIV), who is trained to know WHERE to test and the TYPE of sampling or testing which will be the most effective and efficient. In this case, we do not need to sample for mold on a wall in which we can SEE it, but it does need to be tested to determine the SCOPE of the infestation, the type of mold in the ENTIRE SCOPE, and be tested with as few samples as possible to keep the cost to the homeowner at a minimum. The CMI’s visual observations and report remain impartial. If the CMI does take a sample or samples, the property owner will still need to call in a CMIV for testing…which means double testing for the property owner, and that’s unwarranted additional expense. And how is that? Well, let’s look at the scope of the CMIV’s function, and you will better understand why.

The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold Investigator (CMIV)
This professional performs basic mold investigations on residential and commercial properties, consisting of testing and sampling of all NECESSARY accessible areas of the structure(s) and submitting a comprehensive report of the findings of those tests to the client, and should suggest, in writing, whether or not there is further need for follow-up survey with a mold hygienist. The MAA-Certified Mold Investigator (CMIV) will also have previous experience as a CMI. The investigation consists of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the investigation (what it will involve) and the reasons for why the investigation is warranted, signing an agreement for the investigation to be performed, including a confidentiality agreement, a basic environmental questionnaire for the client concerning the indoor and outdoor environments common to the structure(s), an overview and double-check of the CMI’s report, the actual investigation itself, additional readings taken during the investigation, and conclusion report with recommendations and observations.

Individuals who are highly thorough and have knowledge of structures, and have been trained and certified by the MAA, or those who have a background in some type of testing services from scientific fields, or MAA-certified indoor air quality professionals often also obtain a certification for mold investigation. They make ideal investigators, since they are already performing, or have performed, investigation work of a similar scope, and they may then offer these services in addition to the general services they may already be providing.

When testing and sampling are being performed, it should be unbiased and performed with a high degree of accuracy, efficiency and to scientific guidelines and principles. The CMIV should NOT be the same individual as your Inspector, nor should they be recommending remediation.

For Example:

From the second example above under the CMI, the CMIV arrives on the premises. During his investigation he discovers during his walk-through of the noted areas that the CMI missed an apparent leak stain near the floor in a hall closet upstairs located next to the bathroom. The CMIV notes this finding on his report, correcting the oversight of the CMI; and notes that now a test must be taken nearer to this area, which would not otherwise have been completed if there had not been a finding in the closet. CMIV will test and/or sample only in areas which he deems NECESSARY to obtain an accurate reading of type and number of spores present. He will write a preliminary report, send the samples to an independent and accredited laboratory for analysis. Upon receiving the laboratory’s report, he will then complete his own investigative report, submitting the findings of the laboratory and make recommendations as to whether or not a Certified Mold Hygienist should be consulted. In this instance, yes, he will recommend the services, because the report findings show mold in quantities far above acceptable levels, with some areas of contamination showing mold types known for producing mycotoxins. The CMIV remains an observer, keeping his report findings unbiased, and a second documentation of pertinent information on the structure is being made.

The CMIV makes no recommendations for remediation, as this is part of the duties of the Certified Mold Hygienist; then the same CMIV may be used again should clearance testing be necessary and will provide the clearance letter. In this way, the clearance testing will be unbiased and there will be no conflicts of interest, as the clearance testing also serves as a system for ‘checks-and-balances.’

The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold Hygienist (CMH)
This professional performs a variety of high level functions with respect to mold for residential and commercial properties. However, for industrial properties, the MAA recommends the services of a Certified Industrial Hygienist, or a Certified Environmental Hygienist, as these large properties require a much higher level of technical education and experience specific to industrial needs. Although, this does not mean that a CIH or a CEH may not be used for residential or commercial properties, it is simply that the level of expertise of a CIH or CEH may not necessarily be needed for these properties. However, although the choice of the level of hygienist preferred is left to the client, we recommend that an MAA-certified Mold Hygienist, an MAA-certified Residential Hygienist or an MAA-certified Commercial Hygienist be considered, as each have specific and distinct specialty areas. Among the functions of the CMH are analyses of all tests performed thus far, and a highly in-depth review of the structure and problems noted. The CMH recommends the services of an allergist or physician, if needed. The CMH educates and trains clients in mold awareness, hygiene and how to better manage risk of mold infestation. The CMH also recommends for remediation if necessary, to what level and degree it is necessary, and writes the remediation protocols. The CMH oversees the remediation process and ensures guidelines are followed. The CMH is also responsible for writing the clearance testing requirements of the project. The CMH will also have previous experience as a CMI, a CMIV, and as a Certified Mold Remediator (CMR) because they must ensure that all reports thus far are correct and to guidelines, and also because they write the remediation and clearance testing protocols, which can only be done properly with previous experience in these areas.

The Hygiene process should consist of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the process (what it will involve, and sometimes called the Survey) and the reasons for why the services are warranted, signing an agreement for the services to be performed, including a confidentiality agreement, an in-depth questionnaire for the client concerning a number of different issues with respect to the property, the inhabitants, and the environments; an overview and double-check of the all reports thus far, and additional observations made during the process. If remediation is recommended, the CMH will write the remediation protocols and the clearance testing requirements and a preliminary report will be made.

Individuals with a broad range of environmental knowledge and skills who are highly accurate and have a biological, clinical, microbiological, or environmental science, or other technically trained background in addition to a thorough knowledge of structures make good CMHs. Individuals who work as physical engineers, mechanical engineers, or in the field of indoor air quality or other technically trained professionals, and the like, often also obtain a certification as a hygienist. They make ideal CMHs, since they are already performing, or have performed, work of a similar scope, and they may then offer these services in addition to the services they may already be providing.

It is critical that your CMH be unbiased and performs their work with a high degree of accuracy and to scientific principles. It is also critical that the Hygienist be well versed in the regulatory requirements for Hazardous Materials, Biohazards, Safety, and Universal Precautions. To avoid any conflict of interest, the CMH should NOT be the same individual as your Inspector, Investigator or Remediator, as this individual oversees and double-checks all work performed. Why should this be so?

For example:

A commercial property has been inspected by a CMI, who recommended obtaining services of a CMIV. The CMIV, upon receiving the laboratory report, recommended further services of an MAA-certified Commercial Hygienist. The CH found it necessary for this structure to be remediated, as the findings showed Stachybotrys present, and there were 167 personnel working inside the structure who were being exposed to the spores. These personnel were reporting incidences of symptoms associated with Stachybotrys exposure. The CH recommended that these personnel seek the services of a qualified physician or allergist. The CH also wrote the remediation protocols and the guidelines for clearance testing. After the remediation was completed, the original CMIV performed clearance testing per the CH’s guidelines. The structure did not clear testing. The CMH must then discover WHY it did not clear testing. There are many possibilities: It could be that the remediation was not performed to standard within certain areas, or it could be that something was missed, or it could be that a completely different problem exists which must be resolved, such as no visible residue, inaccessible areas or voids within the structure, unseen areas or voids within or near the structure containing molds, or other highly unusual or unforeseen circumstances. Whatever the reason, the CH is responsible for ensuring that the quality of work is performed to standard and that the problems are resolved until all areas clear testing. So you see, if the CH were the Inspector, Investigator or Remediator, they would then be clearing their own work, rather than clearing some else’s work.

The role of a professional MAA-Certified Mold Remediator (CMR)
This professional performs mold remediation services (often called mitigation or removal) on residential, commercial and industrial properties, consisting of removing ALL components and contents which are infested with hazardous or toxic mold within the structure(s), clean-up of those contents where possible, proper removal of hazardous debris to an appropriate facility, and submitting a comprehensive report of the work completed during services to the client. An MAA-Certified Mold Remediator (CMR) will have experience in hazardous materials handling (HAZMAT) and will be trained in universal precautions and regulatory requirements for pesticide application (with respect to biocides and fungicides). The remediation will consist of a number of steps: discussion of the scope of the remediation (what it will involve) and the reasons for remediation with both the CMH and the client, signing an agreement for the remediation to be performed, including a confidentiality agreement, the actual remediation itself, and a report of services actually performed while providing services, noting any recommendations and observations.

MAA-certified professionals with knowledge of structures, or those who have a background in some type of general contracting or repair work, and individuals who perform abatement services often also obtain a certification for mold remediation. They make ideal remediators, since they are already performing, or have performed, remediation work of a similar scope, and they may then offer these services in addition to the general services they may already be providing.

When remediation work is being performed, it should be completed with care and respect for the client’s property and privacy, and should be done with a high degree of efficiency, and according to regulatory guidelines and the CMH’s written plan. The Certified Mold Remediator (CMR) should NOT be the same individual as your CMH, CMI or CMIV. Some CMRs offer restoration services if they have the necessary qualifications, credentialing and licensing from appropriate agencies.

It is important to note, that if remediation services are required, that it will be expensive. Remediation work is specialized-labor intensive, requires the use of expensive specialized equipment, and requires the handling of hazardous materials in much less than pleasant work conditions. Please do not expect remediation services at a price that is not consistent with the needs to complete the work. Some agencies and some companies expect remediation work at bids so low that it forces the remediator to make a choice between cutting back on the specialized labor or the control standards (which affects quality). A good, well-versed and trained remediator would not remediate such projects.

For example:

A CMH has determined that a residential property needs remediation, as it was found that there were high levels of Penicillium, Stachybotrys and Aspergillus in most of the living areas of the residence. The CMH writes the remediation protocols and the guidelines for clearance testing. The CMR bids on the remediation, but the insurance company kicks back the bid as being too high. A second and third bid produce the same result. During this timeframe, the residents of the structure are not living in their home, and the expense of a hotel is adding up quickly. Until a remediator is found which can bid the project so low, the mold continues grow and further contaminate additional areas of the structure. Eventually a remediator is found, but by this time, the size of the project has grown, and a new protocol must be written. This continues until someone recognizes that it will eventually cost more than originally bid.

On the other hand, you also need to be careful to avoid gouging by a remediator.

For example:

In the same scenario above, the client gets three bids from local remediators. Of these three bids, two are similar in pricing, but one is much higher than the other two. All quotes include the remediation to the protocols of the CMH, all three bids state similar qualifications of individuals with same amount of labor hours involved. None of the three bids include restoration services. This may be an example of a remediator bidding higher than is warranted. However, the third bidder should be telephoned and questioned per the bid and what is included, because he may have taken additional steps in certain areas not noted on the hygienist’s report, or there may be unlisted work not on the written bid. Whichever is the case, it is important to obtain three quotes and go with the best quote for the work to be performed, taking into account the quality of the remediator, making certain the quotes are for the same services and number of labor hours. This should give you a fair idea of what is an acceptable bid range. A precautionary note: do not sacrifice quality for price.

MAA Masters Certified Mold Specialists (MCMS)
This designation is offered by the MAA to those professionals who have demonstrated a high quality of excellence within their past and combined designation fields. Those who have achieved this designation will carry seven specialized category designations along with their basic designations.

Those who have achieved all seven levels and have passed the written and field examinations, and completed their thesis, will carry the MCMS designation. For those who are in the process of achieving it, they may carry the following in addition to their basic category(ies):

    • A Certified Mold Inspector may also carry:
      • Visual Control Inspector (VCI)
    • A Certified Mold Investigator may also carry:
      • Control Assessment Investigator (CAI)
      • Control and Clearance Testing Inspector (CCTI)
    • A Certified Mold Remediator may also carry:
      • Defect Correction Contractor (DCC)
    • A Certified Mold Hygienist may also carry:
      • Residential Hygienist (RH)
      • Commercial Hygienist (CH)
      • Environmental Hygienist (EH)

Masters Certified courses offered through the MAA take at least three years to obtain, and all course examinations, both written and field, are pass-fail with no errors accepted. These highly skilled Specialists will know the "whole structure" and will be able to define the cause of any mold-related issue. They are the leadership of the industry and the most knowledgeable of all mold professionals.

Keeping all of these roles in mind should help you in choosing a well-qualified MAA-certified professional to perform the mold services you require. There are always things you should ask any professional when searching for services:

  • Check credentials -- make certain they have been certified;
  • Ask where they obtained their certification;
  • Ask how long they have been performing the services;
  • Ask for references

If you choose a professional who is a member of the MAA, they will carry with them an identification card that displays our logo with their membership number. You may call our offices at any time and we will assist you in finding information about these professionals that will be helpful. We will be able to tell you about their work history, client referrals to our office, customer compliments and complaints, or whether they have any regulatory citations against their work record. We can also provide you with a list of qualified individuals in good standing who meet our stringent guidelines from which you can select for quotes. We can help by providing answers to any questions you may have concerning your needs for mold services. And, the MAA can offer you a list of those individuals who have been trained by our organization, ensuring that you receive the highest quality services.

Why should professionals and technicians entering my premises be MAA-certified?
All Mold Assessment Association members join with us because they share the same mission, vision and values with respect to both the public’s and the industry’s issues of mold and toxic mold; and so their efforts and purposes, and their provision of services (whatever the specialty) are united. All members adhere to and respect our motto and the twelve canons of our code of ethics.

With respect to you, the consumer of these services, MAA-certified professionals and technicians offer the following benefits:

  • Four specialized categories of mold assessment professionals, each dedicated to performing his/her specialty function knowledgeably and precisely to provide higher quality services and to serve as an association-based system of checks and balances for quality control;
  • Masters Certified Mold Specialists who have been through a rigorous seven-stage certification program, offering the highest level of specialization in mold assessment services;
  • MAA-certified professionals and technicians from related trades who have been specially trained in a mold awareness program specific to their specialty areas, including: home inspectors, termite and pest control technicians, plumbers, HVAC technicians and other indoor air quality specialists, builders and general contractors, repair and home improvement contractors, remodeling and/or restoration specialists, electricians, paint and wallpaper technicians, and the like;
  • MAA-certified professionals and technicians from a vast array of industries that are affected by mold-related issues who have been specially trained in a mold awareness program specific to their professions, including: attorneys, clinicians, insurance agents and adjusters, real estate agents and brokers, property managers, scientists, teachers, and the like;
  • MAA members participate in an association-based benchmarking program, which opens new pathways for continuous quality and performance improvement with respect to the provision of their services;
  • MAA members participate in data exchange and analyses programs to assist appropriate agencies in current and future mold research; and
  • Obtaining the services of an MAA member means having the combined strength of the above knowledges and specialties working together to solve mold-related issues and problems, with the goal of public well-being and better serving the mold assessment needs of each and every consumer of those services.

And finally, as a not-for-profit organization, we thank in advance all of the generous individuals from both the membership and the South Carolina community-at-large, for their dues and donations. These donations serve to help provide the very best in training specialists and training equipment, speakers for public forums, and in providing economic relief for certain individuals within the South Carolina community that have been severely and adversely affected by mold. In special thanks to those who have made donations, their names are posted on our Donations list.

Those who may be interested in making donations for these programs, may do so by calling our office and requesting a Donation form at (843) 744-3310. All donors will be posted on the listing, which will soon be making its way to this web site.

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MAA-certified mold professionals follow strict guidelines and protocols for the
provision of mold services.  We also offer Mold Seminars for the public, employers and property owners, as well as Mold Awareness Courses for various trades, professionals, property managers and facilities managers.
We provide Mold Training and Certification Courses for:
             Certified Mold Inspector (CMI)
             Certified Mold Investigator (CMIV)
             Certified Mold Remediator (CMR)
             Certified Mold Hygienist  (CMH)
             Master Certified Mold Specialist (MCMS)

MAA-certified mold professionals follow strict guidelines and protocols for the
provision of mold services.  We also offer Mold Seminars for the public, employers and property owners, as well as Mold Awareness Courses for various trades, professionals, property managers and facilities managers.

Disclaimer:
All material provided on the Mold Assessment Association web site is for educational and informational purposes only. The information contained on the web site should not be considered specific mold advice for any person, organization or entity. Consult a medical, legal or regulatory professional for all references to medical conditions or regarding the applications, opinions or recommendations from this web site. The MAA specifically disclaims liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, that is or may be incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, resulting from or application pertaining to any of the information provided on the web site.

Copyright 2016, Mold Assessment Association (MAA).
All rights reserved. No part of this site or its publication(s) may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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