Concern about indoor exposure to mold has been increasing as the public becomes aware that exposure to mold can cause a variety of health effects and symptoms, including allergic reactions. This document presents guidelines for the remediation/cleanup of mold and moisture problems in facilities at NC State University including measures designed to protect the health of building occupants and remediators.
Mold can be found almost anywhere; it can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There is mold that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.
Since mold requires water to grow, it is important to prevent moisture problems in buildings. Moisture problems can have many causes, including uncontrolled humidity. Some moisture problems in buildings have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. Building materials, such as drywall, may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems may include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building, and unvented combustion appliances. Delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance are also associated with moisture problems in schools and large buildings. Moisture problems in portable classrooms and other temporary structures have frequently been associated with mold problems.
- Fix leaky plumbing and leaks in the building envelope as soon as possible.
- Watch for condensation and wet spots. Fix source(s) of moisture problem(s) as soon as possible.
- Prevent moisture due to condensation by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level in air (humidity). To increase surface temperature, insulate or increase air circulation. To reduce the moisture level in air, repair leaks, increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry), or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid).
- Keep heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) drip pans clean, flowing properly, and unobstructed.
- Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside where possible.
- Maintain low indoor humidity, below 60% relative humidity (RH), ideally 30-50%, if possible.
- Perform regular building/HVAC inspections and maintenance as scheduled.
- Clean and dry wet or damp spots within 48 hours.
- Don’t let foundations stay wet. Provide drainage and slope the ground away from the foundation.
In some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces, such as the backside of dry wall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Possible locations of hidden mold can include pipe chases and utility tunnels (with leaking or condensing pipes), walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), condensate drain pans inside air handling units, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).
Some building materials, such as dry wall with vinyl wallpaper over it or wood paneling, may act as vapor barriers, trapping moisture underneath their surfaces and thereby providing a moist environment where mold can grow. You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and building occupants are reporting health problems. Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth—make sure to use PPE.
For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores from mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you discover hidden mold, you should revise your remediation plan to account for the total area affected by mold growth.
Assess the size of the mold or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials before planning the remediation work.
The decision to relocate occupants should consider the size and type of the area affected by mold growth, the type and extent of health effects reported by the occupants, the potential health risks that could be associated with debris, and the amount of disruption likely to be caused by remediation activities. If possible, remediation activities should be scheduled during off-hours when building occupants are less likely to be affected.
- Fix the water or humidity problem. Complete and carry out repair plan if appropriate. Revise and carry out maintenance plan if necessary. Revise remediation plan as necessary, if more damage is discovered during remediation.
- Continue to communicate with building occupants, as appropriate to the situation. Be sure to address all concerns.
- Completely clean up mold and dry water-damaged areas. Select appropriate cleaning and drying methods for damaged/ contaminated materials. Carefully contain and remove moldy building materials. Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Arrange for outside professional support if necessary.
If you are unsure what to do, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair/restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire/water restoration are commonly listed in phone books. Be sure to ask for and check references; look for affiliation with professional organizations. Molds Can Damage Building Materials and Furnishings
A variety of mold cleanup methods are available for remediating damage to building materials and furnishings caused by moisture control problems and mold growth. The specific method or group of methods used will depend on the type of material affected. Please note that professional remediators may use some methods not covered in these guidelines;absence of a method in the guidelines does not necessarily mean that it is not useful.
Method 1: Wet Vacuum
Wet vacuums are vacuum cleaners designed to collect water. They can be used to remove water from floors, carpets, and hard surfaces where water has accumulated. They should not be used to vacuum porous materials, such as gypsum board. They should be used only when materials are still wet—wet vacuums may spread spores if sufficient liquid is not present. The tanks, hoses, and attachments of these vacuums should be thoroughly cleaned and dried after use since mold and mold spores may stick to the surfaces.
Method 2: Damp Wipe
Whether dead or alive, mold is allergenic, and some molds may be toxic. Mold can generally be removed from nonporous (hard) surfaces by wiping or scrubbing with water, or water and detergent. It is important to dry these surfaces quickly and thoroughly to discourage further mold growth. Instructions for cleaning surfaces, as listed on product labels, should always be read and followed. Porous materials that are wet and have mold growing on them may have to be discarded. Since molds will infiltrate porous substances and grow on or fill in empty spaces or crevices, the mold can be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
Method 3: HEPA Vacuum
HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums are recommended for final cleanup of remediation areas after materials have been thoroughly dried and contaminated materials removed. HEPA vacuums are also recommended for cleanup of dust that may have settled on surfaces outside the remediation area. Care must be taken to assure that the filter is properly seated in the vacuum so that all the air must pass through the filter. When changing the vacuum filter, remediators should wear PPE to prevent exposure to the mold that has been captured. The filter and contents of the HEPA vacuum must be disposed of in well-sealed plastic bags.
Method 4: Discard
Remove Damaged Materials and Seal in Plastic Bags
Building materials and furnishings that are contaminated with mold growth and are not salvageable should be double-bagged using 6-mil polyethylene sheeting. These materials can then usually be discarded as ordinary construction waste. It is important to package mold contaminated materials in sealed bags before removal from the containment area to minimize the dispersion of mold spores throughout the building. Large items that have heavy mold growth should be covered with polyethylene sheeting and sealed with duct tape before they are removed from the containment area.
Always use gloves and eye protection when cleaning up mold!
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
If the remediation job disturbs mold and mold spores become airborne, then the risk of respiratory exposure goes up. Actions that are likely to stir up mold include: breakup of moldy porous materials such as wallboard; invasive procedures used to examine or remediate mold growth in a wall cavity; actively stripping or peeling wallpaper to remove it; and using fans to dry items.
The primary function of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is to avoid inhaling mold and mold spores and to avoid mold contact with the skin or eyes.
Skin and Eye Protection
Gloves are required to protect the skin from contact with mold allergens (and in some cases mold toxins) and from potentially irritating cleaning solutions. Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended. The glove material should be selected based on the type of materials being handled. If you are using a biocide (such as chlorine bleach) or a strong cleaning solution, you should select gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane,or PVC. If you are using a mild detergent or plain water, ordinary household rubber gloves may be used. To protect your eyes, use properly fitted goggles or a full-face respirator with HEPA filter. Goggles must be designed to prevent the entry of dust and small particles. Safety glasses or goggles with open vent holes are not acceptable.
Respirators protect cleanup workers from inhaling airborne mold, mold spores, and dust.
Minimum : When cleaning up a small area affected by mold, you should use an N-95 respirator. This device covers the nose and mouth, will filter out 95% of the particulates in the air, and is available in most hardware stores.
Limited : Limited PPE includes use of a half-face or full-face air purifying respirator (APR) equipped with a HEPA filter cartridge. These respirators contain both inhalation and exhalation valves that filter the air and ensure that it is free of mold particles. Note that half face APRs do not provide eye protection. In addition, the HEPA filters do not remove vapors or gases. You should always use respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (see Resources List).
Full : In situations in which high levels of airborne dust or mold spores are likely or when intense or long-term exposures are expected (e.g., the cleanup of large areas of contamination), a full-face, powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) is recommended. Full-face PAPRs use a blower to force air through a HEPA filter. The HEPA-filtered air is supplied to a mask that covers the entire face or a hood that covers the entire head. The positive pressure within the hood prevents unfiltered air from entering through penetrations or gaps. Individuals must be trained to use their respirators before they begin remediation. The use of these respirators must be in compliance with OSHA regulations .
Disposable Protective Clothing
Disposable clothing is recommended during a medium or large remediation project to prevent the transfer and spread of mold to clothing and to eliminate skin contact with mold.
Limited : Disposable paper overalls can be used.
Full : Mold-impervious disposable head and foot coverings, and a body suit made of a breathable material, such as TYVEK®, should be used. All gaps, such as those around ankles and wrists, should be sealed (many remediators use duct tape to seal clothing).
The purpose of containment during remediation activities is to limit release of mold into the air and surroundings, in order to minimize the exposure of remediators and building occupants to mold . Mold and moldy debris should not be allowed to spread to areas in the building beyond the contaminated site.
In general, the size of the area helps determine the level of containment. However, a heavy growth of mold in a relatively small area could release more spores than a lighter growth of mold in a relatively large area. Choice of containment should be based on professional judgment. The primary object of containment should be to prevent occupant and remediator exposure to mold.
Limited containment is generally recommended for areas involving between 10 and 100 square feet (ft 2 ) of mold contamination. The enclosure around the moldy area should consist of a single layer of 6- mil, fire-retardant polyethylene sheeting. The containment should have a slit entry and covering flap on the outside of the containment area.
For small areas, the polyethylene sheeting can be affixed to floors and ceilings with duct tape.
For larger areas, a steel or wooden stud frame can be erected and polyethylene sheeting attached to it.
All supply and air vents, doors, chases, and risers within the containment area must be sealed with polyethylene sheeting to minimize the migration of contaminants to other parts of the building. Heavy mold growth on ceiling tiles may impact HVAC systems if the space above the ceiling is used as a return air plenum. In this case, containment should be installed from the floor to the ceiling deck, and the filters in the air handling units serving the affected area may have to be replaced once remediation is finished.
The containment area must be maintained under negative pressure relative to surrounding areas. This will ensure that contaminated air does not flow into adjacent areas. This can be done with a HEPA-filtered fan unit exhausted outside of the building. For small, easily contained areas, an exhaust fan ducted to the outdoors can also be used. The surfaces of all objects removed from the containment area should be remediated/cleaned prior to removal
Moisture Control is the Key to Mold Control
Full containment is recommended for the cleanup of mold contaminated surface areas greater than 100 ft 2 or in any situation in which it appears likely that the occupant space would be further contaminated without full containment. Double layers of polyethylene should be used to create a barrier between the moldy area and other parts of the building. A decontamination chamber or airlock should be constructed for entry into and exit from the remediation area. The entryways to the airlock from the outside and from the airlock to the main containment area should consist of a slit entry with covering flaps on the outside surface of each slit entry. The chamber should be large enough to hold a waste container and allow a person to put on and remove PPE. All contaminated PPE, except respirators, should be placed in a sealed bag while in this chamber.
Respirators should be worn until remediators are outside the decontamination chamber. PPE must be worn throughout the final stages of HEPA vacuuming and damp-wiping of the contained area. PPE must also be worn during HEPA vacuum filter changes or cleanup of the HEPA vacuum.