12B — February 28 - March 12, 2020 — Environmental/Green Buildings — Owners, Developers & Managers — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


E nvironmental /G reen B uildings By Bruce Lockwood, PARS Environmental, Inc. Will Mold be the Next Asbestos?

grabs news head l ines . Mo l d c e r - tainly can cause seri- ous illness- es, but this heightened awareness and instant W

ith each passing year, the topic of mold increasingly

many studies, records, and statistics cementing it as a human health hazard, car- cinogen, and public health issue; mold does not. This does not mean that mold is harmless, as there are several types that can cause serious health concerns. “Mold” is the common name for fungi that grows in the form of multicellular fila- ments called hyphae, and are part of the natural environ- ment, with over 100,000 dif- ferent species found all over the planet. Mold is present in both indoor and outdoor

environments, and the actual species observed in air, gen- erally referred to as ‘spores,’ vary from season to season. The types of spores present are typically indicators of what biological processes are occurring nearby—for instance, the species Myxo- mycetes is usually present in large quantities around decaying logs, stumps, and dead leaves. Another species, Alternaria , one of the most common species worldwide, is usually found in soil, plants, or dead organic debris. It is when these types of species

flourish indoors that an issue arises, as most species can grow on building materials under the right conditions. Mold needs moisture to grow, in both indoor and out- door settings. Indoor mold growth becomes a problem when spores land on building materials that become damp or wet, such as a ceiling tile with a leaking pipe above it, or a roof leak that soaks attic insulation. Once spores land on these wet building materi- als, they can start to rapidly multiply and digest the ma- terials, and potentially cause

damage. Mold damage, if ignored, can eventually cause building structural damage, necessitating costly repairs. Inhaling spores may cause allergic reactions such as headaches, sneezing, irritated eyes or skin, and respiratory distress, with varying effects from person to person. These symptoms, though nonspe- cific, are the main contributor to ‘sick building syndrome,’ the feeling of ill health in the building that increases time off requests and decreases productivity in occupants. Although there are no federal or state standards for permis- sible exposures to mold, once it is mentioned in a work environment, it can lead to a large problem for employers. When a mold issue in your building is suspected, the first step for building owners and property managers is to en- gage a professional to inves- tigate the complainant area, which may include sample collection, to find the source of the moisture. The profes- sional should be able to map out and identify all damaged building materials, and create an adequate scope of work for a remediation contractor to follow. These remediations generally occur under full con- tainment, by plasticizing the affected work area and utiliz- ing negative air, which leads people to think of asbestos, which is treated similarly. Af- ter the remediation has been completed, there should be a final inspection by the pro- fessional who scoped out the remediation, to verify that the problem has been resolved, which may be visual-only or include additional sampling. Proper communication with building occupants is key, ev- ery step of the way. Leaving people in the dark can lead to exaggerations of the issue, general misinformation, and sick building syndrome-based hysteria. Although mold is not asbestos, mold damage can rapidly expand if the source is left alone, and re- quire massive renovations to repair the damage. Mold issues should be addressed as soon as possible to protect oc- cupants, minimize the extent of damage to buildings, and reduce remediation costs. Bruce Lockwood is se- nior industrial hygienist PARS Environmental, Inc. 

Bruce Lockwood

fear the word “mold” reminds many of the public asbestos hysteria of the late 1980s and early 1990s. However; unlike asbestos, which has

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