A little mold can spread to big problems
Before cleaning, our technician photographed the mold (white substance) which collected on the variable air volume (VAV) box of a HVAC system at a hospital in Northern Ohio. This illustrates how mold can collect in all kinds of nooks and crannies.
A few weeks ago, CNN reported a sad and alarming news story about a class action lawsuit against Seattle Children’s Hospital for mold infestation that resulted in the deaths of six children. The patients became infected with Aspergillus mold. The hospital CEO said the infections were likely caused by the air handling systems that serve the operating rooms.
As evidenced by what happened at that hospital, mold can be hazardous, and if not addressed in a timely fashion, it can create serious health issues. That’s why it’s so important to try to prevent mold as much as possible and to remediate it, when necessary. Hospitals need to be especially diligent. Mold can get into the air stream and flow into the immune-suppressed areas and surgery rooms. It can also get on the packaging of sterile supplies in storage rooms.
Mold is very common in buildings and requires action on the part of facility and maintenance managers to work to prevent. Some of the best ways to reduce mold in buildings are to:
- Properly clean and maintain air ducts and all components of the HVAC system
- Control moisture. Moisture problems can stem from:
- Neglected and malfunctioning heating and cooling, humidifier, or other mechanical systems
- Leaky roofs
- Inadequate ventilation
- Landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building
- Unvented combustion appliances
- Identify susceptible areas in the building and check periodically for mold
- Clean and apply a fungicidal coating to surfaces prone to mold growth
- Dry wet areas quickly
- When renovating, use mold-resistant materials and products, such as drywall and paints with mold inhibitors.
Depending on the amount and location of the mold, our technicians may send a sample to a lab to determine the type of reproductive spores and level of concentration. (Not all mold is harmful – some mold is comprised of inert dormant spores.) Harmful reproductive spores released by active growing mold are known triggers for allergy symptoms and suspected in a variety of illnesses. When harmful mold is present, we often perform mold remediation services.
Mold remediation involves several steps. Adhering to NADCA guidelines, we use HEPA-vacuuming to remove spores that have settled out of the air. Then, we conduct a methodical cleaning by getting inside the duct and cleaning throughout and apply a sanitizing product. Depending on what we find, we may clean individual seams because duct mastics are a common source for mold growth.
Sometimes mold gets into porous material, such as the fibrous lining inside ducts. We apply a fungicidal coating to those surfaces. Depending on the severity of the mold, we may replace the contaminated material.
We often apply EnviroCON for added protection against bacteria, fungus, and mold. An EPA-registered sanitizer, EnviroCON has proven to be highly effective in preventing the growth of contaminants while leaving no toxic residue. Lastly, we replace the air filters with high-efficiency air filters.
During our cleaning and service work, we help to identify what contributed to the growth of the mold. For example, there could be a mechanical malfunction in the system’s humidifier, causing too much moisture to collect. Discovering the culprit is key to preventing more problems.
Unquestionably, mold is a real concern but it is preventable and there are many ways to take care of it before it becomes a serious health threat. Just be sure you’re being diligent about it.