Molds in the Indoor Environment

Increasing attention is becoming focused on fungi in indoor environments. Although most of the molds occurring in human environments occur indoors, the interior of buildings are themselves a special habitat. It has long been known that indoor fungi cause allergies in sensitive persons, but only relatively recently have indoor molds been linked to other health problems. While allergy sufferers generally react to substances in fungal spores, other health problems may be caused by volatile substances released by molds into the air.

Virtually all buildings contain molds, but some are moldier than others. Indoor molds can be remarkably tolerant of dry conditions but none can live without some moisture. Excessively moldy buildings generally have a source of moisture leading to unusually heavy mold growth. The source of the moisture may be a leaky basement, a dripping pipe, a roof in need of repair or some other fairly obvious cause. In most cases the mold can be seen growing on walls or other materials in contact with the moisture. Sometimes the moisture can occur inside walls and not be apparent. A common but not obvious cause of moisture in cold climates is condensation inside north-facing walls. Severely moldy buildings may have a musty smell, but not necessarily. Sometimes the only sign of a problem is persistent poor health of the occupants, such as headaches, nausea, respiratory symptoms, etc. It is now known that moldy buildings can present a serious health risk to occupants. In fact, some infant deaths have been convincingly linked to indoor molds. Any building with an apparent mold problem should be thoroughly investigated by qualified people.

Not all indoor molds present a risk to human health, but an abundance of any mold is likely to be accompanied by others, including toxic ones. Species of Stachybotrys are particularly toxic. Obvious occurrences of Stachybotrys may be sufficient cause for a major “decontamination” by qualified technicians wearing special protective clothing. Stachybotrys species produce black colonies on dry wall, ceiling tiles and other materials containing cellulose.

KEM provides

  • Inspections and Testing, through visual inspections, air testing, surface dust testing, Wall-Chek sampling, and culture samples
  • Remediation, including project design, contractor management and oversight, and clearance testing
  • COMMP® Programs – Control of Moisture and Mold Prevention – a program designed to provide training, awareness, and inspections to assure that buildings do not suffer mold infestation as a result of water intrusion – COMMP Flyer.