The following is a compilation of some interesting mold facts, which could provide useful for homeowners. It is useful to be fully cognizant of how mold works, what you're up against and how to prevent against potential mold in the property. The more information you assimilate, the more power you hold:
Crawl spaces are susceptible areas to mold growth due to the retention of water that exists in the soil, which can evaporate and create structural damage on your property, as well as create rotting damage on wooden joists and wood-based materials.
One of the most imperative installations that should exist in a crawl space is a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier is a thin sheathing of plastic, polyethylene that covers the ground in a crawl space. This ensures minimal water penetration into the ground, as well as water retention in the soils and reduces the ability of moisture evaporation in the area.
Another tip to reduce mold susceptibility in crawl space areas is to ensure there are no loose, organic materials in the area. Often, crawl spaces become neglected due to the subterranean nature of them; i.e. out of sight, out of mind. These areas are highly susceptible to water intrusions, especially during heavy water events-therefore, they should be maintained as such.
Loose materials can become damp and become ideal harboring grounds for mold. Always double-check crawl spaces areas after any type of maintenance workers have been in the area, since a lot of workers are inclined to leaving materials and tools behind.
With the burgeoning interest and concern over mold issues within indoor spaces, there have been updates to overall legislation apropos to the concerns. One of the pieces of legislation, which has been implemented relatively recently, is the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001; this piece of legislation has been enacted in California and directs the California Department of Health Services. According to the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001, and the impetus behind it,
"The Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001 was enacted to address increasing concerns regarding health effects from exposure to indoor molds and to provide Californians with guidelines or standards for the safe and effective removal of molds from buildings" (CDPH, 2005).
It is estimated that there are approximately 400 fungal species which are capable of causing detriment to human health. The compounds which are released by the fungal species (i.e. mold/mildew) are referred to mycotoxins and have been associated with a greater risk of cancer in some cases. This is where the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001 arrives at its pertinence. The act provides the platform to ensure that the California Department of Health Services outline salient exposure limits to these particular types of mycotoxins and molds to protect human health.
The Toxic Mold Protection Act is a declaration toward furthering mold related research and enforcing stricter, as well as more cognizant, building codes/laws to prevent mold growth and promulgation. Just as there are strict and scrupulous mold inspections on food related products, the Toxic Mold Protection Act looks to enable a similar vein of stringency in micro-environments; "for example, mold spoilage and the presence of fungal toxins in food are detected through mandated inspections. Items that fail to meet minimum requirements are banned from being sold as food for animals or humans" (CDPH ,2005).
The Toxic Mold Protection Act has somewhat stagnated since the introduction of it due to a lack of stakeholders and the fact that California has suffered a financially crisis since the introduction of the act, which has not permitted state support of a number of motives set by the act.
CDPH (2005) IMPLEMENTATION OF THE TOXIC MOLD PROTECTION ACT OF 2001 (on-line) California Department of Public Health, California. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/IAQ/Documents/SB732-LegReport-Final.pdf
Our clients sometimes appear to be slightly befuddled as to why we recommend an air sample from the outside, which is perfectly understandable! Why would one be concerned with getting an air sample from the outside, when, what we're concerned with is the interior air quality!
Our environment naturally harbors myriad types of mold, such as Cladosporium, but at levels which aren't concerning. If we take 3 air samples from within a property, and we review the results, the outside air serves as a useful barometer to extrapolate a reliable interpretation of the interior results.
For example, if, upon initiating an air sample in a bathroom, the results display 459 spores m/3 of Aspergillus, we may have reason for concern. Conversely, if, in our outdoor air sample, Aspergillus is registered at 569 spores m/3, then we don't have any reason for concern due to the exchanging of air between the exterior and interior of the property. This, ultimately, can save the homeowner or tenant a lot of issues, and money, in determining the presence, or extent, of a mold issue.
Then, there's the question of, 'why can't just a standard outside air sample be used time and time again, indefinitely? Why take an outside air sample at each new property and each new inspection?'
This is a very pertinent question. The concentration and overall distribution of mold spores can sway in its variation due to various factors such as the season and the time of day due to variations in meteorological conditions. According to data collated via the Environmental Analysis Associates (EAA), the range in the quality of outside air can vary in parts greater than a hundredfold. An excerpt from the EAA Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene states,
"For example, total mold spore concentrations at EAA’s outdoor monitoring station in San Diego have ranged from 200 spores/m3 during calm wind conditions to 80,000 spores/m3 during high Santa Ana wind conditions (wind speeds greater than 20 miles per hour). The most predominant fungal groups found outdoors include ascospore/basidiospore and Cladosporium species. Occasionally, elevated concentrations of other fungal groups, including Aspergillus/Penicillium, Alternaria, and smuts/myxomycetes, can also be found."
Due to the amount of variables involved in air quality testing, this is why it is highly recommended that people who are interested in discovering what is in their homes, have an outside air sample completed.
People often feel misled regarding mold, types of mold and the effects on their health due to the conflicting array of information on the internet. What better way to clear up and make a discerning determination than to expand upon what has been issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)?
The following points are a few conclusions and sentiments expounded by the CDPH:
1. The presence of various types of water damage, sodden material, conspicuous mold formation, musty odors from molds indoors (in any type of building) is considered "unhealthy".
2. The identification of the water source is a priority in eradicating any mold issue.
3. The presence of the formerly mentioned (water damage, sodden material and mold) all increase the risk of developing a respiratory condition.
4. At the beginning of the calendar year (1/1/2016), mold is now considered to effect the noted condition of a rental property to that of being 'substandard'. The landlord must enforce remediation to ensure the property is repaired appropriately. For further information on tenants rights, visit the California Tenants guide created by the Department of Consumer Affairs on the California state governments website.
For any further information from the CDPH, feel free to visit the California Department of Public Health's page on mold and your health.
MOLD HEALTH EFFECTS BLOG AND RESEARCH