In thousands of homes and on social media posts across the land, you saw the annual notice heralding the end of summer vacation: “Summer is over and the kids are back in school”. Some will cry, some will cheer, some will only shrug their shoulders. No matter what we do or say, every school year, the emotion, and the back to school sales come to an end and attention shifts to the students actually being in school.
That is “all as it should be” with each new school year. The sad news is that the “welcome back student” message has been accompanied with too many news stories about mold being found in our nation’s schools. It is not an accident that “National Mold Awareness Month” is September.
The bottom line on this is that parents DO NOT want their child sick because they go to school. Our schools that have mold are like the “Jaws” movies. Just when you think it is safe to return, we find out that it is “not so safe.”
When we experience any school environmental issue such as mold, it can be front page headlines, TV, talk show fodder and Facebook news feed material.
Environmental issues in schools are not “just another student health issue”. These problems are a public relations nightmare, a staff human relations mine field, a facility management challenge, a budget buster, a political fiasco and a liability time bomb.
Signs of Mold in School
If a school is flooded or has leaks that are not quickly cleaned up, there will be mold. Whether it is a roof leak, plumbing leak or any other area of wet surfaces, you can count on mold growing.
Parents should take a look around their child’s school. Water stains are the target to look for. Fuzzy or splotchy areas are the bullseye in the search for suspected mold. These can be in almost any area of a building anywhere from the highest ceiling to the lowest floor.
In addition to the visual indicators of mold presence, odor can be indicator. When the odor of mold is in the school or on a child’s clothes, books, papers or possessions, mold should be investigated as a source of the offensive smell.
Sewage backups, leaks and all floods also have a host of water borne diseases and contaminants. When these occur, a professionally conducted disinfection must be conducted even when mold is not visible. Even a little dust left in an obscure corner after the flood is gone can enter through a cut in a student’s hand or their lungs long after the water is gone if the areas has not been disinfected.
Imagine you are a professional mold remediator. You know that the goal you are pursuing is to correct the nasty mold levels. You should also make corrections so that the mold doesn’t return. The customer is paying you thousands of dollars to achieve those goals. Hanging in the balance is the health of the family living in the home.
Now that you have a vivid picture of the importance of a proper mold remediation in your mind, let me tell you about my experience as an environmental consultant earlier today. Today is the fourth time this professionally remediated home has failed clearance. Each previous time it failed, I have spoken with the remediator about ways that his company can properly remediate the home. Each time, he has ignored the advice. I truly want this job done correctly and the family living in the home o enjoy a healthy home forever more.
Mold Remediation 101
Choosing Remediation Systems and Reliable Professionals: There are many mold treatment systems available that encompass a wide range of chemicals of varying toxicity. Some of the chemicals that have superb effectiveness are very dangerous to health and safety. Others require precise attention to detail. The goal is to select best treatment system for a project that will fully remove or kill mold in a safe environment for workers and occupants of a building.
Treatment Systems for Chemically Sensitive Individuals: In the case of mold or chemically sensitive individuals, we highly recommend exposure to a sample of treatment products before a system or chemicals are used in their property. This can easily be accomplished by provision of a sample cloth treated with a product and given to the sensitive occupant prior to remediation treatment. They should also have “test” exposure to any building material or product brought into a building. Even reaction to a common product such as caulking can create problems for chemically sensitive individuals.
Preparation for Remediation: Remediation systems require proper preparation and conditions for the treatment system to be effective. One example is that the building should be less than 40% to 50 % relative humidity. Another example is that mold and biological debris should be removed before treatment. Moldy contents need addressed with treatment or removal from the site. All water leaks and events need corrected and promptly addressed and resolved. We need to avoid the types of surfaces and materials that may be a substrate for mold growth.
Protecting the Occupants and Workers: Depending upon the level, location, use and extent of remediation required, the remediation needs to be done with appropriate levels of protection for the premises, occupants and workers. Persons handling building materials, contents and debris contaminated by mold are exposed to elevated mold levels. This is because the disturbed mold spreads in the same way as when you blew on the dandelion that turned white. As kids, we were amazed as the tiny seeds went everywhere. If you are like me, you never gave a thought to the fact we were spreading dandelion seeds. We know better now. PPE or “Personal Protective Equipment” needs to be worn by those exposed to airborne mold during work.
At a minimum, workers need protected with masks. In higher mold conditions or closed areas, gloves and suits may also be crucial and necessary protective equipment.
Stopping the Spread of Mold During Remediation: If an area of remediation has disturbed materials, the area being cleaned needs first contained from spreading disturbed mold through other areas of the building envelope. Contaminated materials need to be wrapped and carried out of the building while enclosed or wrapped so as not to allow the mold contaminated materials to harm others.
In areas of significant disturbed mold contaminated materials, the area of work may need protected with an airlock, usually simple, overlapping plastic doors that appear like the scene you may remember from the movie "ET the Extraterrestrial. This is called containment.
Exhausting Mold Spores Outdoors: In situations where there is concern and risk that disturbed mold may be drawn from the disturbed area into the other areas of the building, the work area needs placed under a negative pressure. That means the air is drawn from that area and sent to the exterior. Furnace ductwork may need sealed within work areas to avoid the furnace or AC blower pushing mold through the building while the unit is operating. The process of establishment of a negative air flow away from the non-contaminated areas is called negative air.
Filtering the Mold Floating in the Air: Another aspect of the professional mold remediation job is air scrubbing. Disturbed mold spores go into the air. The mold floating in the work area can be collected onto a filter in the piece of equipment called and air scrubber. This is a highly efficient air filter designed to capture the small particles such as mold.
Drying out the Building: Dehumidification to a low moisture level is required for effective mold remediation. Portable commercial dehumidifiers are often used for that purpose.
There is no doubt that until now, the very real need of getting past the mold fears of the parties to a real estate transaction has not been met in a comprehensive program. Creating that system addressing the fears is not only a business need, it is an act of kindness. There is no part of the Real Estate process that could be considered pleasant or entertainment. The fears are truly disruptive, stressful and painful for all parties.
The Critical Steps of a Program to Get Past the Mold Fears