Mold testing is performed for a variety of microorganisms including mold, bacteria, viruses, protozoa; and fungi, which includes molds, yeasts, and their byproducts and toxins. All of these can affect the health of a building and its occupants.
One form of secondary damage, microbial growth, can cause structural components to lose their integrity, can potentially impact indoor air quality, and may ultimately result in compromised occupant health.
The mold removal professional identifies any health concerns arising from pre-existing conditions or from the water intrusion. Care is taken to contain contaminants and not spread them to unaffected areas of the structure.
When dealing with mold contamination in a structure, the first action is identifying and mitigating safety hazards. We must inspect and be sure any and all safety issues are resolved before moving forward. The next step is to set up containment and control air pressure.
Mold starts from a spore. Once the spore finds an acceptable environment, growth starts. The plant-like structure that mold grows into is a network of tubular branches we call hyphae.
Hyphae are genetically identical and are considered a single organism, referred to as a colony. The more technical term for this is mycelium. As mold grows, it reaches a point where it is time to continue its life cycle. This is when the fungal organism begins to produce and release spores into the environment, called sporulation.
There are two types of spores, viable and non-viable. Viable spores are in effect “alive” and can start new colonies. They may be allergenic, and/or contain toxins. Non-viable spores are not “alive ” and cannot form new colonies. The term “settled spores” refers to those spores that have landed on an indoor surface but are not actively growing.
As a starting point, the proper job sequencing for a typical microbial remediation project includes identifying and stopping the source of moisture, setting up containment, establishing negative air, removing contaminated building materials, cleaning surfaces, drying the affected areas, and conducting a post remediation evaluation.
There are many types of contamination that affect homes. All living organisms on earth need water to survive. While spores can exist in all buildings, a wet building is almost certainly going to contain spores, and it is these spores that will lead to growth.
One of the easiest ways to determine if a building has a mold problem is by odor. Odors that are detected in water damaged buildings can be caused by wet structural assemblies or wet contents/materials. The odors released by microbial growth, those “musty” or “earthy” odors, are referred to as Microbiological Volatile Organic Compounds, or MVOCs.
MVOCs are byproducts of microorganisms’ metabolism. At this time, the medical community is unsure if MVOCs have any impact on human health. The medical community believes that it is the mycotoxins produced by mold that can affect human health.
In the mold remediation context, the two types of microorganisms usually encountered are fungi and bacteria. Some important modifications to standard restoration practices must take place when dealing with these organisms.
Living creatures that are too small to see with the naked eye, called microorganisms, include fungi, bacteria, protozoa, parasites and algae. Viruses too may be included in this list, though they live and propagate by other mechanisms.
The microorganisms most apparent in structures that have had prolonged contact with relatively sanitary water is fungus. When moisture levels are sufficient (about 16% moisture content in wood), mold can germinate and grow on the surface of virtually any material.
Surface molds can feed on the dusts and soils present across every interior surface, in carpets, etc. They can also grow on cellulose materials like paper and wood.
Bacteria are small single-celled organisms. Bacteria are found almost everywhere on Earth and are vital to the planet’s ecosystems. Some species can live under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure.
Like fungi, bacteria grow and feed on organic materials. But unlike fungi, which can grow whenever excessive moisture is present, bacterial growth is most likely to appear in structures affected by unsanitary water from outdoor flooding, sewage systems and septic systems. Under the right conditions, the number of bacteria can double every 15 minutes.
Viruses are parasites which only live and reproduce inside cells of a living host. Viruses are significantly smaller than bacteria, and can be viewed only with an electron microscope.
Viruses must continually enter new cells to survive. Viruses enter living plants or animal cells and hijack the cells’ own metabolism and reproductive system to create new copies of themselves. Viruses have no mechanism for transportation.
Viruses depend on the air, water, insects, animal, or humans to carry them from one host to another. Some viruses may survive away from the host many hours or days when in nutrient laden environments such as blood, dead skin tissue and body wastes.