Though mold is almost always in the air around us, it is usually not in high enough concentrations to warrant a serious health risk. According to a statement released by the CDC, the time to worry about mold is when as soon as you can see colonies of it growing or smell it’s unique, musty odor.
Three years ago, huge colonies of mold were found lurking in the walls of the OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center, discovered during an inspection by Illinois’ Department of Public Health. At that time, the hospital was required to write a remediation plan, under penalty of losing Medicare payments if the mold was not removed.
Currently, there are actually no regulations dictating acceptable airborne mold levels, and most health departments do not conduct regular mold tests. Even if tests were conducted on a regular basis, because there are no standards established by the federal government against which to judge those numbers, it would be difficult to know when mold remediation is necessary.
Even so, it is widely known that high concentrations of mold spores can trigger asthma attacks, respiratory problems, and a wide range of other, more serious diseases. Women who are pregnant, children, the elderly, and anyone with a respiratory illness is especially susceptible to mold.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration reports that acceptable levels of mold change from industry to industry, but that all standards still fall under their creed of providing a safe and healthy working environment. That being said, mold is rarely found growing openly on the walls of a building. Most colonies thrive inside the walls or in basements and crawl spaces. Despite where it is, what type it is, or whether it is alive or dead, when colonies are found, they should be removed.
If a colony has any access to moving air, it is likely releasing spores into that air. They are then carried throughout the building, often evading whatever air filtration systems may be in place.
Most experts do not recommend investing in mold sampling. Not only is it an expensive practice (and one where a false positive is easily to fake), there are no standards to compare those test results against. It is also not able to determine how serious the health risks relating to any mold present in the building may be.
The only type of mold testing that does produce any useable results determines if an individual person has been exposed to mold, though this test, too, has its shortcomings. It is unable to tell when or where the exposure occurred. Because the shortcomings in these tests, the best rule of thumb is to remove mold if it can be seen, and if it can be smelled, to find and remove that as well, in order to mitigate further exposure.
In the case of St. Elizabeth, the bathrooms are now up to code and remediation is complete, according to the Illinois Health Department.
About Brickley Environmental
Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.