Most structures are built for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants or content from the elements: sun, rain, cold, heat. While they’re providing shelter, however, buildings are not immune to the elements they are designed to protect against. The results can often have detrimental effects that are irritating or even toxic. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how too much water exposure in particular can have lasting negative effects on both people and properties.
Water, Water, Everywhere
During hot summer months, many locales face drought dangers, placing temporary restrictions on water usage. In some cases, citizens may be asked to refrain from washing their cars or watering their lawns in order to conserve water. Ironically, summer is also the start of hurricane season. Beginning June 1 and lasting until November 30, violent storm season peaks in mid-August.1 Many climatologists have noticed that these “super-storms“ have become more frequent and larger over the last few decades. This increased hurricane activity means more damage from high winds, storm surges and heavy rains. Even U.S. regions further from the coast have experienced more thunderstorms and rain activity during the summer months than at other times of the year.
All this excess water can cause major issues for homes, office buildings, schools, etc. The most obvious type of damage comes from the force of the water hitting the structure via flood waters, storm surges and torrential rain. The water can remove paint, weaken wood, break seams and much more. In areas prone to flooding or tropical storms, structural designs often incorporate ways to minimize or mitigate such potential damage.
Mold and Mildew
Another type of damage that water can cause is deterioration from mold. Mold is an encompassing term for a classification of fungi and includes thousands of varieties. Some molds can actually be beneficial. In fact, we owe blue cheese, tempeh and penicillin to mold. However, in the context of buildings and homes, mold is more often a source of problems than positivity.
When mold occurs indoors, it can sometimes be referred to as mildew, although mildew is actually a type of mold. Mildew is the flat-growing mold commonly found in bathrooms or other damp areas. It’s easily identified by its grey or white color. It’s also fairly easy to clean by scrubbing with a household cleaner labeled for mildew.
Larger mold infestations are not easily cleaned by the average homeowner. Some molds can give off mycotoxins that can cause serious health effects in some people. “Black mold,” as it’s often called, refers to Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of mold that is rarely found in nature. Black mold usually occurs in manmade structures, and it feeds off cellulose-based products, such as drywall, fiberboard, and paper. Houses, schools, hospitals, etc. are filled with possible food for black mold to flourish.
Why Mold Is a Problem
Part of mold’s function is to decompose what it’s feeding on. In nature, mold helps turn decaying leaves into compost. However, in buildings, that decomposition means the structure becomes uninhabitable. Also, the mycotoxins black mold produces can cause allergic reactions or health problems in some people when exposure is prolonged or profound. Some of the symptoms experienced include sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, and itchy skin. People who have asthma might also experience fever and shortness of breath.2 There have been reports of people experiencing fatigue and even memory loss due to mold exposure, but studies to confirm this are ongoing.
If you encounter mold in your house, office building, school, etc., one of the first things to determine is how widespread the problem is. A small area, such as on a bathtub or tile floor, can be cleaned by anyone using a household cleaner and mechanical removal. Once mold has established itself, however, or the issue has grown to encompass multiple rooms, it will be difficult to get rid of it completely in a single cleaning with simple household cleaners. The microscopic spores travel easily through the air. If they land on a viable food source in a favorable setting, the mold can begin to grow again. This means walls, carpets, rugs, chair covers, paperwork, clothing – all can be the host for the next mold outbreak. Even if the mold spores are killed, the mycotoxins the mold produced can still linger in the area.
Professional remediation companies that handle large mold infestations usually close off the areas where they are working in order to contain the spores. They wear personal protective equipment to guard themselves from the mycotoxins and to avoid carrying potential spores from the exposed area to a clean area. The cleaning chemicals used for mold remediation are professional grade, such as Sporicidin®, and they should only be applied as directed by the label. Due to the potential hazards involved in cleaning black mold, engaging a qualified professional for major clean-up and remediation is usually recommended for pervasive cases.
Prevention is the Best Defense
The very first thing to do in any mold clean-up scenario is to locate and remediate the moisture source. It could be a leaking pipe, a hole in the roof, condensation collecting in an unventilated area, etc. Excess moisture how mild thrives. So, if moisture remains after cleaning, the mold will return. In fact, the best way to “clean up” mold is to avoid it in the first place. Look for areas that excess water collects, such as gutters, air conditioner drip pans, around pipes, etc., and remove the excess moisture regularly or repair the leaks. Also, make sure that rooms or areas with high humidity levels (e.g., bathrooms, locker rooms, basements, etc.) are well ventilated. Because not all excess moisture can be eliminated, make sure to clean and disinfect regularly the areas most likely to harbor mold, making sure to let those areas completely dry after cleaning. With proper planning, cleaning and maintenance, the damage mold can create can be avoided.
For more information about how Contec Professional can help with your facility’s cleaning challenges, please contact us or visit www.ContecProfessional.com.References: 1 https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/ 2 https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm