Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
The key to mold control is moisture control. It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced.
Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds.
· Allergy & Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AAN/MA): (800) 878-4403; www.aanma.org
· American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI): www.aaaai.org
· American Lung Association: 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872); www.lungusa.org
· Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America: (800) 7ASTHMA; www.aafa.org
· Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation fact sheets on mold - www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/burema/gesein/abhose/abhose_50.cfm
· National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: www.niaid.nih.gov
· National Jewish Medical and Research Center: (800) 222-LUNG (5864); www.njc.org
Mold growth may be a problem after flooding. EPA's Fact Sheet: Flood Cleanup: Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems - discusses steps to take when cleaning and repairing a home after flooding. Excess moisture in the home is cause for concern about indoor air quality primarily because it provides breeding conditions for microorganisms. This fact sheet provides tips to avoid creating indoor air quality problems during cleanup. U.S. EPA, EPA Document Number 402-F-93-005, August 1993.
University of Minnesota, Department of Environmental Health & Safety - www.dehs.umn.edu/iaq/flood.html. "Managing Water Infiltration Into Buildings." A Systematized Approach for Remediating Water Problems in Buildings due to Floods, Roof Leaks, Potable Water Leaks, Sewage Backup, Steam Leaks and Groundwater Infiltration. Questions and comments may be directed to: Neil Carlson, M.S., CIH, Department of Environmental Health & Safety, University of Minnesota, or Arif Quraishi, M.E., Vice President, Special Projects, Indoor Environments Division, Institute for Environmental Assessment, Inc.
Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma (See Asthma Section above); molds can also trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.
EPA's publication, Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals, assists health professionals (especially the primary care physician) in diagnosis of patient symptoms that could be related to an indoor air pollution problem. It addresses the health problems that may be caused by contaminants encountered daily in the home and office. Organized according to pollutant or pollutant groups such as environmental tobacco smoke, VOCs, biological pollutants, and sick building syndrome, this booklet lists key signs and symptoms from exposure to these pollutants, provides a diagnostic checklist and quick reference summary, and includes suggestions for remedial action. Also includes references for information contained in each section. This booklet was developed by the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the EPA. EPA Document Reference Number 402-R-94-007, 1994.
Allergic Reactions - excerpted from Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals section on: Animal Dander, Molds, Dust Mites, Other Biologicals.
"A major concern associated with exposure to biological pollutants is allergic reactions, which range from rhinitis, nasal congestion, conjunctival inflammation, and urticaria to asthma. Notable triggers for these diseases are allergens derived from house dust mites; other arthropods, including cockroaches; pets (cats, dogs, birds, rodents); molds; and protein-containing furnishings, including feathers, kapok, etc. In occupational settings, more unusual allergens (e.g., bacterial enzymes, algae) have caused asthma epidemics. Probably most proteins of non-human origin can cause asthma in a subset of any appropriately exposed population."
Consult the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website
· CDC's National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) has a toll-free telephone number for information and FAXs, including a list of publications: NCEH Health Line 1-888-232-6789.
· CDC's "Molds in the Environment" Factsheet
Stachybotrys or Stachybotrys atra (chartarum) and health effects
The EPA publication, "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home", is available here in HTML and PDF formats. This Guide provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth. A printed version will be available soon.
Biological Pollutants in Your Home - This document explains indoor biological pollution, health effects of biological pollutants, and how to control their growth and buildup. One third to one half of all structures have damp conditions that may encourage development of pollutants such as molds and bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions -- including asthma -- and spread infectious diseases. Describes corrective measures for achieving moisture control and cleanliness. This brochure was prepared by the American Lung Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. EPA Document Reference Number 402-F-90-102, January 1990.
Moisture control is the key to mold control, the Moisture Control Section from Biological Pollutants in Your Home follows:
Water in your home can come from many sources. Water can enter your home by leaking or by seeping through basement floors. Showers or even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. As the temperature goes down, the air is able to hold less moisture. This is why, in cold weather, moisture condenses on cold surfaces (for example, drops of water form on the inside of a window). This moisture can encourage biological pollutants to grow.
There are many ways to control moisture in your home:
· Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. (The ground should slope away from the house.) Water in the basement can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks in pipes or around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow.
· Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground. Be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
· Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside (not into the attic). Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
· Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
· Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don't become sources of biological pollutants.
· Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses. Use insulation or storm windows. (A storm window installed on the inside works better than one installed on the outside.) Open doors between rooms (especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms) to increase circulation. Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.
· Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow. Use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often. In certain climates, if carpet is to be installed over a concrete floor, it may be necessary to use a vapor barrier (plastic sheeting) over the concrete and cover that with sub-flooring (insulation covered with plywood) to prevent a moisture problem.
· Moisture problems and their solutions differ from one climate to another. The Northeast is cold and wet; the Southwest is hot and dry; the South is hot and wet; and the Western Mountain states are cold and dry. All of these regions can have moisture problems. For example, evaporative coolers used in the Southwest can encourage the growth of biological pollutants. In other hot regions, the use of air conditioners which cool the air too quickly may prevent the air conditioners from running long enough to remove excess moisture from the air. The types of construction and weatherization for the different climates can lead to different problems and solutions.
Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? - excerpt on duct cleaning and mold follows, please review the entire document for additional information on duct cleaning and mold.
You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:
There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:
· Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
· You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
· If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
· If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.
Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
EPA has a number of resources available, you can start with "Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers" and the "Building Air Quality Action Plan"
How to Identify the Cause of a Mold and Mildew Problem.
Mold and mildew are commonly found on the exterior wall surfaces of corner rooms in heating climate locations. An exposed corner room is likely to be significantly colder than adjoining rooms, so that it has a higher relative humidity (RH) than other rooms at the same water vapor pressure. If mold and mildew growth are found in a corner room, then relative humidity next to the room surfaces is above 70%. However, is the RH above 70% at the surfaces because the room is too cold or because there is too much moisture present (high water vapor pressure)?
The amount of moisture in the room can be estimated by measuring both temperature and RH at the same location and at the same time. Suppose there are two cases. In the first case, assume that the RH is 30% and the temperature is 70oF in the middle of the room. The low RH at that temperature indicates that the water vapor pressure (or absolute humidity) is low. The high surface RH is probably due to room surfaces that are "too cold." Temperature is the dominating factor, and control strategies should involve increasing the temperature at cold room surfaces.
In the second case, assume that the RH is 50% and the temperature is 70oF in the middle of the room. The higher RH at that temperature indicates that the water vapor pressure is high and there is a relatively large amount of moisture in the air. The high surface RH is probably due to air that is "too moist." Humidity is the dominating factor, and control strategies should involve decreasing the moisture content of the indoor air.
The Agency's premier resource on this issue is the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools kit. Our schools-related resources on the web start at: epa.gov/iaq/schools.
The asthma companion piece for the IAQ Tools for Schools kit, titled Managing Asthma in the School Environment (epa.gov/iaq/schools/asthma) has been recently published. This publication has a section entitled Clean Up Mold and Moisture Control at: epa.gov/iaq/schools/asthma/eat-cumcm.htm
Common Moisture Sources Found in Schools
Moisture problems in school buildings can be caused by a variety of conditions, including roof and plumbing leaks, condensation, and excess humidity. Some moisture problems in schools have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the past twenty to thirty years. These changes have resulted in more tightly sealed buildings that may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems in schools are also associated with delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance, due to budget and other constraints. Temporary structures in schools, such as trailers and portable classrooms, have frequently been associated with moisture and mold problems.
Suggestions for Reducing Mold Growth in Schools
Reduce Indoor Humidity:
· Vent showers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside.
· Control humidity levels and dampness by using air conditioners and de-humidifiers.
· Provide adequate ventilation to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30-60%.
· Use exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning in food service areas.
Inspect the building for signs of mold, moisture, leaks, or spills:
· Check for moldy odors.
· Look for water stains or discoloration on the ceiling, walls, floors, and window sills.
· Look around and under sinks for standing water, water stains, or mold.
· Inspect bathrooms for standing water, water stains, or mold.
· Do not let water stand in air conditioning or refrigerator drip pans.
Respond promptly when you see signs of moisture and/or mold, or when leaks or spills occur:
· Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours of occurrence to prevent mold growth.
· Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
· Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely.
· Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
· Check the mechanical room and roof for unsanitary conditions, leaks, or spills.
Prevent moisture condensation:
· Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
Floor and carpet cleaning:
· Remove spots and stains immediately, using the flooring manufacturer’s recommended techniques.
· Use care to prevent excess moisture or cleaning residue accumulation and ensure that cleaned areas are dried quickly.
· In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
Indoor Air Quality Publications and Resources
An Office Building Occupant's Guide to IAQ - epa.gov/iaq/pubs/occupgd.html
Biological Contaminants - epa.gov/iaq/pubs/bio_1.html
IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM) - I-BEAM updates and expands EPA's existing Building Air Quality guidance and is designed to be comprehensive state-of-the-art guidance for managing IAQ in commercial buildings. This guidance was designed to be used by building professionals and others interested in indoor air quality in commercial buildings. I-BEAM contains text, animation/visual, and interactive/calculation components that can be used to perform a number of diverse tasks. epa.gov/iaq/largebldgs/ibeam_page.htm
Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers (BAQ Guide) - epa.gov/iaq/largebldgs/baqtoc.html
Building Air Quality Action Plan (for Commercial Buildings) - epa.gov/iaq/largebldgs/actionpl.html
Floods/Flooding - epa.gov/iaq/pubs/flood.html
Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings - epa.gov/iaq/molds/mold_remediation.html
The Antimicrobials Information Hotline provides answers to questions concerning current antimicrobial issues (disinfectants, fungicides, others) regulated by the pesticide law, rules and regulations. These cover interpretation laws, rules, and regulations, and registration and re-registration of antimicrobial chemicals and products. The Hotline also provide information health & safety issues on registered antimicrobial products, product label and the proper and safe use of these antimicrobial products.
The following list of resources includes information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. The U.S. EPA does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information. Further, the inclusion of such resources is not intended to endorse any views expressed or products or services offered by the author of the reference or the organization operating the service on which the reference is maintained.
American College of Occupational
and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM)
(847) 818-1800 www.acoemprivatepractice.com
Referrals to physicians who have experience with environmental exposures.
American Conference of
Governmental Industrial Hygienists, Inc. (ACGIH)
(513) 742-2020 www.acgih.org
Occupational and environmental health and safety information
American Industrial Hygiene
(703) 849-8888 www.aiha.org
Information on industrial hygiene and indoor air quality issues including mold hazards and legal issues. See also their "Facts About Mold: A Glossary" and General Mold Information
American Society of Heating,
Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE)
(800) 527-4723 www.ashrae.org
Information on engineering issues and indoor air quality
Association of Occupational and
Environmental Clinics (AOEC)
(202) 347-4976 www.aoec.org
Referrals to clinics with physicians who have experience with environmental exposures, including exposure to mold; maintains a database of occupational and environmental cases
of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR)
(800) 272-7012 www.ascr.org
Disaster recovery, water and fire damage, emergency tips, referrals to professionals
Asthma and Allergic Diseases
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA)
American Lung Association (ALA)
Asthma and Allergy Network/Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc. (AAN*MA)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
Canada Mortgage and Housing
(613) 748-2003 [International]
Several documents on mold-related topics available and a discussion on mold at - http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/imquaf/hehosu/hoast/hoast_001.cfm including
Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)
Carpet maintenance, restoration guidelines for water-damaged carpet, other carpet-related issues
Centers for Disease Control and
Information on health-related topics including asthma, molds in the environment, and occupational health
CDC's National Center for
Environmental Health (NCEH) (888) 232-6789
Mold page - http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/mold/
"Questions and answers on Stachybotrys chartarum and other molds" - www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/mold/stachy.htm
U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development, Office of Native American Programs - www.codetalk.fed.us/
Mold Prevention and Detection: A Guide for Housing Authorities in Indian Country - www.codetalk.fed.us/MoldDetection.pdf
Mold and Mildew Taking Control - www.codetalk.fed.us/Mold_and_Mildew_Information_Taking_Control.htm
Energy and Environmental Building
Information on energy-efficient and environmentally responsible buildings, humidity/moisture control/vapor barriers
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
University of Minnesota, Department of Environmental Health & Safety
University of Wisconsin-Extension, The Disaster Network
Health Canada, Health Protection
Branch, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, Office of Biosafety
Material Safety Data Sheets with health and safety information on infectious microorganisms, including Aspergillus and other molds and airborne biologicals
Institute of Inspection, Cleaning
and Restoration Certification (IICRC)
Information on and standards for the inspection, cleaning, and restoration industry
International Sanitary Supply
Education and training on cleaning and maintenance
International Society of Cleaning
(800) WHY-ISCT (800-949-4728)
Information on cleaning, such as a stain removal guide for carpets
Material Safety Data Sheets
(MSDSs) - Cornell University
MSDSs contain information on chemicals or compounds including topics such as health effects, first aid and protective equipment for people who work with or handle these chemicals
MidAtlantic Environmental Hygiene
Resource Center (MEHRC)
Indoor environmental quality training on topics such as mold remediation
National Air Duct Cleaners
Duct cleaning information
National Association of the
Remodeling Industry (NARI)
Consumer information on remodeling, including help finding a professional remodeling contractor
National Institute of Building
Information on building regulations, science, and technology
National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
(800) 35-NIOSH (800-356-4674)
Health and safety information with a workplace orientation
Telecommunications Network (NPTN)
Information on pesticides/antimicrobial chemicals, including safety and disposal information
New York Department of
Health, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology
Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments
This document revises and
expands the original guidelines to include all fungi (mold). It is based both
review of the literature regarding fungi and on comments obtained by a review panel consisting of experts in the fields of microbiology and health sciences. It is intended for use by building engineers and management, but is available for general distribution to anyone concerned about fungal contamination, such as environmental consultants, health professionals, or the general public.
Occupational Safety & Health
(800) 321-OSHA (800-321-6742)
OSHA Mold page - www.osha.gov/SLTC/molds/
Information on worker safety, including topics such as respirator use and safety in the workplace
Sheet Metal & Air
Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA)
Technical information on topics such as air conditioning and air ducts
Smithsonian Center for Materials
Research and Education (SCMRE)
Guidelines for caring for and preserving furniture and wooden objects, paper-based materials; preservation studies
University of Michigan Herbarium
Specimen-based information on fungi; information on fungal ecology
University of Tulsa Indoor Air
Courses, classes, and continuing education on indoor air quality
Water Loss Institute, Association
of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration
(800) 272-7012 or (410) 729-9900
Information on water and sewage damage restoration
These indoor air quality publications are also available through the IAQ INFO Clearinghouse.
P.O. Box 37133, Washington, DC 20013-7133
or, you can order these publications directly via EPA's National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) (http://www.epa.gov/ncepihom/). web site. Your publication requests can also be mailed, called or faxed directly to:
U.S. Environmental Protection
National Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)
P.O. Box 42419
Cincinnati, OH 42419
1-800-490-9198/(513) 489-8695 (fax)
Please use the EPA Document Number when ordering from NSCEP or from IAQ INFO.