An Overview of Mold (There s Fungus Among Us) Prepared by Curt Speaker PSU Environmental Health and Safety May 2003

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1 An Overview of Mold (There s Fungus Among Us) Prepared by Curt Speaker PSU Environmental Health and Safety May 2003

2 Mold in History One of the earliest references to mold and how to deal with it is found in: The Bible Leviticus 14:33-53

3 Mold Simple, plant-like organisms that exist everywhere in nature They are natures recyclers; they break down complex materials into simpler compounds Not all molds are bad! They are responsible for some cheeses, fermented beverages and antibiotics (i.e., Penicillin)

4 Mold Structure

5 More on Mold To survive, mold needs moisture, an organic substrate to use as food, and lack of sunlight (generally) The presence of mold inside a building does not signify a health hazard (remember, mold is everywhere) Left unchecked, mold will grow and proliferate very quickly

6 Water Incursion The unwanted entry of moisture into an indoor environment Possible causes: leaks from roof, around window frames or foundations plumbing leaks HVAC system malfunctions sprinkler activation condensation

7 Mold and Water Mold cannot live without water (but spores can) Mold growth with typically begin within 48 hours of a water incursion incident Therefore, prompt attention to water incursion is critical! Mold can be like an iceberg - only a small portion of it is visible

8 Water Incursion through Ceiling

9 Water Incursion through Wall

10 Mold caused by Roof Leak

11 Mold on Ceiling

12 Mold on Wall

13 Mold on Carpet Backing

14 Mold in Ductwork

15 An Extreme Case!

16 Health Effects of Mold Molds produce three major health effects allergic reactions infection toxicity Many physicians do not believe that the levels of mold found in indoor environments can adversely effect human health (dose versus response)

17 Allergic Reactions Allergic Asthma Allergic Rhinitis (nasal inflammation) Watery Eyes Persons with these reactions are are also likely to have allergic reactions to other common allergens such as animal dander, dust mites, wood, tree and grass pollens Effects ~5% of the population

18 Infection Serious fungal infections effect a very small number of people, generally those who are severely immunocompromised Superficial fungal infections, such as athlete s foot and toenail fungus are extremely common and are not serious health threats

19 Mold Toxins (Mycotoxins) Mycotoxins are by-products of mold growth that are irritants or allergens in humans They are not volatile, do not evaporate, and do not migrate through walls, floors or ceilings They are distinct and different from MVOCs with are responsible for musty, disagreeable odors associated with molds

20 More on Mycotoxins Mycotoxins, if eaten, can cause serious poisoning in humans and animals The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were likely caused by a mycotoxin (LSD caused by ergot, a mold of rye grain) To effect humans, mycotoxins must be present, there must be a exposure pathway, and their must be a sufficient dose

21 Stachybotrys chartarum Also know as black mold, toxic mold or fatal fungus or just stachy Was originally implicated in pulmonary hemorrhaging in infants, but this was disproven

22 It is NOT this!!!

23 Other Health Effects Possibly Associated with Mold Headache Fatigue Dizziness Nausea Skin Rashes CNS Effects, especially Cognitive Impairment

24 The Melinda Ballard Case - a toxic mold/legal landmark Successful PR executive purchased a 22 room, 11,000 sq. ft. mansion in Dripping Springs, Texas in 1997 Minor (but undetected) plumbing leak resulted in building-wide contamination with Stachybotrys Husband, wife and child became sensitized Case settled for $32,000,000 (later reduced to $4,000,000)

25 So, What About Testing? Testing should never be the first step in evaluating a mold problem Interpretation of results difficult No official standards for airborne mold >1000 cfu/m 3 or >2X outdoor concentration Types of mold found indoors should not differ significantly from outdoors Airborne levels do not always correlate to amounts of mold in area

26 Other Pitfalls Undetected water incursion can cause mold growth behind walls, which cannot be readily seen or dealt with Water incursion within ductwork is a serious problem (often unseen) Types of mold and concentrations of mold that may cause no health effects in most people may be irritating to sensitive individuals

27 PSU Testing Equipment Biotest RCS Centrifugal Air Sampler Draws known volume of air through device Uses different types of agar for bacteria & molds Easy to use, practical

28 Other Tools Snake Eye Remote Visual Inspection Tool Capable of looking for mold behind walls, above ceilings, etc. Requires only a 1.25 access hole for camera High quality video images

29 Mold Abatement Address the source of the water incursion before beginning clean up of mold Porous surfaces very difficult to clean Removal often the only option for ceiling tiles, drywall, carpeting Soap and water is usually sufficient, except for sewage incursion, which requires disinfection

30 Large Scale Abatement Abatement of large areas of mold damage requires many of the same work practices used for asbestos (area isolation, wet cleaning methods, directional air flow with HEPA filtration)

31 PSU Water Incursion Policy Being developed to ensure that all units (Academic, HFS, Auxiliary Services, CES) deal with water incursion the same way Establishes criteria for evaluating water damage and remediation Taken from HMC policy and other documents Will be distributed to Safety Council when completed

32 Conclusions Water incursion must be dealt with promptly and correctly to prevent mold from becoming a problem Known health effects of mold allergic reactions infection (rare) toxicity The jury is still out on other health effects

33 Conclusions Do not believe the popular media reports regarding toxic mold, black mold, etc. Testing is of some value, but not by itself EHS has the specialized equipment needed to do testing Large scale abatement of mold must be done like asbestos removal Water Incursion Policy in the works

34 References A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002 Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2002 Water Incursion Check List Procedures, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, College of Medicine, 2001

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