Facilities - Rowan University Environment, Health, and Safety Department
Everyone has dealt with mold in their life. Whether you have had a major flood or cleaned the slime off your bathroom tiles…you have had to deal with mold. I am also sure that you have heard about mold in the news or on the internet. The coverage of this topic is nothing less than overwhelming!
How many times have you heard that the toxic mold will cause untold misery? How many times have you been told that this is all just media hype? How many times have you found mold in your own home and simply cleaned it with tub and tile cleaner? What are you to believe?
We can tell you a couple things for sure. Mold is not the overwhelming, all invasive horror that many internet searches would have you believe. And, all mold is not as innocuous as the weekly growth that is scrubbed from your tub each week. Yes, reality lies somewhere in between the two extremes that tend to get most of the notice.A Dose of Reality:
Not all molds are equal. Some are more prevalent than others, some are more toxic than others, and many are in fact quite beneficial! Life without mold would be very difficult. We would soon be drowning in our own skin flakes and organic debris (yes it is exactly what you think it is!) Without mold, we would not have nature’s little cleaners. Mold breaks down organic waste and returns it to the soil as nutrients to be entered into the food chain once again.
So why the concern? In the field we look for a condition known as the “normal fungal ecology”. This simply means that we are trying to decide if the kinds and amounts of mold we find are normal for this type of building or season. Normal can range from numbers like ten or twenty spores to 10,000 plus spores. (We actually measure airborne mold in spores per cubic meter of air or colony forming units per cubic meter…but that is more info than is needed for this discussion.)Then What is Normal?
That is where the science starts to look more like an art. It is an interpretation. A guess. A subjective judgment based on the percentage of each species, the conditions that we see visually, the conditions that we find out side, and the conditions that we find in areas that are not assumed to be impacted.
Then what is the average person supposed to do? Mold is good…we need it. Mold is toxic; we have to eliminate it. We need to clean it, we need to avoid touching it. Dry it out…use soap and water. I don’t think most people are really getting much good advice to follow.
I have seen many projects where the microbial amplification was so significant that an immediate and aggressive remediation was needed. I have also been on many projects where the response needed to be a good thorough cleaning and some minor changes in habits or equipment.
The first thing to remember is that microbes are everywhere. Mold, fungal growth, mildew, bacteria, whatever label you choose, is a natural and necessary part of life. With this in mind it should be obvious that sterilization is never a goal in any mold remediation project. It is a waste of money and an unattainable target.
Second, we must determine why we have a mold problem in the first place. If you have not determined the reason for the excess amount of moisture, the mold will just return. Along the same line, if we alter the conditions that allow for amplification, we have altered the ability for microbial contamination.
Therefore the most important issue in any microbial project is the removal and control of moisture. In many situations this is all that will be required… drying the building followed by a nice thorough cleaning.
What if There is Visible Mold or Odors in My Building?
The first thing to do is contact the Environmental Safety and Health office. This can be done in many ways. You can fill out a safety concern form found here. You can send an E-mail to the EHS office at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call our office at 856 256-5105. Finally, you can enter a work order in your normal School Dude website.
The second thing you should do is to look for a new water source such as a spill, leak, or broken window. This information will help us isolate the cause and extent of the problem making it easier to quickly address any problems.