TOXIC BLACK MOLD CONTAMINATION AND TYPES OF MOLD TESTING
Molds are microorganisms that use organic substrates as nutrient sources in the presence of moisture. Their spores germinate, grow, and spread when indoor moisture is uncontrolled through chronic water damage (intrusion or condensation), flooding, or simple neglect (lack of routine maintenance, dehumidification, or cleaning). Under such circumstances, molds can grow and produce massive numbers of spores on a variety of surfaces such as wood, drywall, foundation surfaces and paint.
Indoor environments normally contain some airborne and settled background fungal spores and may occasionally cause small, residual areas of fungal growth. When excessive moisture or water is introduced indoors, spores produced by many of the common environmental molds that are typically present, such as Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium will germinate, grow and multiply on building materials, as well as negatively impact the indoor air quality of an effected and surrounding areas.
Indoor toxic mold growth can influence air quality because both spores and mycelial fragments are dispersed into the air and can be inhaled. Their penetration into the bronchial tree depends on their size. The smaller particles penetrate deeper into the lungs.
More recently, there is increased recognition that exposure to indoor mold and dampness may contribute to the development of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections, as well as eczema.
The level of risk depends on the extent of mold growth, regardless of the species, how long it has been present, and the susceptibility and overall health of the individuals exposed. Some people are considered to be at greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects from mold exposure, such as infants, children, seniors, pregnant people, those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, and immunocompromised individuals.
Therefore, Health Canada recommends controlling humidity and diligently repairing any water damage in residences and commercial buildings in order to prevent toxic mold growth, and to thoroughly clean any visible or concealed mold growing indoors. These recommendations apply regardless of the mold species found to be growing in the building.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has also consistently enforced the removal of all mold growth from buildings regardless of mold genus or species.
People living and working in buildings with mold and damp conditions are more likely than others to have eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing and phlegm build-up, wheezing and shortness of breath; and/or, worsening of asthma symptoms.
Mold growth can be hidden. It can grow behind walls or above ceiling tiles, so it is important to check for the presence of toxic mold growth anywhere that is damp, and especially where water damage is known to have occurred. Immediate action is important when dealing with moisture issues. Toxic mold can begin to grow in an area with excessive moisture in as little as 48 hours.
It is always important to determine the extent of the mold problem to help decide on the path forward for cleanup. The following Health Canada criteria can be used as a decision chart to facilitate categorization of a toxic mold growth area by size and by the most appropriate path forward for remediation, as well as whether professional assistance is required with remediation efforts.
An area of mold growth is considered small if it covers one square metre or less. There should be no more than three patches of mold, with the total combined area staying within one square metre. Many small patches of mold in one area or throughout the home or building can be a sign of a larger moisture issue that needs to be investigated and addressed immediately. If ignored, small mold areas may become larger over time, so it is important to address them immediately. A small amount of mold may be cleaned up using proper procedures and protective equipment.
An area of mold growth is considered medium if there are more than three patches of mold (each patch smaller than one square metre), but the total combined area is less than three square metres. In this case, while assessment by a qualified professional is recommended, in most cases a medium amount of mold may be cleaned up using proper procedures and protective equipment without involving a professional.
Finally, an area of mold is considered large if a single patch of mold is larger than three square metres. Immediate action and an assessment by a professional is required to determine the cause of the extensive mold growth and develop/implement a remediation plan.
Health Canada recommends that a qualified professional assess large areas of mold.