By Roxanne Turnbloom
Managing mold issues in commercial spaces is an ongoing challenge. Mold spores are present in all environments, indoors as well as outdoors. The spores are tiny, invisible to the naked eye, they float through the air and cling to footwear and clothing to move inside and throughout buildings.
Dry mold spores are relatively benign unless high airborne quantities exist. Mold colonies slowly disintegrate the items they infest threatening the integrity of structures and contents. Spores activate, and mold proliferates when three circumstances exist.
- Nutrients are available.
- Temperatures are appropriate.
- Moisture is present.
All of these conditions exist in at least some areas of the typical commercial building. Molds ingest carbon-based materials such as paper, wood, and organic fibers. Colonies start and sustain growth even in a thin film of organic substance atop inorganic surfaces like metal or tile. Soap or bodily residues like hairs, skin oils or cells nourish mold, one of the reasons it multiplies in locker rooms and restrooms. Drywall, wall coverings, wood trim, carpeting, carpet padding, and upholstery all provide the nourishment mold needs. Molds do not need light but do need oxygen, growing on suitable surfaces in hidden and inaccessible spaces throughout a commercial structure.
More than 100,000 types of mold have been identified, and many of them grow best at the same temperatures preferred by humans. Others do well at readings much colder or hotter. A wide range of commercial spaces including freezers, refrigerators, manufacturing floors, offices, lobbies, and more are areas different molds find compatible.
Molds must have moisture to flourish. Commercial buildings possess a vast number of ways water infiltrates to activate microbial growth. Obvious pathways are leaky roofs, damaged flashing, failed plumbing, and appliance or equipment malfunctions that spill water inside the building. Less expected moisture sources include flooding, condensation, steam, and ambient humidity. Relative humidities of 70 percent or higher in the air or porous cellulose materials offer spores the chance to multiply and colonies to bloom throughout the commercial spaces.
Mold growth in a commercial space or school has its own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protocol for proper remediation. Professional mold remediators follow this process to assure safe treatment and successful abatement of the microbial growth.
- Plan the remediation, so all steps are taken.
- Locate, eliminate, or repair all moisture breaches.
- Turn off HVAC systems to avoid the spread of contaminants during remediation.
- Search for hidden mold.
- Contain all mold, including using barriers and negative pressure air scrubbers for larger infestations.
- Remove the mold, including compromised porous materials and surfaces that cannot be disinfected.
- Dispose of mold and moldy materials per local regulations.
- Clean and sanitize the affected areas.
- Monitor humidity levels in the air, within, and on surfaces, reducing these levels to 30 to 50 percent at most, a moisture measurement that usually does not support mold growth.
- Going forward, eliminate moisture to prevent mold from returning.
Mold growth and damage in your commercial buildings need the skills of professional mold remediation specialists. Find a reputable restoration firm experienced with mold abatement to return your business infrastructure to its pre-microbial infestation status.
To learn more about Colorado Springs visit https://coloradosprings.gov/.