Tips & Info on Mold Part 3

March 20, 2003

Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments

Executive Summary Excerpt:

Fungi can cause allergic reactions. The most common symptoms are runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and aggravation of asthma. Fungi are present almost everywhere in indoor and outdoor environments. The most common symptoms of fungal exposure are runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and aggravation of asthma.

Although there is evidence documenting severe health effects of fungi in humans, most of this evidence is derived from ingestion of contaminated foods (i.e., grain and peanut products) or occupational exposures in agricultural settings where inhalation exposures were very high. With the possible exception of remediation to very heavily contaminated indoor environments, such high-level exposures are not expected to occur while performing remedial work.

There have been reports Linking health effects in office workers to offices contaminated with moldy surfaces and in residents of homes contaminated with fungal growth. Symptoms, such as fatigue, respiratory ailments, and eye irritation were typically observed in these cases. Some studies have suggested an association between SC and pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis in infants, generally those less than six months old.

The focus of this guidance document addresses mold contamination of building components (walls, ventilation systems, support beams, etc.) that are chronically moist or water damaged. Occupants should address common household sources of mold, such as mold found in bathroom tubs or between tiles with household cleaners. Moldy food (e.g., breads, fruits, etc.) should be discarded.

Building materials supporting fungal growth must be remediated as rapidly as possible in order to ensure a healthy environment. Repair of the defects that led to water accumulation (or elevated humidity) should be conducted in conjunction with or prior to fungal remediation. Specific methods of assessing and remediating fungal contamination should be based on the extent of visible contamination and underlying damage. The simplest and most expedient remediation that is reasonable, and properly and safely removes fungal contamination, should be used. Remediation and assessment methods are described in this document.

The use of respiratory protection, gloves, and eye protection is recommended. Extensive contamination, particularly if heating, ventilating, air conditioning (HVAC) systems or large occupied spaces are involved, should be assessed by an experienced health and safety professional and remediated by personnel with training and experience handling environmentally contaminated materials. Lesser areas of contamination can usually be assessed and remediated by building maintenance personnel. In order to prevent contamination from recurring, underlying defects causing moisture buildup and water damage must be addressed. Effective communication with building occupants is an essential component of all remedial efforts.

Fungi in buildings may cause or exacerbate symptoms of allergies (such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, and eye irritation), especially in persons who have a history of allergic diseases (such as asthma and rhinitis). Individuals with persistent health problems that appear to be related to fungi or other bioaerosol exposure should see their physicians for a referral to practitioners who are trained in occupational/environmental medicine or related specialties and are knowledgeable about these types of exposures.

Decisions about removing individuals from an affected area must be based on the results of such medical evaluation, and be made on a case-by-case basis. Except in cases of widespread fungal contamination that are Linked to illnesses throughout a building, building-wide evacuation is not indicated.

In summary, prompt remediation of contaminated material and infrastructure repair is the primary response to fungal contamination in buildings. Emphasis should be placed on preventing contamination through proper building and HVAC system maintenance and prompt repair of water damage.

Excerpt from the New York City Department of Health Bureau of Environmental & Occupational Disease Epidemiology's "Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments"

The full document is available at: NY Dept. of Health Web site

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