Mold and the Carpet Cleaning Professional

March 10, 2003
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Don't let mold derail your business


It is no secret that the hottest word in restoration today is mold. But mold has been around for thousands of years; why is it just now becoming such a problem?

I believe the fuse that caused mold to “blow up” was lit by a certain case in Dripping Springs, Texas. Media coverage brought it to the front page of newspapers and the evening news, but for the uninitiated, a situation existed in a new home that resulted in an extensive mold growth. The result? The home was demolished, the structural remains were incinerated and a $30 million-plus settlement was made (the settlement was later reduced, but the court fight continues).

Mold has been with us and recognized as a health hazard for so long that “mold remediation” instructions can be found in the Old Testament. Leviticus 14 details steps to take and, curiously enough, the remediation procedures found there closely parallel modern protocols, including the quarantine of the affected structure, inspection of the premises by an expert and attempts to correct the conditions, as well as the inspection and testing of structures for continued presence of mold. If mold is still present after remediation, further measures for correction are taken. If all attempts at correction fail, the structure is demolished and remains are handled as hazardous waste.

Modern remediation steps are spelled out in Environmental Protection Agency documents, in New York City guidelines and will soon be addressed in standards being developed by Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Remember, extensive training should be completed before tackling any mold remediation project; the protection of workers and occupants is priority one.

Uncontrolled demolition may result in dispersal of mold spores through areas of the structure not affected by the original bloom of mold. This can result in the remediation/containment contractor being held responsible for additional cleanup and the accompanying costs. Two situations involving spreading of mold spores come to mind. In one, the water-damage restoration contractor was held responsible for contaminating an entire two-bedroom home by uncontrolled demolition, resulting in his being handed a bill for more than $500,000. The second case concerned a carpet vendor who was called to replace a residential carpet flooded by a broken pipe. The carpet developed mold, but was allowed to dry. The vendor sent out a crew to remove the now-dry carpet and pad. In removing carpet and pad from the home, the crew used no containment procedures; the vendor subsequently received a bill from the insurance carrier for about $50,000 for remediation of the building. Get the picture?

Attempting mold remediation without extensive training and certification may result in financial suicide and can lead to health problems for the individuals involved. A mold remediation contractor ended up in the hospital after entering a mold-contaminated home without respiratory protection. A co-worker, sensitized to mold spores from having gone through a similar situation, now carries two syringes at all times just in case he encounters mold and experiences the health problems, including excessive swelling of the face and throat that leads to breathing difficulties, which, if left untreated, could suffocate him.

Now you’re asking yourself, what do I do if I encounter mold on a cleaning job? You know the scenario: It is not a major water loss, but leakage at a sliding door or at a wall-mounted air conditioner that has existed for some time, and has gone from wet to dry many times. And what if it is involves a natural fiber such as jute, cotton or wool?

The remediation contractors I asked this question answered, almost as one, with the following: Run. Do not disturb the mold or the installation. Extraction of the affected areas with a portable machine will most assuredly distribute the mold spores to areas beyond the initially involved areas. A truckmount will at least move the mold spores out of the structure and into the ambient outside air where it can dissipate. Your best bet may be to recommend that your customer contract a certified indoor environmental hygienist to determine the extent of the contamination by collecting air- or surface samples for lab testing. And remember, it is important to document the conditions as they are before you perform any work in or near the affected areas.

Consider all of these facts before you try to help your “poor unfortunate customer.” Just another scenario to complicate our lives, one more pothole in the road to success. Listen up! Until next month, see ya!

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