ICS Magazine

Editorial Comment: The Growth of Mold as an Industry Concern

February 1, 2002
Back in my newspaper days, there was a storefront building in a community that I covered, which was earmarked for demolition.

There were those in the community who wanted to save the structure, citing its historical significance. In a community with 3,200 people in it, you try to save as many 'old' structures as possible.

When I drove the few miles from my newspaper office to that old building, it was readily apparent why the building was being considered for demolition. Its brick fa¿e was teetering out over the sidewalk; several bricks had in fact fallen the two stories to the walkway below. Along either side the structure the walls were beginning to buckle outward, leaning precariously close to a neighboring buildings.

It seemed its days were numbered.

When I arrived to take a look at the building, I was shown the lower, storefront area. It looked to be in remarkable condition. It was even filled with some old, circa 1950s stoves, both gas and electric. I took a bunch of photographs. The black, round markings on the walls didn't really strike me as anything other than filth. Had I known then what I know now about mold, I might have run screaming from that building.

Instead, however, I followed my guide up to the second floor area. I was flabbergasted. The walls were covered with fungi; huge, mushrooming growths that worked their way ladder-like up the walls. The floor felt spongy and soft. It too was a carpet of mold and fungi.

Here I was, traipsing around in an absolutely, environmentally contaminated structure, happily shooting pictures and stepping around monster mushrooms with not a care in the world, other than getting a really good photo.

This was around 1988 or so, just about the time the asbestos explosion took place in New York State, where I live. Suddenly, everyone wanted to remove asbestos from school walls and ceilings while others advocated complete encapsulation as the way to go. Two schools of thought, and the asbestos remediation professionals -- those with the proper training and credentials -- patiently waited as school boards made their minds up as to which avenue to proceed.

We're seeing a very similar scenario unwinding today. Over the last several years, mold (black mold, Stachybotrys, the fungus associated with Pulmonary Hemosiderosis in infants) has taken a front seat in the concerns of professional cleaners and restorers. We're witnessing the growth of mold as an industry concern.

With the insurance industry up in arms over mold growth in structures (in Texas, Allstate Insurance announced it would set a $5,000 limit for remediation of mold resulting from a covered water loss), cleaners and restoration professionals need to understand the implications, and to take steps to train themselves to deal with it on a professional level.

The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) Board of Directors recently approved the Microbial Remediation and Restoration (MRS) Certification Course, designed to teach mold and sewage remediation techniques to professionals in property management, property restoration, Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) investigation, and related professions. The course emphasis will be placed on teaching mold and sewage remediation techniques to professionals who perform these procedures in the field. The course will be ready in the spring.

The Association of Specialist in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR) are also leaders in the mold arena as they tackle the subject through its Water Loss Institute, Mechanical Systems Hygiene Institute and its National Institute of Disaster Restoration.

To date, a handful of top-down restorative drying schools have sprung up. Led by Chuck DeWald's Emergency Hands-On Drying School, cleaners and restoration professionals have a variety of options to consider as they become proficient in the remediation of mold. Other 'top-down drying' schools include Dri-Eaz Products' DriZone Center for Advanced Restorative Drying, and Bolden Manufacturing's Hydrolab New Technology Water Damage Training and Research Center.

In this issue of ICS Cleaning Specialist we take a look at some of the concerns surrounding mold remediation. It's a subject we'll be visiting regularly in the coming months because it's a subject we believe our readers need to become eminently proficient in.

We'd also like to encourage you to write us about your thoughts on the subject. Tell us what you've come across in your daily operations, and how you dealt with a mold remediation concern. You can write me at my E-mail address, lindsayr@nycap.rr.com, or via traditional mail, Robert P. Lindsay, 741 Sacandaga Road, Scotia, NY 12302.