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S520 and Condition 1

January 1, 2007
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Q: I have read various comments about what S520 describes as a Condition 1 area. Could you please explain how a remediator is to understand this term?



A: I too have read with interest the comments regarding what some believe the S520 says about Condition 1, 2 and 3. I’ll attempt to explain my interpretation of what S520 has described as Condition 1. As I have previously stated, it is important that the reader of the Standard examine the subject in light of the entire document and not out of context.

First of all, S520 does not attempt to define what Condition 1, 2 or 3 is for a specific environment. They are variables and are dependant upon the geographic region and specific conditions in the work area. The definition of Condition 1 is intended to be a general statement. The following are the definitions of the various Conditions used in the document:

Condition 1 (normal fungal ecology): an indoor environment that may have settled spores, fungal fragments or traces of actual growth whose identity, location and quantity are reflective of a normal fungal ecology for a similar indoor environment.

Condition 2 (settled spores): an indoor environment primarily contaminated with settled spores that were dispersed directly or indirectly from a Condition 3 area, and which may have traces of actual growth.

Condition 3 (actual growth): an indoor environment contaminated with the presence of actual mold growth and associated spores. Actual growth includes growth that is active or dormant, visible or hidden.

These definitions are intentionally vague. Some people take issue with the fact that there is not a “normal fungal ecology.” Granted, every environment will have a different microbial make up. The real distinction is between an uncontaminated environment (Condition 1 – normal fungal ecology) and a contaminated environment (Condition 2 or 3).

A contaminated environment is defined in the S520 as:

contaminated (contamination): the presence of indoor mold growth and/or mold spores, whose identity, location and quantity are not reflective of a normal fungal ecology for similar indoor environments, and which may produce adverse health effects, cause damage to materials and/or adversely affect the operation or function of building systems. Therefore the microbial makeup of an uncontaminated area (Condition1) would not be expected to “produce adverse health effects, cause damage to materials and/or adversely affect the operation or function of building systems.”

So how is a remediator to understand and identify Condition 1 areas? It is generally recognized that molds are ubiquitous and that absent a moisture problem, molds are not generally going to be an issue for restorers. When restorers enter a property they are expected to obtain a building history, based upon information provided to them, and then perform an inspection. Once they have completed their inspection a preliminary determination can be made. The S520 offers three possible preliminary determinations:

9.5.1 Summary of Possible Preliminary Determinations

  • Enough information is currently available to determine Condition 1 exists throughout the structure, systems, or area, including contents, and therefore, no remediation activity is required.
  • Enough information is currently available to determine that Condition 2 or 3 exists throughout the affected structure, systems, or area, including contents, and therefore, work plans, protocols and specifications can be developed.
  • There is not enough information available to determine that Condition 2 or 3 exists throughout the affected structure, systems, or area, including contents, and therefore, the remediator should engage or recommend to the customer to engage an IEP to assess the affected structure, systems, or area, including contents.

If there is no history or visible evidence of water intrusion, moisture problems or mold growth, there is no odor indicative of active mold growth, or any other indication of a mold problem then a restorer might conclude that Condition 1 exists and that Condition 2 or 3 does not exist. As the term implies, this is a “preliminary” determination. It would be reasonable for a restorer to proceed as if there was not a mold problem. An indoor environmental professional (IEP) would not be needed.

However, if mold growth is discovered or suspected as a result of the inspection, then a preliminary determination that Condition 2 and 3 might be appropriate. An IEP could then be used to help determine that extent of the contamination. If the entire area, building or system is contaminated, then an IEP would not be necessary.

4.2.1 Assessment

When a preliminary determination indicates that mold contamination (as defined in S520) exists or is likely to exist, an assessment should (as defined in S520) be performed prior to starting remediation. An independent IEP with no business affiliation to the remediator should be used for this purpose…The extent and Condition (1, 2 or 3) to which areas of the structure, systems and contents are potentially mold-contaminated should be assessed and documented.

If there is a need to identify the microbial make up of an environment, the remediator would rely on the services of an IEP to make that assessment. Otherwise, a remediator can assume that Condition 1 exists if there is not an indication of visible mold growth or conditions that would cause concern that there is concealed mold growth.

As far as post-remediation evaluations are concerned, remediated structures and systems can be considered clean when contamination, un-restorable contaminated materials and debris have been removed, and surfaces are visibly free of dust. The term “visibly” can include direct and indirect observation (e.g., using a white or black towel to wipe a surface to observe for cleanliness). Also, remediated areas should be free of malodors associated with microorganisms. At this point, it is probable that the structure and systems have been returned to Condition 1. The evaluation can also include moisture measurements and the use of a laser particle counter. If the visible mold, dust or debris has not been removed, malodors are present or initial cleaning is questionable, repeating the cleaning process may be warranted. Verification of a “clean” environment would then be accomplished by an assessment by an IEP.

The restorer or remediator is responsible only for performing an inspection and making a preliminary determination that the building, contents or system is or is suspected to be contaminated or not contaminated. It is not the remediator’s responsibility to verify or to determine the extent that the building, contents or system is or is not contaminated. If necessary, the verification of the Condition would be accomplished by an IEP. Wet buildings that are presumed to be Condition 1, after having been inspected by a qualified restorer, can then be dried with standard drying procedures.

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