Occasionally it happens in life that you are vindicated in your beliefs when the tide was against you. We are enjoying that feeling today at Air Allergen, because the American Industrial Hygiene Association has recently released their Position Statement on Mold and Dampness in the Built Environment. We work in an area that is not regulated by the government despite many studies demonstrating the quality of the indoor air and its correlation to respiratory symptoms, and we are always excited when different organizations acknowledge these studies. The AIHA has outlined their opinion on mold and dampness and their guidelines for sampling and remediation, and we couldn’t agree more with their statement. Below is an outline of their statement, and it reads like an Air Allergen report.
American Industrial Hygiene Association: Position Statement on Mold and Dampness in the Built Environment
AIHA is made up of 10,000 members who provide information about the health and safety of people in the workplace and homes. Since 1996, the AIHA has been involved in developing practices for the management of mold and dampness problems in the building environment. This information has been used by officials who develop public policy for indoor environmental quality for non-industrial workplaces and individuals have utilized this information to make more informed choices. As the resources are being used it is important to the AIHA to define and explain their role to all parties.
MOLD & HEALTH
Wetting and drying is small amounts is normal in buildings and pose little risk for occupant health as long as steps are taken to dry the materials as quickly as possible. It is important to distinguish these events from “dampness” which is unwanted and excessive moisture.
“Mold” is a term that refers to a group of fungi that are common on food and wet materials. Most are Ascomycetes that produce a lot of spores; they are normally found on damp building materials easily because they are found in soil and adapted to grow well on a variety of materials.
The AIHA recognizes that well conducted epidemiology studies in several countries have shown that exposures from building dampness and mold have been connected with increased risks for respiratory symptoms, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinosinusitis, bronchitis, and respiratory infections. Studies conducted in the non-industrial workplace found that individuals with asthma or a hypersensitivity pneumonitis had an increased risk for progression to more severe disease if the relationship between illness and exposure to the damp building was not recognized.
Three reviews of the available evidence indicate that elimination of the moisture intrusion and leaks and removal of mold contaminated items reduce mold exposure and respiratory symptoms and new asthma cases. The AIHA, NIOSH, and many state governments, Health Canada and the World Health Organization all concur with this position.
- Owners, occupants, designers, ventilation experts, occupational hygiene professionals, and contractors all need to be involved in the ongoing strategy to control the moisture levels in a building to protect occupants health.
- Since there are no quantitative, health-based microbial exposure guidelines or thresholds the reports need to be written in a manner that they are useful and easily interpreted for a wide audience e.g. physicians and allied professionals, building occupants and decision-makers. Reports must provide: (a) an action plan for repair and rehabilitation of the space, (b) provide a basis for protecting the health of workers and occupants, and sometimes (c) be pertinent to a physician and/or public health official.
- Informed inspection and sampling methods are paramount to gaining a full understanding of the evidence provided. If there is a suspicion of mold but nothing visible then air sampling is useful. When the mold is being removed and there is a question of the extent of the colonization then surface or bulk sampling with the air samples is the recommended method.
- It is not unusual to have concurrent issues in one building. Although mold does comprise a large percentage of problems situations, water and moisture damage can result in the release of gasses from some building materials. A major contributing factor to the low indoor air quality is an outdoor air make up below the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards. In addition to mold-related exposures, the following exposure may be included:
a. Particulate and gas/vapor contaminants associated with improper ventilation, improperly operating utilities, carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulfur, soot, fuel and other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
b. VOCs from construction products
c. Organisms that proliferate under damp conditions: bacteria, amoeba, dust mites, cockroaches and rodents
d. Animal and chemical-based allergens already present and exacerbated by water damage
There are a myriad of potential contaminants that may be present along with mold. There is a need to be aware of the presence of asbestos, radon, or lead-based paint that could be disturbed during the investigation or remediation process. Also, the treatment remedies could introduce new contaminants such as: pesticides, ozone, chlorine dioxide, and other chemicals that can exacerbate existing conditions.
AIHA. (2013). American Industrial Hygiene Association Position Statement on Mold and Dampness in the Built Environment.