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Mold / Fungi Consulting

Mold / Fungi Consulting

Fungi and molds have been here forever, and they’re not all bad. In fact, fungi/molds comprise 25% of the earth’s biomass! However, they can become problematic when they become indoor air pollutants in abnormal levels. And with Americans spending 90% of their time indoors, indoor air pollution can pose more of a concern than outdoor air pollution!

Within a building sealed and controlled by a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system, mold and fungi can amplify if provided food and moisture sources; if they then become airborne, these microscopic fungal spores or other “fungal litter” have the potential to wreak havoc on the health of sensitive inhabitants of a building.

Because people respond differently to mold/fungi exposure, adverse health effects (or the absence of health effects) may be related to an individual’s state of health, type of fungi exposed to, concentration, and length of exposure. Some people may experience temporary symptoms (i.e. feeling better when out of the building), while some may experience long-term or permanent effects.

Nearly all fungi/mold have the potential to be allergens, and immunocompromised individuals may be at the greatest risk. Some fungi have the potential to be toxic and/or are carcinogenic to humans.

To complicate matters, the symptoms associated with mold/fungi exposure are symptoms that could be associated with numerous other issues. And because not everyone will be affected the same way, mold issues in the workplace may not be detected in a timely manner. (That is why more companies are taking a proactive approach to managing Indoor Air Quality… there’s more info on this in Sterling & Associates’ IAQ description. So, given that a mold/fungi issue may be hidden somewhere in the building and may not be visible, what are some of the clues that may indicate employees are possibly suffering the effects of mold/fungi exposure?

Proven health effects associated with fungi exposure include:

  • Allergic-type reactions (eye, nose, and/or throat irritation, sneezing, skin rash, etc.)
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory distress

Other commonly reported symptoms associated with fungi exposure include: 

  • Fever, fatigue, headache, and/or flu-like symptoms
  • Coughing up blood and/or excessive nose bleeds
  • Liver damage, and/or altered immune system function

What do you do if you believe there might be a problem with the air quality in your workplace due to mold/fungi? The best place to begin is with a building investigation by a qualified IAQ Consultant who specializes in mold/fungi. Because there are currently no specific regulatory requirements for fungi/mold, it is critical to work with an expert who has an extensive and proven track record with mold/fungi investigations. The consultant should be cognizant of the field and not have extreme opinions, such as “Mold is not a big deal,” or “Mold can kill… mold is toxic…. Etc.” Sterling & Associates has investigated, developed protocols and successfully managed the remediation of hundreds of small to large-scale projects in a diversity of settings (e.g. new construction, schools, residential, commercial buildings, government facilities, etc.)

Then, what should you expect from the qualified consultant you choose? First, a professional, reputable consultant will make an on-site visit to assess the situation before proposing a plan of action or sampling strategy. Avoid a consultant who prescribes a “cookbook approach,” as all situations are different. The next steps would be determined based on the site visit. For example, a visual inspection of the site might reveal sources of water intrusion that could be the cause of the problem. The plan for the investigation and testing would be developed to characterize potential abnormal microbial conditions. The consultant would determine the appropriate quantity, duration and type of sampling needed. At Sterling & Associates, all investigations/evaluations are conducted by qualified Industrial Hygienists, under supervision of a Board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

Following the investigation and testing, you should expect and receive a professional, scientifically supported, yet easy to understand report with appropriate recommendations. It is critical that one exercises care in selecting the right consultant – there are many newcomers to this field because of the higher profile that mold/fungi issues have raised in recent years. Be sure and ask the consultant for a sample fungi investigation report.

If a mold/fungi issue is detected, a remediation protocol/work plan would be developed, remedial procedures would be performed by a third-party contractor, followed by post-remediation sampling, which would be performed to assess the completeness of the remediation work. Following successful testing results, fungi/mold growth can be controlled through proper moisture management, and routine IAQ checkups (see "IAQ Management"). In addition to the initial investigation and protocol development, Sterling & Associates also specializes in third-party consultation and inspection of on-site fungi remediation, as well as expert testimony and litigation consultation services related to fungi/mold issues.

If you would like more information on fungi/mold and IAQ, please contact Sterling & Associates, Inc. We have been performing high-quality IAQ and mold/fungi investigations, protocol/work plans, third party reviews, expert testimony and litigation support since 1989 in California and beyond. 

Trusted & Recommended for over 28 Years!