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Mold, Housing & Wood

By Coreen Robbins, Ph.D., CIH and Jeff Morrell, Ph.D.

Western Wood Products Association

. . MD. Sudakin. Ore. . . . . . . Reston. . . . . . . . . . . . . at the request of Western Wood Coreen Robbins. . . Baltimore. . . . . . . Ph... . . . . . . C IH President. . . . . . . . Md. . . . 9 Mark L. . . 6 What are the possible health effects of molds? . . and control of Why does mold grow on wood? . . . . . 6 Published 2001 Revised January 2006 Where is mold found in buildings? . human and environmental toxicology and authors. . . . . . WWPA and the authors assume no risk assessment. . Va. . .. . . . . and the American Phytopathological Society. . .. . 3 from Pennsylvania State University and a BS in forest biology Why is there concern about mold in homes? . can it come back? . . . . Dr. . . . Summary .D. . . . . .D. He holds a Ph. . . .. . Wash. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MS. . . . . . .. Ph. . . MS. . Mold. . Corvallis. . . . . is a professor in the Department of Wood Science and Engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis. . . . . . . . . . . Jeff Morrell. . . . . . .D. . . . . . . . . . .. . . Nelson. CIH is the senior industrial Products Association in order to address some hygienist with Veritox. She is a failure to remove mold. in forest pathology and TABLE OF CONTENTS mycology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forests. 10 Assistant Professor. . . Inc. 4 How are molds identified? . Dept. . Ph. . . including any liability for damages arising out of and health from The Johns Hopkins University. .. . . . Dr. a privately owned international common questions about mold and wood. . . . . . .. . . 8 Ed Light. . . from Stachybotrys chartarum: The Toxic Indoor Mold. . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Abbey Lane Laboratory LLC. . . . . .. an MS in plant pathology Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 5. C IH Are there mold regulations? . . . . . . Ore. . . . Certified Industrial Hygienist and is affiliated with the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. 7 the following industry and academic professionals: How can mold on lumber be prevented? . . . . . . . not WWPA. . . Philomath. . . . 4 on fungi colonizing wood and their effects on properties. . . When should mold be removed? . . . Feb. . . . . .D. . . What types of molds are found on wood? . . Ore. . Building Dynamics LLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . providing services in conclusions contained in the paper represent the work of the industrial hygiene. bio- logical and chemical control of fungal stain. Nealley.. . . . .. . . . Morrell has conducted research What is mold? . . . . . . . .D. .. Housing and Wood Authors This paper was prepared by Coreen Robbins.. . . 9 Daniel L. . .D. . . . . .. . 4 wood decay in service. . 9 Environmental Profiles. . 5 What are “toxic molds”? . . Robbins holds a Ph. . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Do mold spores move from inside walls or floors The authors gratefully acknowledge review of the original paper by into living spaces? . APSnet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 8 Steven E. . . . . . . . . MPH Bibliography . . . CIH and Jeff Morrell. . . . . The findings and corporation based in Redmond. . Ph. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . Ph. . .D. . . . . . . . . 5 What is Stachybotrys? . . . . . Once I clean the mold. in environmental responsibility for any action or inaction based on the content health science and a master’s degree in occupational safety of this paper. . . .. . . . . . . . . Oregon State University. . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .. . Can I clean the mold from the wood? . courtesy of Berlin D. . 2001. . .D. 3 from Syracuse University. Ph. ... . of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology. .. Photographs. . . Carpenter. . . © WWPA 2006 2 . .

the American College of Occupational and mold. 1998). wheeze. mucous membrane irritation syndrome. logic and other immune disease). 2000). The authors of these an outside expert panel both refuted the initial findings. to allergic health 10 cases of acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage/hemo. specifically in persons who worked in (also known as Stachybotrys atra). cough. 2002) have similarly concluded grow equally well on inorganic materials such as concrete. mold can become established on wood. fatigue. fatigue and cough. as reported in questionnaires study and its data and conclusions. Mold growth in homes has not necessarily increased in airflow obstruction. sensation. infants. there is an association between certain symptoms (upper res- The purpose of this document is to provide information to piratory (nasal and throat) tract symptoms. 2004). Centers for Disease Control (CDC) IOM report in that the health effects from mold in indoor envi- (CDC. Croft. 1997). 1998.” (CDC. there were ronments are limited. Robbins. the revised findings received little coverage. upon closer examination of the headache. 1996. indoor environments. when these reports were exam- that Stachybotrys caused the health problems in these ined closely. In fact. mold exposure in indoor environments. growth of mold. Comprehensive There are a host of materials in and around the home that. They may Medical Association (TMA. or sudden. some of whom died. wood panels. In the years since the CDC revised the findings of this sent there is growing public concern about the potential study. Hodgson. office buildings. that an association has not been shown to exist between the glass or plastics that may have nutrients on the surface. 2000a). siderosis (AIPH) in infants. the underlying problems such as ronments. asthma development. they were found to have many limitations and infants (CDC. that was Two other articles have influenced the concern about mold thought to be linked to the mold Stachybotrys chartarum and health problems. cer. Molds can grow on organic materials such as drywall Environmental Medicine (ACOEM. 1987. The Institute did find sufficient evidence to conclude that including lumber. In all presence of mold or other agents in damp indoor spaces and cases. The Institute also found that the evidence is not sufficient to show even an association between the presence of mold or other agents in damp indoor environments and any other Why is there concern about mold in homes? symptom (symptoms examined included shortness of breath. 1998. lower Much of the recent concern about mold was aroused after respiratory illness in otherwise healthy adults. However. this document will also discuss mold-related "associated with" does not mean "caused by. and rheumato- several articles on the subject appeared in scientific journals. but new court cases involving mold." health concerns associated with mold exposure.S. and asth- types of damage caused by mold and steps that may be ma symptoms in sensitized persons) and mold or damp taken to prevent. the presence of mold or other agents in damp indoor envi- in all cases involving mold. publicized. (Stachybotrys atra) and particular health symptoms. 1985) and references to mold in buildings suggest that molds 2000b) have always been present in human environments. gastrointestinal tific research have increased public awareness of the issue. there are some widely result. In situations with adequate conclude that any adverse health outcomes are caused by moisture. At pre. but the Institute makes it clear that Additionally. there has been further research and investigation to health effects of mold in homes and structures that has been determine what adverse human health effects may result from heightened by media reports and litigation.Introduction that proves an association between Stachybotrys chartarum Fungi evolved over 400 million years ago (Sherwood-Pike. skin symptoms. hypersen- lumber users regarding the origins of mold growth on wood. As a In addition to the above studies. 2002) and the Texas paper. tract problems. One of the most widely publicized articles was written by The position from the ACOEM generally agrees with the researchers from the U. These studies claimed to show a causal link This article caused great concern and spurred reactions between working in the buildings and symptoms such as across the country. the presence of moisture is a critical condition for the AIPH. remove and control mold growth. However. However. Both studies concluded that mycotoxins were the root of the panels determined there was no reliable scientific evidence health symptoms. inhalation fevers. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. a CDC expert panel and (Johanning. They reported that in 1993. 1994. flooding or water leaks affect many materials in the structure. reviews of scientific literature by the Institute of Medicine under proper conditions. there continues to be the misperception that there is cited anecdotal reports of acute. health effects scientific proof and CDC support for the idea that attributed to mycotoxins (toxins produced by molds) after Stachybotrys chartarum causes serious health problems in exposure to extremely moldy conditions (Brinton. lumber and carpet backing. While the initial report of the CDC research was widely Page. effects in sensitive persons. can become breeding grounds for (IOM. the CDC noted: “At present there is no test 3 . recent years. sitivity pneumonitis in susceptible persons. can- alistic media coverage and publication of questionable scien. the data did not support these conclusions (Fung. in most instances. neuropsychiatric symptoms. the Institute of Medicine did not Lumber is an organic material. In its extensive analysis.

color and the increased ability to absorb liquids (Lindgren. Wood also contains a variety of other materials. while a few natural matter. plumbing leaks or seeping from outdoor water sources. 1999). Even after a tree is har- trations of mold spores but recovered after they were vested. When these conditions are met.000 mold species are common in the as they grow on the wood surface. but the primary changes are in ents and where the moisture. Kaarik. 2000). of fungi within six weeks after sawing (Kang. Fungi are a part of that Douglas fir sapwood was colonized by over 45 species nature's recycling system and play an important role in break. settle on the surface and colonize the wood. They can grow 4 . Spore levels may vary seasonally. suitable temperature freshly exposed wood. wood and other these fungi are common to many other materials. Page. (Hawksworth. Decay fungi attack beyond the breathe is a virtual jungle of fungal spores. Mold is the common name for many types of micro fungi. 1993). Stain fungi discolor the wood more deeply and are not as Conservatively. 1970. 1986. face. 2004. These fungi may produce some discoloration in the world.S. such as what occurs with Wood is a biological material consisting primarily of cellu. lignin and hemicellulose. were specialized and only grow on wood. 2001. 1952). are essential for a variety of functions. Also. Di Paolo. 1992). Emanuel. Stain fungi darken other fungi make up some 25 percent of the earth's biomass. the initial food source for mold fungi. IOM. food from the organic materials they grow on and the ability 1980). Other symptoms. Spores of most species are produced on more complex fruiting structures that can produce billions of spores. These three structural polymers make up 90 to 99 percent of the wood mass and give wood Many of the molds and other fungi that grow on wood are its unique properties that make it an excellent structural found on almost any material containing sugars or starches. molds require food. Molds and stain fungi are the most rapid colonizers of In order to grow. memory loss Mold fungi are rarely present inside a living tree because and joint pain. A recent study at Oregon State University revealed to reproduce by way of minute spores. In all rials are present in the storage tissues of the living tree and of them. the food Robbins. the bark provides an excellent barrier against fungal and there is no credible evidence in the medical and scientific lit. starches and other compounds—are exposed when logs are processed into lumber. Both fungi discolor the wood and are (ideally between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit). Malmberg. are attributed by some to molds. Under the proper conditions. However. sources for mold—the stored sugars. Fungi are a diverse What types of molds are found on wood? group of organisms within a wide range of species that include mushrooms. 2000). black and an array of other col- painted surfaces if a microscopic layer of organic nutrients is ors. 1975. starches. leaves. green. 1994. Decayed wood may be discolored. oxygen and almost indistinguishable from each other to the moisture (Zabel. Dowding. oxygen and temperature condi. We routinely surface of the wood into the structural polymers of the fiber. concrete or can be yellow. the individuals were likely exposed to high concen. Stained wood can experience minor eventually die. such as nervous disorders. but the primary changes U. Such nutrients can be found in household dust and the wood surface. 1935. these protective erature that supports the link between molds and these effects decline and the many spores present in the air can health problems (ACOEM. losses in physical properties. The discoloration seen with molds is usually confined to available. The air we exposed to chronic moisture.000 species of mold exist easily removed. bracket fungi. orange. will grow and reproduce by creating spores that are released Molds are typically characterized as fungi that discolor the into the air. Why does mold grow on wood? Generally. but and outdoors. including plant leaves. Once the tree is harvested. these materials remain in the wood and can provide removed from exposure. It is estimated that molds and occur as they grow deeper into the wood. decay fungi invade wood in structures after pro- longed exposure to moisture. A select few land on surfaces containing nutri. Mold and mold spores are everywhere around us and Decay fungi may also grow when wood products are have always been a part of our environment. bread and other foods. more than 100. Most of ing down materials such as plants. wood may be colonized by a Distinguishing features of fungi are the need to extract their variety of fungi (Davidson. soil particles. material (Panshin. as they age. tions are right for growth. but some spores of the decay fungus are not typically found on the sur- spores are always present. metal. lose. including There is little information in these reports to relate the health sugars. These mate- effects to mycotoxins and no measurement of exposure. molds and mildew. 1980). proteins. What is mold? Molds are part of the fungi kingdom. At least 1. This darkening creates what is called “blue stain” Most mold spores land on places unsuitable for growth and in the wood (Zink. 1988). lipids and fatty acids. mold naked eye. Molds are very adaptable and can grow even on wood surface through production of pigmented spores that damp inorganic materials such as glass. 2002. encounter mold spores as part of everyday life both indoors reducing its strength. insect attack.

that arbitrarily have been cited as "toxic molds" include ly. Fungi growing examination. In the absence Mycotoxins are contained in the spore itself and also may be of visible mold growth. negative results were obtained even with enhanced growth when the indoor construction and finishing materials were In general. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites. it is ists have training in exposure assessment and methods of nearly impossible to identify the fungi present on wood with controlling exposures to molds and other dusts. which can lead to an increase in potential risk of effects from the amount of airborne mold moisture or paint uptake (Lindgren. 1986). providing mycotoxin-producing strains of Aspergillus flavus and A. then place these on a nutrient media. Mycotoxins are produced only when certain environ- important aspect in using these kits. This means that So-called “mold test kits” should be used with caution and the mold does not need to produce mycotoxins to grow or the results interpreted carefully since sampling accuracy is an survive. many homeowners ask to have molds identi. spores found (Terr. have mold spore levels similar to or less than outdoors. Another approach is to cut small pieces from the wood ence and successful completion of a comprehensive one-day surface. 1952). Individuals who inspect and test homes for mold should How are molds identified? have the appropriate education and experience. A certified industrial hygienist (CIH) with experience in sampling for Mycology is the scientific study of fungi. In most cases. Eliminating the moisture source and cleaning the Aspergillus. they can produce mycotoxins. Air sample results only tell presence of mycotoxins (Ren. These fungi have evolved to rapidly colonize a substrate The most important limitation of air sampling is that there and utilize the stored sugars as quickly as possible. Those fied to species. normal indoor environments are expected to supplemented with carbon and nitrogen (Tuomi. then mounting the tape on a microscope of four years of professional level-1 industrial hygiene experi- slide. Air sampling can be expensive and results are difficult to The isolation of a mold type that has shown to produce interpret in terms of what is a “normal” environment and what toxins (“toxigenic” species) does not substantiate the is the potential for health effects. bachelor's degree with a minimum 30 semester hours of sci- Samples can be taken by smoothing a piece of clear tape on ence and specific industrial hygiene coursework. affected surfaces generally negates the need for identification. sometimes the air is sampled to esti. Industrial hygien- some species produce distinctive structures or colors. spores in the indoor air. This 5 . even form. These 2005)." (Ciegler. to collect samples for mold if necessary have extensive professional training in mycology. The most common effect of mold attack on wood is an sample results. or the risk Some molds are referred to as "toxic molds" because of health effects from mold. Molds are a moisture indicator and should be dealt with as Stachybotrys chartarum (or atra). and various species of such. this is unnecessary and cost. nation during clean up of mold. to humans or animals and have economic impact. a minimum the wood surface. indoor air. or possible exposure to mold. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene sets standards Most mold and stain fungi are identified by the spores they for certifying hygienists. mental conditions are in place and when produced are found A visual inspection is usually the most effective method for in extremely small quantities on a per-spore basis. ing on the species. wallpaper and air filters. Proper identifica. What are “toxic molds”? It is important to note that finding mold does not provide information about the possible exposure to mold. 1980). is because the outdoor air normally is the dominant source of ing on common household dust. and therefore. no way to determine the increase in permeability. In addition. cannot be calculated Mycotoxins are compounds "produced by fungi that are toxic from the types and quantity of molds found on surfaces. The identification of fungi from a sample using also provide advice on how to control exposure and contami- a microscope can take a few days or several weeks. For example. fumi- only a “snapshot in time” of airborne spores. Results are gatus were grown on various building and construction mate- highly variable. They can the naked eye. 1999). so there is nothing with which to compare the air ture. No mycotoxins were found in extracts of densely colo- ment and the sampling and analysis methods (Baxter et al. tration.. wallboard. distinguishing clean and moldy environments. under certain conditions. 2004). found in the substrate or material in which the mold is grow- mate the number of airborne mold spores. Fusarium and Penicillium.on a microscopically thin layer of organic material. ing (Jarvis. nized ceiling tiles. Many common molds can produce mycotoxins. but they are no health-based standards for mold exposure levels in lack the ability to cause significant effects on the wood struc. These standards require at least a produce and the structures on which they are produced. 2000). depend. known what the airborne levels are at the sampling time. The airborne mold spore concen. Although and to help with interpretation of the results. rials. due to the natural variability of the environ. from the wood onto the media are then examined under a microscope for spores and other key identifying features. molds is generally qualified to inspect a home for the pres- tion of molds requires that the person examining the fungi ence of visible mold.

nausea and—in rare cases—lower Mold spores or particles that become airborne can be white blood cell counts are anecdotal. over-responsive compounds may be noticeable at levels well below the con. and mycotoxin effects). Mold infections are possible in people with immune sys- tem supression. 1: A conidium of S. The irritation may be from reaction to aller- health effects (Page. chest tightness. cle. insulation chartarum showing the that can be irritating when present in high concentrations. Korpi. but are not Humans are exposed constantly to molds in the environ- mycotoxins and are not highly toxic. 1998). by Oregon State University. vidual is no longer exposed. 1998. Routes of exposures to mold include dermal (skin con- The refuted CDC article and tact). spores of Stachybotrys are not (Pasanen. WHO. by flooding or leaks. 2: The mass of conidia tact with mold colonies or mold spores. even in and respiratory clearance systems normally provide defense damp and moldy buildings. symptoms are also reported to cease after the indi- and do not evaporate from the mold spore or substrate parti. Skin is contact and exposures to high generally a good barrier against particles. 1996). these Nelson. and few reports that associate direct Nelson. none of the 45 different species of fungi growing on samples of Douglas fir sapwood were Many people are allergic to molds and allergic responses Stachybotrys chartarum (Kang. and can be inhaled. or amount of material or toxin papers directed much attention absorbed by the body. the symptoms such as burning eyes and upper airway irritation Courtesy of Berlin D. Mycotoxins are relatively large and heavy molecules or confirmed by objective scientific data. the concentration of the VOCs is usually too low. including mycotoxins. (allergy) or when exposures are exceedingly high (irritation centrations that might result in sensory irritation (Pasanen. chartarum at the tip of pass through the skin. Fig. 1999). the odor of these pressed (HIV infection. Ph. In research conducted molds both indoors and outdoors. but may cause irritation if there is con- between chronic. the skin is not a significant route of with symptoms of skin rash. Stachybotrys typically grows on be at increased risk for opportunistic infections from common and breaks down dead plant material. bloody nose. may be annoying and irritating. coughing. Penicillium. these Dermal exposure to mold occurs when the skin is in con- studies provide no credible sci. for example people undergoing Stachybotrys is a mold that grows well on chronically wet chemotherapy or organ transplants or people with AIDS. which are different from the mycotoxins. VOCs have very low odor thresholds and those odors may be However if allowed to dry.D.D. The Courtesy of Berlin D. In these anecdotal (Schiefer. The most common allergies are to the abundant out- door molds. to Stachybotrys. exposure for mycotoxins. These compounds. mechanisms that protect us from health effects of airborne toms such as burning eyes and upper airway irritation molds. The route of exposure has a other questionable scientific profound effect on the dose. Since mycotoxins concentrations of Stachybotrys stay with the particles. rials such as lumber. such as Cladosporium. About 5 percent of the 2000). include hay fever and asthma. it can grow on chron. Allergic responses to molds tend to be allergic ically wet cellulose building mate. 1945). This means they are not volatile stories. 1998. ingestion and inhalation. to cause sensory irritation symp. On the other hand. Bigger particles are stopped in the upper airways of 6 . and ceiling tiles. 2001). 1990. Our immune systems volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is usually too low. Moisture con- ridged surface of a mature However. low-level the conidiophore. 1999). fatigue. but this has not been reported to occur due What is Stachybotrys? to mold in residential settings. to cause sensory irritation Stachybotrys is usually provided micrograph. and APSnet possibly from rubbing against the spores themselves. Molds can produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) els. tributing to indoor growth of spore. (Dobrotko. Left wet. and are not supported inhaled. Outdoors. However. wood pan- Fig. cancer treatment). 1998). However. Scanning electron even in damp and moldy buildings. The musty odor associated with mold comes from volatile compounds generated as the mold reproduces What are the possible health effects of mold? (Pasanen. Korpi. whether indoors or outdoors. genic compounds or chemicals. 1990). drywall backing. Aspergillus and Indoors. and APSnet easily released to the air. Ph. asthma or hay fever. The spores do not entific evidence of an association of S. The concentration of the ment. Problems arise when the immune system is sup- (Pasanen. the noticed and annoying at levels well below the concentrations spores may become airborne that might result in irritation (Pasanen. 1996. may cellulose material. Scanning tact with large amounts of spores or moldy material Stachybotrys exposure and electron micrograph. Stachybotrys chartarum American population experience allergic symptoms due to and Stachybotrys atra are two molds and other fungal antigens (fungi other than molds pro- different scientific names for the duce spores that may provoke allergic responses) (ACOEM same mold. 1996. 2002). Some people with compro- mised immune function.

inadequate drainage. They may be very high in the growing season or approach zero when snow covers the ground (Solomon. 1975. 1973. Homes with exposed-dirt crawl volatile. and in the trachea and bronchi. 20 percent moisture content during the construction and Framing lumber in a newly finished house is typically before the building is enclosed. improperly maintained air condi- tioning systems that create excessive condensation can be a Mold spores may be present in a home but out of sight breeding ground and distribution mechanism for mold inside a wall or floor cavity. mycotox. Surface moisture on unseasoned framing lumber. cooking or other activities — small and the amount of toxin in each is tiny. but not very likely. do not have general humidity problems. siding or masonry. 1992). only the smallest particles—those smaller than 5 microns— and faulty roof drains and downspouts. then. framing lumber will dry to below compared to the inhalation route. so they cannot "off-gas" into the environment or spaces and basements tend to have more airborne mold migrate through walls or floors independent of a particle. ties when standing water is produced in a building or gets in and stays for more than a few days. As such. Poorly insulated walls may also provide a is in the range of many hundreds of millions of spores per surface for condensation and mold growth in buildings that cubic meter of air (Kelman. be dead or dormant. mold spores are indoor humidity—from showers. Kozak. are able to reach the lungs. 1979). Higher levels of indoor mold spores means they can grow anyplace under the proper conditions. 1975). ceilings and floor cavi. panels on the inside. Su. Poor ventilation and/or air circulation combined with high Although mycotoxins can be inhaled.the nose or mouth. This mold may have grown during particles. 2004). It is not surprising. Inhalation exposure to mold on framing lumber in a fin. and high indoor humidity are both associated with increased levels of airborne mold spores (Solomon. With Since particles cannot move through solid objects. Generally. porous slabs and foundations. Except for the snow-cover situation. can result in condensation that promotes mold growth on ple. spores than homes without (Lumpkins. appear- Historical incidents of mass human poisonings from molds ing as the wood dries. tend to be found in homes with yards having dense and over- In all cases. in buildings. 1979). repaired. any mycotoxins present—can be taken into the body as Depending on the climate. there is virtually no chance for wood decay fungi can invade. wood through skin contact or ingestion. 1975). construction and. Mold spore levels outdoors vary with the season and weather. gaps in roofs. The authors of a recent 7 . mold spores in the living space. with the wood dry and moisture gone. Indoor mold levels are generally lower in buildings with forced-air heating systems (as opposed to window ventilation) and lower still when these systems include a well-maintained and properly functioning air conditioning system. a much larger mass of mold—and below 20 percent. poorly sealed win. For most peo. may create conditions for mold have always involved the eating of moldy foods (Hudler. Sources for water to There is limited research about whether such "hidden" support molds and other fungi in homes include plumbing mold can move into the structure and increase the amount of leaks. Ingestion is a more direct exposure route for mold. Through ingestion. Fig. It may also grow after a leak has been Mold growth may be found in walls. Decay fungi can penetrate occupants in a home to be exposed to any mold on the more deeply and attack the structural polymers in the fiber. moisture is the essential element for mold growth grown landscaping (Kozak. mold spores in normal indoor environments are usually between 20-50 per- cent of the outdoor levels. Other conditions can increase the amount of mold spores ished home is possible. encased by panels or siding on the outside and drywall or In instances where wood is chronically exposed to water. growth. mold growth can no longer be supported. dows. that poor housekeeping there unless disturbed. Where is mold found in buildings? The biggest source of indoor mold spores is often the out- The presence of molds in our everyday environment door air (Solomon. the airborne concentration needed to get to a toxic dose cooler surfaces. the right humidity conditions. For example. Mycotoxins are not in the indoor air of buildings. once the moisture content of the wood falls 1998). reducing the strength of the wood. 3: Mold on lumber Do mold spores move from inside walls or There are many potential sources for unwanted moisture floors into living spaces? in buildings. However. some molds can grow on ins in molds contained inside a wall or floor cavity will stay house dust.

The deci- sion to remove mold from enclosed cavities must be made after considering how much mold is likely to be present and How can mold on lumber be prevented? how likely it is to be opened or disturbed. 1999). could create conditions for mold growth. From this it When should mold be removed? is reasonable to infer that small amounts of mold enclosed in walls. billions of board feet of lumber are sold as gent and water for most mold clean up. feasible. for example. Reducing the moisture content of lumber to less than 20 percent will signifi. rally. Drying lumber reduces the likelihood of mold formation. basic personal protection equipment such as rubber Dry lumber can become wet through direct sources. So. or green products and are allowed to dry natu. for removing mold from wood. However. wood species and the climatic conditions. In nearly all cases. wiping or scrubbing the mold with detergent and water and. ment solution or by spraying all four surfaces of individual The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services boards (Scheffer. the concentration used. High water or storing logs in ponds at the plant. wet pieces inside wrapped bundles of lumber generally does not require any special protective equipment. In fact. Even dry lumber contains some should be worn. and limits the availability of oxygen. from com- wrapping may trap the evaporating moisture. For cleaning wood unseasoned. These chemicals are designed to provide a microscopic ented strand board siding and mold levels inside the home. The process of removing mold from enclosed spaces uct mills often utilize this method by spraying log decks with could increase exposure to spores in the short term. food and moisture. In some cases. used for preventing mold and stain are usually very mild and In Veritox’s experience sampling many buildings with include many used on food crops as well as in shampoos chronic water leaks and large amounts of enclosed mold and paints. They are not designed for long-term protection of (usually more than 10 percent of internal wall area contains the wood. floors or ceilings will not have a large impact on the Visible mold growing on surfaces where people may come indoor air quality. after any moisture problems are resolved. con. The chemicals sured in non-exposed homes (Dagger. as quickly as possible during manufacturing. 2001). eye protection and a high-quality pollen or dust mask as rainfall or condensation. mold concentrations found indoors are similar to or less than the levels found outdoors. Where mold is present in existing structures. mold or wood rot). which included analysis of data from 200 homes. one where mold removal from enclosed cavities is not desirable or method for preventing stain and mold in wood is to sub.S. Lumber that is exposed to moisture after it has been dried will support mold growth. 1940). there are 1940. Environmental Protection Agency suggests using mild deter- Each year. 8 . surfaces. For any mold clean up that may generate large amounts of dust. which fills the wood cells with water mold spores in the occupied spaces. coatings of fungicides on the wood surface. sampling can be conducted to monitor the level of merge it in fresh water. investigated the relationship between mold on surfaces of ori. These fungicides cluded that the presence of Stachybotrys inside intact walls is are applied by dipping entire bundles of lumber into a treat- not correlated with Stachybotrys found in the living spaces. the U. vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air by applying antistain. then dried and sealed. 1973). which are thin (HEPA) vacuum (EPA. In buildings Fahrenheit. study. Exposing the bundle to direct sunlight. Clean-up of small spots or areas of mold moisture. barrier against fungal attack that lasts for three to six months. which are promoted moisture can be sufficient to support mold growth. All fungi have four basic requirements for growth: suitable wood can simply be treated for mold growth with a bleach temperature. The decision to clean mold from lumber depends on the amount of mold present and how likely it is to be disturbed. it is possible to remove moisture when visible mold growth is present on exposed surfaces. these required elements can prevent fungal growth (Scheffer. often reasons for opening walls and removing building parts Mold fungi have fairly broad temperature requirements but that are unrelated to mold growth (such as for repairing most grow best at temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees warped and water-damaged floors or walls). or sap stain treatments. Many mills reduce the risk of mold and stain on green lumber after drying. such gloves. oxygen. Most fungi require oxygen to function. Eliminating one of solution. mold cleaning should be undertaken only But it does not guarantee the wood will remain free of mold. could heat the lumber and the There are a number of products on the market. indoor mold spore levels are sometimes found when walls While controlling temperature or oxygen is generally not and floors containing mold are opened or disturbed. The results of the study indicated that mold levels in the depending on the chemical. Can I clean the mold from the wood? cantly decrease the opportunities for mold to form on the wood. Lumber and wood prod. in contact with it should be cleaned and removed. and practical for wood products. the EPA recommends wet vacuuming the area. This trapped mercial mildewcides to common bleach. the affected homes were not significantly higher than those mea. usually during the framing stages of building a house.

be inside the building. it can be removed by wet-wiping the sur. In the U. A better approach is to gently ments. stores and other public buildings. occu- pational settings. outdoors can faces with a water and detergent solution. mold problems in in a house become wet. Centers for mold problem. Disease Control recommends using a solution of 10 parts water to one part chlorine bleach to clean mold from surfaces Summary (CDC. there are Simply wiping the wood. make sure there is adequate ventilation and Molds play an important role in nature by breaking down wear personal protection equipment outlined previously. In a vast majority of cases. this drying will occur naturally once any Moisture is essential for mold growth and controlling mois- standing water is removed. it can provide a surface for mold to grow. in both outdoor and indoor environ- ments. schools. normal background mold spores setting. the background level and whether there is a source of mold If commercial products are used for cleaning mold.S. the general duty clause may apply to mold exposures. however. measured indoor airborne mold levels are spray or wet down the mold prior to removal. The Occupational Safety and Health 9 . organic materials. Administration (OSHA) should be consulted for specific infor- gal spores on the surface of the wood. Mold removal becomes more complex when from health effects of regular exposure to molds. including lumber. although there are no reports of this fessional cleaning and restoration company. Lumber is just one of thousands of materials that can be a The most important objective in any mold removal is to potential growth substrate for mold under the proper eliminate any sources of moisture. grow. situations where there is prolonged exposures to exceedingly Even if a building is stripped of all components and every high airborne mold concentrations. 2000b). Lumber used in system or portable electric heaters to encourage faster dry. Allergic respons- es to molds include hay fever and asthma. part of everyday life. These high concentrations have not been reported to from outdoors or on replacement parts have the potential to occur in residences with mold enclosed in finished walls. there are heavy amounts of growth on a majority of the lum- ber or if the building has been in service for some time and Inhalation of molds can result in a range of health effects the mold originated from leaks into the building cavity. homes are related to flooding or water leaks that affect many ative that the area be dried as soon as possible. Because there are no exposure limits for molds. The U. the types and numbers of molds indoors vs. the mold clean up should be done by a pro. wet wiping mation on work-related mold questions. there are currently no regulations or exposure limits for molds or mycotoxins. used to determine if exposure levels are safe. Common bleach also can be used. In most cases. We routinely encounter mold spores as Never mix bleach with ammonia. This is true for homes. these data usually cannot be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for use. When using bleach and other cleaning chemi- cals indoors. Differences between has been wetted. compromised people. However. mold growth is not supported on wood portable fans to increase airflow or to use the existing heating dried to below 20 percent moisture content. the body's immune and respiratory Removing small amounts of mold from wood is relatively systems normally provide defense mechanisms that protect it straightforward. provide clues as to whether the exposures indoors are above essary. or scrubbing the lumber will remove the mold. The molds seen on lumber are largely a collection of fun. Toxic effects from inhalation of mold may occur in cleaning will not prevent re-growth of mold (Taylor. Should the wood framing conditions. so unknown. materials in the structure.S. it is imper. In the occupational setting. 2004). In in some circumstances. Typically. ture offers the best protection against mold. As such. Once the mold compared to outdoor concentrations. construction will typically dry to below 20 percent moisture ing. occurring from mold growth in a residence. While all wood tive humidity is higher. can it come back? that must be inhaled to cause an allergic response is Mold spores are present on surfaces in all homes. through leaks or flooding. Infections are possible in immune- these instances. In many climates. content before the structure is enclosed.. it may be necessary to bring in contains moisture. If lumber is exposed to moisture after it has Are there mold regulations? dried. and many people with allergies are also allergic to mold. scrubbing if nec. such as in an agricultural spore is killed or removed. This is the rule that requires employers to provide workers with a safe and healthy work environment. can release those no "benchmarks" with which to compare exposure measure- spores into the surrounding air. particularly to clean the air sampling for mold is not needed to assess or remediate a discoloration caused by mold fungi. The amount of mold Once I clean the mold. In most cases. In other climates where the rela. Drying lumber does not guarantee the wood will remain free of mold.

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