Mold Remediation: Scam or a Worthy Project?

A basement in the midst of construction
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Is mold remediation a genuine, worthwhile project or just a big scam? There are two sides to this.

On one side, the mold is a real thing.  Where there is moisture in a home, there is undoubtedly mold. Just crawl in the ceiling above your bathroom and you will likely find mold.  Some mold, but not all, produces health-threatening mycotoxins.  Not everyone is affected by this.  But people who are affected are often gravely affected.

On the other side, the presence of mold is often used as a scare tactic and a bargaining chip on real estate property inspections.  Not all mold is bad.  Mold remediation itself is a big, highly politicized industry.  One leading mold remediation company, in trying to sell itself to potential franchisees, advertises mold remediation as the latest gold rush--the asbestos business of the 21st century. 

Mold Develops Because of Water

Attics, crawl spaces, wall interiors, basements, around chimneys--all are places where water can intrude.  An excessive amount of humidity in a house can also condense and cause mold.

Ian Shapiro of Nv Environmental, LLC notes that newer homes tend to experience more mold growth than older homes because of the fibrous nature of drywall.  Fiberglass insulation, too, provides fertile ground for mold growth.

Remediation Should Not Be Done By a General Contractor

There's mold...and then there's mold. The scary mold in popular imagination--the mold that attacks entire towns--doesn't really exist. It is often the same benign mold that you see growing in your shower that you spray with Tilex.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even advises that any moldy areas less than 10 square feet (about 3 feet by 3 feet) can be remediated by the homeowner. Beyond that, you may want to talk to a mold remediation contractor.

Mold Isn't Always Toxic

According to the Centers for Disease Control: "While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous." And while it's possible for toxigenic molds to produce "rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss (CDC)," this only rarely happens.

This is not to say that mold cannot produce health issues. Indoor exposure can cause coughing and wheeling in healthy people and severe issues for people with asthma and upper respiratory tract problems.

Bleach Is Not An Effective Way To Kill Mold

Even though chlorine bleach is often used to kill mold, bleach is not an EPA-approved biocide. For that, you will need to use a product such as Mold Stat.

Three Steps to Remediate Mold

  1. Identify and cut off the source of water.
  2. Eradicate the mold with a biocide.
  3. Encapsulate the mold.

Shapiro adds that "If greater than 3x3 feet or if mold growth is heavily concentrated or near the HVAC system, it should be contained to prevent dispersal."

The Mold Remediation Industry Says That Mold Remediation Is Worthwhile

Mold remediation companies certainly do good work when the mold is widespread and is a public institution or in commercial buildings. And while most mold is not toxic, some mold is can be very hazardous to one's health. For this, you want a licensed, experienced professional dealing with the mold.

Shapiro of Nv Environmental stresses two additional points: containment of the mold and making sure that the remediation company does not do inspections or sampling, and "making sure they are completely independent and do not write scopes."

David L. Edwards Sr. of Fungus Fighters, Inc., a mold removal and remediation company in Central Illinois, with locations in Ohio and Indiana, tells us the following:

1. Tightly Sealed Houses Contribute To Mold

"Mold problems that we see today are problems that we unknowingly created ourselves and they are not problems we had 20 years ago or more.

"Since 1978 the government has been requiring us to become more energy efficient in our construction. The more energy efficient we are, the tighter we seal up our homes, the less natural breathability our home has. This is why we can easily address questions when people ask 'If mold can be dangerous to our health, how come it's only been a problem for the past couple of decades? Mold had been around forever so why is it only a problem now?

2. Does Remediation Mean "Mold Killing"?

"Mold remediation by definition is the act of removing infected materials and if done properly will require more than 2 steps. Most reputable mold professionals will be quick to tell you that killing mold has nothing to do with remediation and technically they are correct. Mold doesn't need to be killed for successful remediation...

3.  The Three Steps

"The first step, and arguably the most important, is setting up containment and ventilation. The use of proper ventilation and air filtration devices (AFDs) such as air scrubbers is required to ensure that mold spores that are disturbed and become airborne are not spreading to an uninfected area.

"Cleaning and disinfecting is the next step and this is the stage that includes the actual remediation and disposal of infected materials.

"After the cleaning and disinfecting, then we apply our biocide/fungicide/moldicide solutions. The next step is where we address any moisture or humidity concerns we may have before applying an encapsulant. 

4.  The "Scare Industry" Called Mold Remediation

"Too many so-called mold professionals try to use the scare tactics. We try hard not to but sometimes it's difficult to get accurate information out there without causing concerns over health.

"Many times the health issue is severely downplayed. If a person is not sensitive to or allergic to mold, they can become sensitive after repeated or prolonged exposure to mycotoxins.

"Although there has been credible research over the past couple of years linking some types of cancer, brain damage, early onset of dementia, Alzheimer's and other serious conditions besides asthma and breathing and respiratory issues, we try not to focus on these concerns unless the individual is a resident who is at high risk for developing a problem due to exposure to mycotoxins.

5.  Mycotoxins

"...People should be educated with a clear understanding but not made to cause panic or undue alarm. There are some very serious health issues associated with mold mycotoxins but most people will never have the need to be overly concerned with them."