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How do airtight containment systems prevent mold borne illness?

by | Nov 13, 2018 | Abatement, Building & Construction

Most of us have come in contact with mold at some point in time – whether you’ve uncovered it in a corner in your house or had to toss a loaf of bread that was starting to go bad – mold can crop up almost anywhere.

Mold has a few requirements to grow:

  1. Mold Spores
  2. Ideal temperature
  3. Food Source
  4. Water

Mold spores are essentially everywhere, becoming dangerous when they grow and spread. They thrive in warm environments and need moisture to grow – creating a higher risk in humid environments.

So if mold spores are all around us most of the time and can easily grow, is it really that important to keep them completely contained when working on a large-scale mold abatement project?

While proximity to very small concentrations of mold spores are typically not harmful to those with strong immune systems, many people have heightened sensitivity to them that could cause illness. Whether your job is in a healthcare center or an apartment building, you should always approach your mold abatement project as if any spreading of mold spores through the air could put children, the elderly, and others with illnesses or otherwise weakened immune systems at risk. Even microscopic mold spores can grow into large deposits of mold if left to its own devices.

The Risks

Consider the health risks associated with different forms of mold:

  • Mold Spores and Fungal Components – exposure to these types of mold can cause allergic reactions, cold symptoms, constricted airways, skin rash, and headache.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – a chemical poison emitted by fungal molds, exposure to VOCs can cause coughing, dizziness, upper respiratory irritation, and prolonged lung damage.
  • MycoToxins (mold toxins) – poisons produced by microscopic mold fungi, exposure to these toxins can cause severe reactions, from vomiting and dizziness to memory loss, organ damage, and even death.
  • Mold Growth Inside or On the Body – this most severe type of mold infection can cause fever, pain, organ dysfunction, dead skin, and ultimately death.

With how easy it is for mold spores to go unnoticed and grow into larger mold deposits in humid environments, keeping them contained while cleaning out existing mold is critical.

The Keys to Containing Mold

The most important thing to remember about mold is that it seeks moisture – therefore, your main focus in containing and preventing future mold growth is to control the moisture in the environment. Excess moisture can be caused by unintentional water intrusion, such as a leak in an HVAC system component or plumbing utilities. Condensation from steam can also be a source of moisture, as well as general humidity based on climate. Humidity greater than 60% is considered to have a high risk of mold growth.
Determining the sources of unwanted moisture, preventing condensation, and dehumidifying the environment are the first steps to preventing future mold growth after you finish your mold removal process.

Mold can be removed in a few different ways, depending on the type of surface on which the mold has grown:

  • Absorbent materials: Things like drywall, porous wood, fabric, and other absorbent materials must be either thoroughly dried out or replaced. The window of time in which an absorbent moisture-damaged material can be dried before mold has grown is limited to 48 hours max, making it very challenging to save these types of materials. In many cases, safely removing the mold-affected materials and replacing them is the best option.
  • Non-absorbent materials: Materials such as glass, metal, non-porous tiles, and more can be cleaned and disinfected to remove mold and prevent future growth.

No matter how severe the mold or the type of surface impacted by it, your containment system needs to be airtight.

Achieving an Airtight Containment System

Choosing the right tools for the job is just as important as knowing how to properly build a containment system for mold abatement. The traditional tools used for these jobs are tape and poly sheeting. Typically, a painter’s tape is used around doorways, windows, and other openings to create a surface that the poly sheeting can be taped to with a duct tape. Painter’s tape – unlike duct tape – is gentle enough on surfaces to deliver clean removal for a certain period of time (depending on the tape used and its clean removal guarantee), while the duct tape provides an aggressive adhesive that securely holds the poly sheeting to the backing of the painter’s tape for the duration of the abatement project.

Alternatively, a double-sided tape with a dual adhesive system – one side that contains a gentle painter’s tape adhesive and one side with an aggressive duct tape adhesive – can be used to build the containment system in less time.

Either way – the tape(s) you use should be of professional quality and must be able to withstand the rigors of the abatement environment, preventing tape failure that would lead to a compromised and non-airtight containment.

Stock your toolbox with tapes made specifically for abatement and remediation jobs. Find a tape at Shurtape.com.

Continue following along this month at Tape University® to learn more about what lies Under the Microscope in the abatement and remediation industry.

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