Mold Interview with Shari Solomon

(PRWEB) November 13, 2010 --

Q&A from an Industrial Hygienist:

"How Do I Handle Indoor Mold Growth?"

Hi everyone, it's Jeff Cohn with SI Restoration and this month I am lucky to be interviewing Shari Solomon with Compliance Environmental International, located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Shari Solomon, Esq, is an attorney and the Director of Training for Compliance Environmental International Inc. (CEI). She has been providing industrial hygiene training and services in the private sector for over 8 years. Prior to consulting, Shari held the position of Legislative Analyst with the National Multi Housing Council/National Apartment Association Joint Legislative Staff with primary responsibility for environmental issues. While there she developed an expertise on mold-related issues and authored the first industry white paper as well as numerous articles on the subject. A member of the Maryland State Bar, Ms. Solomon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctorate from The Catholic University of America. Ms. Solomon may be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 410-766-0222.


Question #1

Q: Shari, How can I tell if I have a mold problem or is just dirt or marks?

A: Jeff, The primary method for identifying an indoor mold issue is a visual assessment. Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter but indoors mold growth should be avoided. Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Therefore, industry guidance including EPA's, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings and the IICRC, S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Mold Remediation focus the initial investigation on visual growth. An industrial hygienist (IH) with expertise in this area can help you identify a mold problem. Based on the initial assessment, the IH can then make a decision if mold sampling is warranted. There may be limited circumstances where sampling may be necessary, but it is generally accepted that if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary.

The industrial hygienist's investigation will typically include the following:

Identify source(s) or cause of water or moisture problem(s)

Assess size of moldy area (square feet)

Consider the possibility of hidden mold Investigate areas associated with occupant complaints (if any)

Note type of water-damaged materials (wallboard, carpet, etc.)

Check inside air ducts and air handling unit

Question #2

Q: Shari, Why and when should I hire a 3rd Party Industrial Hygienist when addressing a mold remediation?

A: Jeff, In order to avoid conflict of interest, the hiring of a 3rd party industrial hygienist (IH) should be considered. Clearly, especially in Baltimore Maryland, it is in the client's best interest to have a 3rd party IH firm conduct an independent initial assessment and provide a remediation plan for the remediation company to follow. The IH can conduct the initial microbial assessment in order to identify the extent of the visible mold growth, develop a remediation plan, provide oversight of the remediation to confirm and document the remediation is being conducted in accordance with the remediation plan and industry standards, and conduct a post-remediation verification. Following project completion, the IH can conduct a post-remediation verification based on the following:

You must have completely fixed the water or moisture problem.

No elevated moisture content in the building materials that remain following the remediation.

You should complete mold removal. Use professional judgment to determine if the cleanup is sufficient. Visible mold, mold-damaged materials, and moldy odors should not be present.

If you have sampled, the kinds and concentrations of mold and mold spores in the building should be similar to those found outside, once cleanup activities have been completed.

You should revisit the site(s) shortly after remediation, and it should show no signs of water damage or mold growth. People should be able to occupy or re-occupy the space without health complaints or physical symptoms.

Ultimately, this is a judgment call; there is no easy answer.

If you choose to use outside Baltimore Maryland contractors or professionals, make sure they have experience cleaning up mold, check their references, and have them adhere to industry guidelines, including IICRC, EPA, the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), and/or guidelines from other professional organizations.

Question #3

Q: Shari, Is sampling/testing for mold necessary?

A: Jeff, according to the EPA, "In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with Federal mold standards." EPA does not recommend that homes routinely be tested or sampled for mold. 

"According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) publication, Recognition, Evaluation, and Control of Indoor Mold, "existing guidance documents do not endorse routine sampling during assessment to comprehensively determine mold types present, as this might exhaust resources that could be more effectively used to re mediate the problem." 

Per EPA "[i]n specific instances, such as cases where litigation is involved, the source(s) of the mold contamination is unclear, or health concerns are a problem, you may consider sampling as part of the site evaluation. Surface sampling may also be useful in order to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or re mediated. Sampling should be done only after developing a sampling plan that includes a confirm able theory regarding suspected mold sources and routes of exposure. Figure out what you think is happening and how to prove or disprove it before you sample!"

"If you do not have extensive experience and/or are in doubt about sampling, consult an experienced professional. This individual can help you decide if sampling for mold is useful and/or needed, and will be able to carry out any necessary sampling. It is important to remember that the results of sampling may have limited use or application. Sampling may help locate the source of mold contamination, identify some of the mold species present, and differentiate between mold and soot or dirt. Pre and post-remediation sampling may also be useful in determining whether remediation efforts have been effective. After remediation, the types and concentrations of mold in indoor air samples should be similar to what is found in the local outdoor air." 

"If sampling is requested, sampling should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations."

Question #4

Q: Shari, when re mediating mold, can I use bleach? A: Jeff. according to the EPA, "The use of a chemical or bio-cide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present)" Per EPA, "the key to mold control is moisture control. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely. Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely."

"If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area. Outdoor air may need to be brought in with fans. When using fans, take care not to distribute mold spores throughout an unaffected area. Biocides are toxic to humans, as well as to mold. You should also use appropriate PPE and read and follow label precautions. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia; toxic fumes could be produced. Some biocides are considered pesticides, and some States require that only registered pesticide applicators apply these products in schools. Make sure anyone applying a biocide is properly licensed, if necessary."

Question #5

Q: Shari, if the tenant is complaining about possible mold but I don't see any, what do I do?

A: Jeff as already discussed, industry standards base an indoor mold problem on visible mold growth. Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. A thorough visual investigation by an experienced industrial hygienist, who understands building science and moisture-related issues and is knowledgeable about where hidden mold may exist, is recommended.

According to the EPA, regarding hidden mold, "[i]n some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces, such as the back side of dry wall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Some building materials in Baltimore Maryland, such as dry wall with vinyl wallpaper over it or wood paneling, may act as vapor barriers, trapping moisture underneath their surfaces and thereby providing a moist environment where mold can grow."

"You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and building occupants are reporting health problems. Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth-make sure to use personal protective equipment (PPE). If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, you may want to consider hiring an experienced professional. If you discover hidden mold, you should revise your remediation plan to account for the total area affected by mold growth."

Question #6

Q: Jeff, say I don't use an Industrial Hygienist. What are the possible outcomes and the possibility of those outcomes?

A: Jeff , there are circumstances where a client may opt to only utilize one company to assess the extent of the mold growth, draft a remediation plan, conduct the remediation, and verify the remediation is complete. While the client may view this scenario as a cost saving option by only utilizing one company, the liability of this scenario is problematic. As an attorney in Baltimore Maryland and industrial hygienist I have been involved in numerous cases in which the lack of third-party oversight causes liability issues with the client. By having one party assess the extent of the mold problem, identify the source of the moisture, and then based on those findings, draft a remediation plan for the remediation company to follow, prevents conflict of interest. In addition, following a remediation project, it is good professional judgment to have a third-party industrial hygienist verify the remediation is complete. Without third party confirmation, it is difficult to verify its completion, which opens up both the client and the remediation firm should a concern arise regarding the remediation upon completion.

Jeffrey Cohn:

I hope that this interview was helpful in getting a better understanding of mold issues and how Industrial Hygienists fit in the complicated mold issues that property management companies in Maryland face every day.

If you have further questions on mold and mold remediation in Baltimore Maryland please feel free to contact Jeff Cohn with SI Restoration.

- Excerpts provided by U.S. EPA, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, EPA 402-K-01-001, March 2001.

On Nov 2, 2010, at 11:02 AM, Shari Solomon wrote:

Compliance Environmental International, Inc

509 McCormick Suite Q

Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061

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