How Employers and
Commercial Landlords Can Maintain a Mold-Safe Workplace
August 21, 2011 by Phillip Fry
to workplace mold infestation can cause serious health problems for
employees, customers, and visitors, according to Phillip Fry, who is
a Certified Environmental Hygienist, Certified Mold Inspector, and
Certified Mold Remediator.
commercial landlords, and employees in Canada, the USA, and worldwide
should suspect a mold health threat if any of these three mold warnings occur in the
(1) Visible mold
growth appears on or in ceilings, walls, floors, heating/cooling ducts and
registers, attic, basement/crawl space, and/or on furniture, equipment, and inventory
of raw materials or finished, manufactured company products.
(2) Workers or customers
report experiencing any of the most common, possible mold health symptoms:
allergies, asthma, bleeding lungs, breathing difficulties, central nervous system problems,
recurring colds, coughing (chronic), coughing up blood, dandruff problems (chronic) that don't go away despite use of
anti-dandruff shampoos, dermatitis, skin rashes, diarrhea, and/or:
Eye and vision
problems, fatigue (chronic, excessive, or continued) and/or general
malaise, flu symptoms (chronic), sudden hair loss, headaches, hemorrhagic pneumonitis,
hives, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, irritability, itching (of the nose,
mouth, eyes, throat, skin, or any other area), kidney failure, learning difficulties or mental
functioning problems or personality changes, memory loss or memory difficulties, and/or:
Open skin sores and
lacerations, peripheral nervous system effects, redness of the sclera
(white of your eyes), runny nose (rhinitis) or thick, green slime coming out of nose (from sinus cavities),
seizures, sinus congestion, sinus problems, and chronic sinusitis, skin redness, sleep disorders, sneezing fits, sore throat,
tremors (shaking), verbal dysfunction (trouble in speaking), vertigo (feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, and
unsteadiness), and vomiting.
significantly in their sensitivity and reaction to mold exposure.
Consequently, there are no federal standards or recommendations, (e.g., OSHA, NIOSH, and EPA) for airborne concentrations
of mold or mold spores in the workplace. Even the smell of mold can make some workers sick.
Thus, if only one or a few
workers or customers experience one or more possible mold health symptoms,
the employer or
landlord should still inspect and mold test the work premises for the
health protection of both the mold-sensitive employees and others who may ultimately be harmed from time-cumulative mold
3) Workplace mold
inspection and testing discover elevated levels of indoor mold in the air,
on visible surfaces, or hidden inside walls, ceilings, floors, the heating/cooling
equipment and ducts, the attic, or the basement/crawl space.
"All molds have the
potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can
trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce
potent toxins and/or irritants,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.).
As to asthma, a health
study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health links adult-onset
asthma to workplace mold exposure. “The present (health study) results provide new evidence of the
relation between workplace exposure to indoor molds and development of asthma in adulthood. Our findings suggest that indoor
mold problems constitute an important occupational health hazard.”
workplace mold study estimated that the percentage of adult-onset asthma
attributable to workplace mold exposure to be 35%. (Reported in Environmental Health
Perspectives, May, 2002)
number of commonly found indoor mold species are, in fact, toxic mold, a
description applied to any mold that produces mycotoxins in its spores. Stachybotrys ("black mold"),
Aspergillus, and Penicillium are three of the most dangerous indoor toxic molds.
Mycotoxins are cytoxic,
meaning they have the capacity to pass through the human cellular wall and
disrupt certain cellular processes---potentially causing serious
health damage to workers and customers.
What should employees do?
”If you see or smell mold, or if you or others are experiencing
mold-related symptoms, report it so
the problem can be investigated. You may need to tell your employer,
supervisor, health and safety officer, union representative, or school board. Find out whether co-workers are experiencing any
[mold-related] symptoms,” recommends the California Department of Health Services.
What should companies and
property managers do for mold prevention, maintenance, and remediation?
Step 1 is to conduct periodic and thorough physical inspections of the workplace for evidence
of water and mold problems---whether visible or hidden.
For effective mold
inspection and testing, the employer or property owner should hire a
certified mold inspector, certified environmental hygienist, or industrial hygienist.
Alternatively and less expensive, utilize
mold test kits for all-around
The inspector or hygienist
will collect samples of all visible mold growths, mold test the air of
each room and area of the employer’s facility, and obtain mold laboratory analysis and mold species
identification and quantification of the collected mold and air samples.
In addition, the outward air flow from each heating/cooling duct register
should be tested for the possibility of elevated levels of airborne mold
spores because of commonly-found
The most common
mold-causing water problems are roof leaks, siding leaks, plumbing line
leaks, sewer line breaks, a wet crawl space or basement, flooding, and high humidity. Finding and fixing the
underlying water problem are always required for successful mold remediation.
For step 2, follow the U.S.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendation that
the employer and the building owner should notify workers in the
affected area (s) of the presence of mold in their workplace.
include a description of the proposed remedial measures and a timetable
for completion. Group meetings held before and after remediation with full
disclosure of plans and results can be an effective communication
persistent health problems that might be related to mold exposure should
be encouraged to visit their physicians for a referral to practitioners who are trained in
occupational/environmental medicine or related specialties and are
knowledgeable about medical mold diagnostic and treatment
Step 3 is for the employer
or landlord to do safe and effective mold killing, mold removal, and mold
remediation of all mold growths and of all airborne and surface-deposited mold spores. After the
completion of mold remediation, the workplace needs to pass “clearance tests” to be safe for employees and customers.