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Protocols For Treating Furniture and
|Prepared by Ms. Jennifer Bailey and Mr. Gary H. Hall, P.E.|
With the recent attention on the health effects of the exposure to elevated levels of mold spores that has developed over the years, many people who are faced with the problem of mold growth in their residence are forced to make decisions regarding mold abatement. Remediating the mold growth in the structure is usually straight forward: 1) isolate and contain the work area; 2) remove the mold impacted materials; 3) and then treat the air spaces and surfaces within the work area. Decisions on what to do with mold contaminated furniture items are sometimes not as simple. There is a great deal of misinformation being promoted about how to treat mold impacted furniture items and what items are able to be treated. This fact sheet is designed to help individuals make informed decisions regarding mold impacted furniture based on good scientific principals and common sense.
There are two basic ways that furniture and personal items may become impacted by mold. The first is what is often called primary contamination, where a piece of furniture is actively supporting mold growth. This occurs if a piece of furniture comes in contact with excessive moisture, such as a couch or bookcase that is against a wall where a leak occurs. If the furniture item has an organic component to it, which most do, then conditions are favorable for mold to start developing on the item. All mold needs to grow is an organic food source and moisture.
The second way that furniture or personal belongings may become impacted by mold is through settled mold spores. In this case the furniture item does not actually have mold growing on it, but it is in the vicinity of another source of mold, which is releasing mold spores into the air. This often leads to an elevated level of mold spores in the air and many of these spores may settle on the furniture and personal items in the impacted area.
In general, mold spores are commonly found both indoors and outdoors and are typical components of house dust. These spores are normally found on furniture surfaces as they settle out of the air.
If airborne levels of mold spores are significantly elevated in the air of a building, then a furniture item may have a higher level of settled spores than might normally be present. If a person is hyperallergenic, then a large amount of settled spores on furniture items may aggravate allergies. In these cases, treatment of the furniture and personal belongings in the impacted area is generally recommended to reduce the number of settled spores to background levels.
Any furniture or personal item that has actual mold growth, or primary contamination, should usually be disposed of, especially if the furniture item is soft or porous. In some cases of moderate mold growth on the surfaces of solid wood surfaces, the mold growth is limited to the top surface of the wood, and the item may be treated to remove the mold without damaging the item too much. The impacted wood should be washed outdoors with a strong detergent solution. Sanding will usually remove any remaining discolored areas. Application of a clear coat finish after treatment will further protect the wood by sealing the wood and limiting access to moisture and oxygen, which will inhibit mold growth as well as keep any residual spores from becoming airborne.
With other items that are actually supporting mold growth, it is usually not cost effective to try to treat or remove the mold. With antique items or items of great value, the cost of treatment may be justified. In these instances, a professional furniture restoration contractor should be consulted.Secondary Contamination
It is not necessary or practical to remove 100% of all mold spores from all items. Even if this goal is achieved, the result would only be temporary as new mold spores will continuously settle on items. Again, mold spores, including spores from mycotoxin producing molds, are everywhere, and are commonly found in the air indoors and outdoors. The presence of a few residual mold spores on furniture items from an impacted house after treatment will not Across contaminate@ or predispose a new residence to a future mold problem. Mold spores cannot develop into a new colony without the right conditions including a moisture source. If a moisture source is present, mold spores that are naturally brought indoors from outside sources will have the same probability of growing as any mold spores brought from a previous residence.
In general, all personal items that have only been impacted with settled mold spores can be treated, including soft good items such as couches and mattresses. With some items, though, it may be more cost effective to dispose of the items than to treat them, such as bed pillows, throw pillows, stuffed animals, etc.
A standard protocol for the treatment of furniture and personal belongings impacted from settled mold spores is attached which we have developed from our personal experience in mold abatement and regulatory resources.
In general, items inside enclosed spaces, such as cabinets, drawers, storage boxes, file cabinets, etc. are not typically exposed to significant numbers of mold spores, and treatment of these items is not usually necessary. Mold spores can only move where air currents take them. They will primarily settle on horizontal surfaces, with other components of house dust. They do not generally accumulate inside drawers and other enclosed spaces, unless these areas remain open to the ambient air for significant periods of time.
Most furniture and personal items can be treated on site. For buildings with moderately elevated levels of airborne mold spores, engineered controls such as ventilation with outdoor air and use of HEPA air cleaners can be used to control the level of airborne spores, and furniture can be treated within the impacted unit without recontamination occurring. Sometimes a portion of the building can be contained with plastic, treated, and established as a clean room where cleaning of furniture items can be completed. If building occupants are relocating, furniture and personal items can also be treated outdoors as they are being transported. It is not necessary to pack up personal belongings for treatment offsite unless the extent of mold growth is very high and no other nearby location within or close to the building can be used for treatment.
Testing of furniture and personal items after treatment is not necessary as long as these items are visibly free of dust. There are no generally accepted standard for what a typical level of mold spores on furniture is and the level of spores will vary considerably based on housekeeping and other factors. The recommendations contained in this fact sheet are in accordance with the recommendations of the Environmental Protection Agency=s (EPA) Guidelines on Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings; the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists= (ACGIH) book, Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control; the California Department of Health Services; and extensive research completed by GHH Engineering, Inc.
These are general recommendations that apply to most impacted buildings with localized problems with mold growth. These procedures would apply even if low to moderate levels of Stachybotrys spores are reported through sampling. If a more widespread source of mold growth is discovered, then additional treatments steps may need to be taken. A knowledgeable mold consultant would need to inspect and possibly test impacted units to provide a site specific recommendation for furniture treatment.
Please refer to our website, www.moldservicesgroup.com for additional information.
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