Molds are naturally occurring organisms which are found everywhere in our environment, both indoors and outdoors. Mold spores, which are microscopic seeds that allow molds to grow, float continually in the air we breathe. Molds are a part of our environment and act as natural recyclers by degrading organic materials. Some molds are beneficial, such as those required for blue cheese, and for the creation of penicillin. Mold can also be detrimental by causing damage to building materials, creating odors, and leading to potential health issues in sensitized individuals. We cannot remove mold from our indoor environment as we bring it in with us on our shoes, clothing, and when we open a window, and it is typically not a problem. However, when it starts to grow in indoor environments, interior concentrations can rise thus increasing the potential risk to occupants. The good news is that we can prevent mold growth by controlling moisture.
Mold can grow on almost any surface if moisture and oxygen are present. Without them mold cannot grow. The mold spores land on a surface and if the correct amount of moisture is present the spores will start to grow. They grow by consuming the organic material they are in contact with. This could be drywall, wood, paper, or dust on a window sill. Mold can be present in many different colors and will fluctuate based on the water and food source present. A lot has been said about the "black mold" when in fact many molds can grow and be black. According to the EPA, "black mold" is not specific to any one species, nor is it suggestive of toxigenic-potential and is generally a term that was used by the media. One of the most important things to understand is that you must have moisture to have mold, no moisture equals no mold growth. When moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth can occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. To prevent mold growth the only factor we can control is moisture.
To prevent or control the growth of mold within buildings sources of water/moisture must be controlled. There are many things you can do to reduce this risk. Some of the moisture control methods include:
- Wiping up condensation that accumulates on windows and window sills;
- Reducing humidity levels inside by carefully monitoring the use of humidifiers;
- Not accumulating dirty/wet laundry on floors, especially carpeted ones;
- Ensuring there is good airflow around your room;
- Avoid stacking fabric/cloth/pillows against exterior walls, the cold wall can trap heat and cause condensation;
- Conducting regular cleaning of your office or dorm room.
In the event of a water leak from a broken pipe or roof, the water source must be rectified. All water should be extracted from floor surfaces and aggressive drying with fans and dehumidifiers should follow. Should building materials such as drywall become wet, they should be dried. In some occasions they may need to be removed and replaced. UNH has implemented a Standard Operating Procedure for responding to water leaks/intrusions. Trained personnel are used to implement this procedure. Should the water leak/intrusion be outside of the capabilities of the UNH Facilities Operations department, several water response/restoration firms are contracted to assist UNH.
What To Do If You Suspect Mold
All concerns regarding mold or overall indoor air quality should be promptly reported. For those non-residential buildings all concerns should be reported to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
Concerns associated with residential halls and apartments should be reported to our Facilities Control Center at 603-862-1437.
Remember, if you see something or smell something, say something.
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Brian Cournoyer, Occupational Health and Safety Manager
Phone: (603) 862-4761
Matthew Smith, Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator
Phone: (603) 862-4266