How Employers and Commercial Landlords Can Maintain a Mold-Safe Workplace
VANCOUVER, CANADA. Exposure to workplace mold infestation can cause serious health problems for employees, customers, and visitors, according to DangerBusters, a worldwide environmental inspection, testing, remediation, and training firm.
Employers, 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 workplace---
(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 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.
People differ 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 exposure.
(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.”
The Finnish 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)
Furthermore, a 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, environmental hygienist, or industrial hygienist. Alternatively and less expensive, utilize mold test kits for all-around mold testing.
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.
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.
Notification should 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 mechanism.
Individuals with 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 procedures.
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.
For more information about mold prevention, inspection, testing, and remediation techniques, please visit---
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