Companies that test, remove mold require license
Dec. 5, 2017 at 7:51 p.m.
Updated Dec. 6, 2017 at 6 a.m.
Three months after Hurricane Harvey left its mark in Victoria and surrounding areas, residents are left still cleaning up debris and making repairs to their homes.
Our office has received countless inquiries about mold in their homes, apartments and residential properties. Mold is a type of fungus found in our natural environment, especially in South Texas due to our warm, humid climate.
Mold spores are tiny microscopic seeds that can be found indoors and outdoors, year round.
Standards or Threshold Limit Values for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Threshold Limit Values are the maximum average airborne concentration of a hazardous material to which healthy adult workers can be exposed during an eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek - over a working lifetime - without experiencing significant adverse health effects.
Threshold Limit Values have been recommended for more than 700 hazardous substances such as ammonia, chlorine, and carbon monoxide. Currently, there are no Environmental Protection Agency regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
Mold growth inside your home indicates there is a moisture problem, such as faulty plumbing or roof covering. The key to preventing mold growth is to prevent or eliminate moisture problems. While there are many types of mold in the environment, it is not necessary to identify the species.
Current evidence indicates that allergies are the common illness most often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and testing are not reliable in determining your health risk.
If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should have it removed.
Exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay and people with asthma may notice their symptoms may worsen.
Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. Always consult your health care provider should you have concerns about the effects of mold on your health.
If you plan to clean up the mold yourself follow these helpful tips:
• Wear personal protective equipment including gloves, mask, and goggles to protect your eyes, nose, mouth and skin
• Items not cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours after exposure should be taken out of the home and either discarded or if possible, cleaned
• Make sure there is ample ventilation by opening all doors and windows while working
• Use fans (unless mold is present) and dehumidifiers to remove moisture
• Use water and detergent to remove mold. DO NOT mix bleach and ammonia. Toxic vapors may result.
• Repair all water leaks, before caulking and painting
If your heating/ventilation/air conditioning system may be contaminated with mold, do not run the system - it could spread mold throughout the building.
If you decide mold removal is too big of a job for you, you may want to get help from experienced and qualified professionals. Texas requires people and companies who inspect and test for mold (assessment) and clean up and remove mold (remediation) to be trained and licensed. You may request to see the individual's license issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
If you live in rental property and you suspect mold growth, verbally notify your landlord immediately. Follow up with written notification delivered by certified mail, return receipt request. Under the Texas Mold Assessment and Remediation Rules, if 25 contiguous square feet or more of visible mold is present or there are 10 or more units, a licensed mold remediator is required to remove the mold. If you live in public, government funded housing you may want to contact the Multifamily Housing complaint Line at 800-685-8470.
Tammy Fikac is a registered professional sanitarian and certified floodplain manager and is the manager of the Environmental Division of the Victoria County Public Health Department.