Mold infestation in buildings can be hazardous to those who work or live in the building, as well as be extremely damaging to the structures. Whether it is a small space that is contaminated or an entire building, there are special precautions that must be taken. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has specific guidelines to ensure the safety of those removing the mold and for controlling the spread of mold through the removal process. Using the EPA containment recommendations provided in its four protection levels can ensure safe removal of mold.
Containment of Mold Contaminated Areas
Before any mold is removed from a building, it is important to assess the mold contamination area. How severe the infestation is, along with the area affected, will determine whether limited or full containment must be used during the removal process. The standard way to determine what level of containment is needed is by size; the larger the area affected, the higher the chance of exposure. Also the exposure to other areas of the home or commercial building. However, even if the area is small, if the mold infestation is severe, it could warrant full containment measures.
- Limited. In most cases, areas smaller than 100 square feet require only limited containment before removal of the mold can begin. All vents and outside airways must also be sealed.
- Full. In larger areas or cases of heavy mold growth, full containment is needed. This includes using a double layer of polyethylene sheeting. There should be an airlock space between the mold removal area and the clean area of the building where workers enter or leave the space. Negative pressure using exhaust fans should be used, creating a sealed area that retards mold spores from escaping.
Protection Levels For Mold Removal
In addition to using limited and full containment, there are four levels of protection that should be adhered to when removing mold. These levels are designated with level I as the smallest or least dangerous, with level IV being the largest or most serious type of mold infestation.
- Level I. In areas that are small, usually 10 square feet or less, the mold remediation can often be performed by anyone trained in mold removal using OSHA standards. The infected area should be unoccupied except by those performing the remediation. Workers should use temporary respirators, gloves and eye protection, plus equipment should be cleaned or removed from the area in sealed containers. Before beginning, misting the area to deter dust is recommended. The area should be cleaned after mold is removed using Antimicrobial product, removing all debris on floors and wiping down of floors and horizontal flat surface.
- Level II. For slightly larger areas than level I, usually up to 30 square feet, similar protection should be used as Level I. This is often a wall or ceiling area that has not spread to the rest of the room. It is recommended to use polyethylene sheeting to contain the area and protect other areas nearby. In addition, the area should be HEPA vacuumed before wiping or mopping the area
- Level III. In mold=infested areas between 30-100 square feet, remediation should be performed by a professionally trained mold remediation specialist. This will require that the full area be sealed off from the rest of the building, plus it is recommended that no one occupy the adjacent areas while the work is being performed. All precautions used for Levels I and II should also be followed.
- Level IV. For heavy mold infestations or areas larger than 100 square feet, mold remediation should only be performed by a trained professional. The workers should be wearing protective gear, including full HEPA respirators. The area will need full containment, with an airlock and the use of negative pressure using exhaust fans. Workers will need a decontamination area to remove protective gear and clean equipment if walking or entering into a clean area. Any contaminated gear or equipment that cannot be cleaned in this area needs to be removed in sealed bags or containers.
By using the correct procedures and precautions during mold removal, the hazard can be contained while keeping workers safe. All mold remediation should only be performed by those trained in these techniques and safety procedures to ensure they are protected from harm while effectively removing this potentially dangerous fungus.