People around the world dream of living in or visiting New York. But even the enchanting lights of Broadway, the greenery in Central Park, and the hot dogs vendors on the streets can lose their charm in the face of a common New York nightmare: mold. New York's snowy winters and hot, humid summers provide the ideal growing conditions for mold.
Mold's ecological role is to break down and recycle basic nutrients back into the earth. It grows through the production of spores, and all it needs to thrive is water in any shape or form. Mold is a master of survival, as its spores are small, lightweight, and able to survive a long time in any condition.
Despite its important ecological role, mold poses several threats to humans. As it disassembles any material it encounters, mold can pose a threat to a building's structural integrity. Additionally, some molds are toxic. Many illnesses and allergies in humans are caused by molds in buildings. Some molds, such as black mold, can be fatal.
If the invasion of mold is minimal, the owner can usually take care of it. Mold remediation specialist will need to be called in to help more extensive mold problems. Controlling mold involves controlling the amount of moisture in the area. This can include fixing leaks, removing standing water, installing a proper gutter system, fixing cracked masonry and separated roof shingles, and repairing seals around doors and windows. Mold's favorite food is wet paper, which is why newer homes with more insulation are more susceptible to mold problems.
A professional mold restoration company can expertly assess the damage mold may have caused and which areas are vulnerable to further damage. They also have equipment to analyze mold levels to see if it is safe for people to be in the building. Professionals also know how to avoid other indoor environmental hazards like asbestos and lead so the remediation process does not cause unnecessary illnesses.
Mold remediation requires an arsenal of tools to remove water and disinfect moldy areas:
- A wet vacuum is designed to remove water from floors, carpets, and other hard surfaces.
- A damp wipe, a towel with water and perhaps detergent, is used to remove mold from non-porous materials.
- HEPA vacuums are used as one of the final clean-up tool after materials are completely dry. The HEPA vacuum will pick up any contaminated dust that has landed outside of the remedied area.
These tools allow proper disinfection, which is crucial since mold can be allergenic or toxic even when it is dead. Moldy materials require careful disposal. The contents of the vacuum and any items damaged by mold should be double-bagged, sealed and discarded. Big items that will not fit into plastic bags should be covered with polyethylene sheeting, sealed with duct tape, and then disposed of with other construction waste. After the clean-up is done, a dehumidifying system may need to be installed into the building to help prevent mold growth in the future.
In areas as humid as Staten Island and Long Island, moisture control is the key to mold prevention. Taking the steps to properly prevent mold damage will save time and money in the long run. However, if it is already too late, calling in a mold remediation specialist to ensure the mold is eliminated properly is the safest step.
~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009
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