NEW YORK NURSE: December 2009
Q.: We have discovered mold in the bathrooms and lounge area on our unit and brought this to the attention of management. Their response was to clean the area with a biocide and repaint some of the badly stained walls. Is this sufficient to remedy the mold problem?
A.: Probably not! The crucial part of the remediation is to identify the source of the moisture – a leak, a pipe break, seepage from outside, condensation, or whatever – and fix that. Without fixing the water source, the mold problem will return.
In occupied areas badly affected by mold, the mold and its food source should be removed, rather than just cleaned with a biocide. The reason? People who are allergic to mold can have a reaction to either live or dead mold spores. It is important to investigate adjacent wall and floor structures above and below the affected area to verify there has been no extension of the mold contamination.
Mold will start to grow within 3 to 5 days of a “wet event,” with some types of mold taking up to 7 or 8 days. A major wet event, such as a flood, requires that “de-watering and structural drying” take place within 48 hours, preferably within 24 hours.
At the outset, identifying the species and genus of the mold is not really necessary. Mold in an occupied space is not beneficial, regardless of its name! Quantification of the mold may be useful, however, in determining whether the remediation and cleaning have been effective.
A word of caution: There are no OSHA standards for mold and the remediation industry is self-regulated. Be wary of consultants who promise to both advise and remediate as a package deal. Consulting on the extent of remediation and the efficiency of that remediation could be a conflict of interest when the same company does both!
A reputable consulting firm will look not only at the mold contamination and the extent of the damage, but will also attempt to identify the source of the moisture causing the problem. They will then outline the scope of work required to fix the problem. A reputable remediation firm will likely follow the scope of work and a protocol similar to those used for asbestos removal.
Of course, a good remediation will last only if the source of the wetness has been found and corrected!
The NYSNA EGW Program receives many inquiries each month from members who have problems in their workplaces. If you have a question about labor relations at your facility, contact your NYSNA nursing representative. If you have a question you think should be featured in this column, send it to: RNs at Work, NYSNA, 120 Wall Street, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005.