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NEWS | Nov. 1, 2022

Health & Safety: Keeping Mold Trouble at Bay

BLUF:. The key to keeping mold at bay is to act quickly and follow some specific steps to mitigate its impact.

Soldiers looking at ceiling mold
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Hull
Sometimes you can see it, sometimes not. While you go about your life it’s silent and stealthy, fed by moisture that helps it grow. The consequences of ignoring this quietly spreading enemy can be risky. That enemy is called mold.

What’s the Cause?

Molds are forms of fungi that are found naturally, both indoors and outdoors. When mold growth occurs indoors, it’s often caused by various issues like: problems in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; water intrusion (such as flooding, roof leaks, and plumbing issues); improper maintenance; and exposure to weather.
Mold thrives in damp environments and needs to have a food source. It tends to grow well on cloth, wood and wallboard, but can grow on virtually any surface where there is moisture. Limiting mold growth and home damage means quickly removing the source of water and drying all affected materials.

What’s the Risk?

Mold can have adverse effects on people and pets. It produces allergens and irritants. However, it affects everyone differently. Sensitive individuals inhaling or touching mold may have allergic reactions. These reactions are similar to hay fever-type symptoms. Mold can also trigger asthma attacks in those who are allergic to mold. Read more about symptoms HERE.

What to Do

If you find mold in government housing, contact the facility manager ASAP. If you find it in the office, immediately report it to your supervisor and the facility manager.
Recommended actions depend on the size of the problem. For example, if there’s one ceiling tile with mold growing on it, then there should be no problem continuing to work in the area, but it needs to be reported and corrected ASAP. As a precaution, those who are allergic or very sensitive to mold should be allowed to relocate to areas not affected by the mold. On the other hand, if an 8’ x 10’ office has walls covered in mold, then consult an expert or mold professional and prepare for the possibility of relocating occupants.

There are interim measures that facility maintenance or the Directorate of Public Works can do until a professional or mold remediation team can assess the situation, remediate it and resolve the cause of the mold growth. For instance, as a temporary fix, the mold growth on a wall can be covered with plastic or sealed in place to stop the release of fungal spores.

For private residences, depending on the amount of the mold in the home, you may be able to remove it yourself. Small, isolated areas of visible mold growth of less than 10-sq ft of surface area can be removed with soap and water. No special training is necessary. For example, a resident can remove a ceiling tile or clean small areas on walls if they wear gloves, goggles and an N-95 filtering facepiece respirator to protect themselves from any fungal spores. In cases with larger areas or where people are experiencing mold-related medical symptoms, consult an expert or mold professional.

The most important tip to keep mold at bay is to act quickly to clean up leaks or spills. If wet or damp materials are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold won’t grow.

Army guidance for mold remediation and mold assessment instructions are found in the US Army Public Health Center Technical Guides 277 and 278, which can be found HERE. The Army is finalizing a housing-specific mold and dampness assessment standard operating procedure.

For additional resources, visit the Army Public Health Center website’s Mold & Indoor Air Quality section HERE. You can download a handy mold facts flyer HERE. Also see the Strategies to Prevent Mold Growth section on the website HERE.
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