Mould and other fungi are naturally occurring through out the world in any outdoor environment. They help with the decomposition of organic matter and the world would look a lot different if fungi and mould were not around.
So why do remediation team members wear non-breathable suits, gloves and respirators if mould and fungi are naturally occurring and common in the outdoor environment?
When mould grows indoors it is confined to an enclosed environment and, as growth continues, indoor concentration levels of mould spores and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC’s) can become very high.
During the remediation process the mould is aggravated due to the remediation techniques and large volumes of spores and mould fragments become airborne. Inhalation of high concentrations of spores and MVOC’s can lead to a number of respiratory and digestive tract irritations so the wearing respirators with high efficiency particulate and carbon filters removes respiratory exposure for the team.
To validate the need for the personal protective equipment air samples were taken at the beginning, during and after a mould remediation job. The job lasted roughly four hours over a single day and the samples were reviewed in the afternoon two days later. The photos of the air samples below show clear justification for the remediation technicians need to wear respiratory PPE during the remediation process and also just how effective remediation can be.
Sample 1 – Prior to remediation Sample 2 – During remediation Sample 3 – After remediation
Sample 1 - taken prior to remediation; mould growth has begun on some of the impact sites.
Sample 2 - taken during the remediation; mould growth can be seen at every impact site indicating very high levels of airborne mould due to disturbance during the remediation process.
Sample 3 - taken after the remediation was complete; there is no visible mould growth indicating viable mould had been removed from the area.
In addition to the mould itself, during growth some species of mould release gases called 'microbial volatile organic compounds' (MVOC's). Some MVOC's can be smelt as a pungent damp/musty odour.
In high concentrations the MVOC’s produced can cause irritations to the skin and respiratory tract. To protect the remediation team members from absorption of these gases through their skin they wear non-breathable suits and latex (or similar) gloves; active charcoal organic vapour filters on their respirators protect their airway's. Where MVOC’s are potentially high, full face respirators, rather than half face respirators and safety glasses, are worn for added protection.
When dealing with highly contaminated environments it is Indoor Air Quality Solutions standard practice to bring down the active mould concentrations by sanitising the environment with a hydrogen peroxide vapour prior to starting any remediation work. The hydrogen peroxide vapour neutralises the active mould growth and kills any mould and fungi prior to the remediation team entering the contaminated area. The sanitisation is also the final step in our remediation process ensuring a complete remediation.