Monday, May 20, 2013

Water Damage Recommendations

Water Damage Recommendations

During flooding, systems for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) can become submerged in flood waters. As a result, these systems may contain substantial amounts of dirt and debris and may also become contaminated with various types of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. The following recommendations will help ensure that HVAC systems contaminated with flood water are properly cleaned and remediated to provide healthy indoor environments.

Microorganisms may grow on all surfaces of HVAC system components that were submerged in flood waters. In addition, moisture can collect in HVAC system components that were not submerged (such as air supply ducts above the water line) and can promote the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, all components of the HVAC system that were contaminated with flood water or moisture should be thoroughly inspected, cleaned of dirt and debris, and disinfected by a qualified professional. The following recommendations will help ensure that HVAC systems contaminated with flood water are properly cleaned and remediated to provide healthy indoor environments.

These recommendations will be reassessed periodically and updated as appropriate.

Steps Before Cleaning and mold remediation 

If the building is to remain partly occupied (for example, on upper floors not affected by flood waters), isolate the construction areas where HVAC systems will be cleaned and remediated by using temporary walls, plastic sheeting, or other vapor-retarding barriers. Maintain the construction areas under negative pressure (relative to adjacent non-construction areas) by using blowers equipped with HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air filters) to exhaust the area. To ensure complete isolation from the construction areas, it may be necessary to pressurize the adjacent non-construction areas and temporarily relocate the outdoor-air intake for the HVAC system serving the occupied areas.
Take precautions to protect the health of workers who are cleaning and remediating the HVAC system. Make sure that workers wear at least an N-95 NIOSH-approved respirator to protect against airborne microorganisms. Increased levels of respiratory protection (for example, powered, air-purifying respirators equipped with HEPA filters) may be appropriate depending on the level of visible contamination. In addition, when using chlorine bleach or other disinfectants in poorly ventilated environments, it may be necessary to use appropriate chemical cartridges in addition to the particulate filters to protect workers from breathing the chemical vapors. Employers must implement a complete respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of the OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.134). The minimum requirements for a respiratory protection program include a written standard operating procedure for the following: selecting and using respirators; the medical evaluation of workers to determine whether they are physically able to wear the respirator selected for use; training and instructions on respirator use; the cleaning, repair, and storage of respirators; the continued surveillance of work area conditions for worker exposure and stress; and a respirator fit-testing program. For tight-fitting respirators, fit-testing is necessary to help ensure that the respirator fits tightly, reducing the potential for leakage of outside air from around the edge of the mask. In addition, employers must provide workers with appropriate skin, eye, and hearing protection for the safe performance of their jobs.
HVAC Cleaning and Remediation

Remove all flood-contaminated insulation surrounding and within HVAC system components. Discard these contaminated materials appropriately following applicable Federal, State, and local regulations.
Remove contaminated HVAC filter media and discard appropriately following applicable Federal, State, and local regulations.
After removing any insulation and filters, clean all flood-contaminated HVAC system component surfaces with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner to remove dirt, debris, and microorganisms. Pay special attention to filter racks, drain pans, bends and horizontal sections of air ducts where debris can collect.
After removing any insulation or debris, disinfect all HVAC system component surfaces while the HVAC system is not operating. Use a solution of 1 cup of household chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning products that contain ammonia.
Conduct the cleaning and disinfection activities in a clean-to-dirty work progression. Consider the use of auxiliary fans to supply "clean" air to the worker position and carry aerosolized contaminant and disinfectant in the clean-to-dirty direction, away from the worker's breathing zones and towards the point of filtration and exhaust.
Follow the disinfection procedure with a clean water rinse. Depending on the amount of debris present, it may be necessary to mechanically clean the HVAC system component surfaces with a steam or a high-pressure washer before using the disinfectant. Gasoline powered pressure washers should be used outside or with adequate exhaust ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide hazards. (See NIOSH topic webpage, "Carbon Monoxide Hazards from Small Gasoline Powered Engines" at:
Note: Remove and discard HVAC system components that are contaminated with flood water, and cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected. Replace them with new components.

After cleaning and disinfecting or replacing the HVAC system components, replace the insulation – preferably with an external (i.e. not in the air stream) smooth-surfaced insulation to help prevent debris and microorganisms from collecting in the future.
Make sure that the HVAC system fan has been removed and serviced (cleaned, disinfected, dried thoroughly, and tested) by a qualified professional before it is placed back into the air-handling unit.
During the cleaning and remediation process, consider upgrading the HVAC system filtration to the highest efficiency filters practical given the static pressure constraints of the HVAC system fan. This step has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the long-term quality of the indoor environment, since it reduces the amount of airborne dusts and microorganisms.
Resuming HVAC Operations

After cleaning and disinfecting or replacing HVAC system, have a qualified professional thoroughly evaluate its performance and correct it as necessary before the building is occupied again. The HVAC system performance should conform to the recommendations contained in ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.
Before the building is occupied again, operate the HVAC system continuously in a normal manner at a comfortable temperature for 48 to 72 hours. During this period, it may be beneficial to open the HVAC outdoor air dampers to the maximum setting that still allows you to provide the desired indoor air temperatures. If objectionable flood-related odors persist after this "flush out" period, reassess by looking for flood-contaminated areas that were not identified earlier and continue the flush-out process until odors are no longer apparent. Replace the HVAC filters used during the flush-out prior to building occupancy.
After a building is occupied again, make frequent (for example, weekly) checks of the HVAC system to ensure that it is operating properly. During these checks, inspect the HVAC system filters and replace them when necessary. Gradually reduce the frequency of the HVAC system checks to monthly or quarterly inspections, depending on the routine operation and maintenance specifications for the HVAC system.
If no routine operation and maintenance program is in place for the HVAC system, develop and institute such a program. At a minimum, include the following routine procedures: inspection and maintenance of HVAC components, calibration of HVAC system controls, and testing and balancing of the HVAC system.
After the building is occupied again, maintain the interior temperature and relative humidity to conform with the ranges recommended in ASHRAE Standard 55- 2004, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.
Additional Resources

Additional information about the cleanup and restoration of water-damaged and mold contaminated HVAC systems is available from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). Their pertinent documents (Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation [IICRC S520] and Assessment, Cleaning and Restoration of HVAC Systems [ACR 2006]) are available for purchase at, respectively. The University of Minnesota also has a document titled, "HVAC System Decontamination" available for free off the internet at


Vinken W, Roels P [1984]. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis to Aspergillus fumigatus in compost. Thorax 39:74-74.
Malmberg P, Rask-Andersen A, Palmgren U, Höglund S, Kolmodin-Hedman B, StDlenheim G [1985]. Exposure to microorganisms, febrile and airway-obstructive symptoms, immune status, and lung function of Swedish farmers.
Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health 11:287-293.
Topping MD, Scarsbrick DA, Luczynska CM, Clarke EC, Seaton A [1985]. Clinical and immunological reactions to Aspergillus niger among workers at a biotechnology plant. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 42:312-318.
Edwards JH [1980]. Microbial and immunological investigations and remedial action after an outbreak of humidifier fever. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 37:55-62.
Weiss NS, Soleymani Y [1971]. Hypersensitivity lung disease caused by contamination of an air-conditioning system. Annals of Allergy 29:154-156.
Hodgson MJ, Morey PR, Attfield M, Sorenson W, Fink JN, Rhodes WW, Visvesvara GS [1985]. Pulmonary disease associated with cafeteria flooding. Archives of Environmental Health 40(2):96-101.
Fink JN, Banaszak EF, Thiede WH, Barboriak JJ [1971]. Interstitial pneumonitis due to hypersensitivity to an organism contaminating a heating system. Annals of Internal Medicine 74:80-83.
Banazak EF, Barboriak J, Fink J, Scanlon G, Schlueter EP, Sosman A, Thiede W, Unger G [1974]. Epidemiologic studies relating thermophilic fungi and hypersensitivity lung syndrome. American Review of Respiratory Disease 110:585-591.
OSHA [1998]. Occupational Safety and Health Standards (29 CFR 1910.134). Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Washington, D.C.
ASHRAE [2007]. ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers, Atlanta, GA.
ASHRAE [2004]. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55-2004: Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. American Society for Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers, Atlanta, GA.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Health Concerns from Water Damage

Health Concerns From Water Damage

Respiratory Issues

Basically no fresh air = a full load of accumulating indoor pollutants. Fresh air purges indoor pollutants and renews oxygen. You have a lot of potential for indoor for indoor quality improvement with an air change of fresh air every 5-6 hours.

After water damage many issues arise from inhaling mold spores. The best defense against this is investing in an air purifier.  They filter mold spores and other allergens to help stop asthma or allergies. Air purifiers also prevent mold growth in the future. The best type of filter for an air purifier typically has a HEPA filter as well as an activated carbon filter that both work to remove any harmful particles or gasses from the air. the HEPA filter removes particles usually between 1-20 microns large while the activated carbon removes the mold odor  by absorbing VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which are off gassed from the mold.

Air purifiers do not kill mold that is already growing from water damage, they just filter out the spores floating around in the air which can cause damage to your lungs. This is why making sure everything is clean and free of moisture is very important. After any mold problem, there is always a little left over, this grows over time if not attended to. Spores even blow into your home from the outside which is why it is important to keep an eye everything. To limit your exposure you might also want to consider:

  • Removing any carpet found in bathrooms and use tile or linoleum instead.
  • Clean bathrooms and kitchens frequently because this is where the majority of water is in homes.
  • Use the exhaust fan in the bathroom when you are using the shower or in the kitchen when you are cooking.
  • Make sure to vent the clothes dryer outside of the house.
    • Be sure your clothes are dry before putting them in closets or dressers
  • If the humidity in your home exceeds 50%, use a dehumidifier for optimal air quality.
  • When painting your home, find paint which uses agents to suppress mold growth.
  • Check all downspouts around the home and be sure they are directing water away from the home.
    • Also not leaking in any cracks or pooling around the foundation
EPA's Asthma Website

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Water Damage South Florida

Flood Cleanup from Water Damage

  1.  Wear protective gear when cleaning up any water damage. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing in the spores and through skin contact. It is important to wear gloves, goggles, and a respirator when attempting to clean.
  2. Isolate the work and ventilate to the outdoors. When you go to clean the affected area, this stirs up the mold colonies and releases huge quantities of the spores into the air. Do your best to seal off the moldy water damaged areas from the rest of the house. You can even use plastic to drape in staircases. If the power is on, it is important to put a box fan in the window to blow out and exhaust the mold filled air.
  3. Remove all wet and fibrous insulation, even if wall board appears to be dry. Wet insulation will stay wet for far too long, leading to the growth of hidden unhealthy mold and decay fungi inside the walls. Cut the wall covering above the level that was wet, water can wick up above the flood level.
  4. Remove all moldy, porous materials, including gypsum wallboard, processed wood products, ceiling tiles and paper products.
  5. Clean and sanitize plaster, wood paneling, and non paper faced gypsum board walls that have dried, are in good condition, and have no insulation in the wall. It's best to remove multiple layers of paint on old plaster to aid drying. There is a risk of mold on the backside, however, that can release spores into the home through air leaks in the walls. If you choose to restore these materials, seal interior gaps with caulk.
  6. Flush the air after cleaning the affected area and dry as soon as possible. Close the windows and run the air conditioner or heat. Run fans and use a dehumidifier. If there is no power, keep the windows open.
  7. Keep an eye on the water damaged areas. New mold growths can grow in as little as 2-3 days if the materials stay wet. If you see more forming, repeat cleaning and use speed drying equipment. 
  8. Do not try to restore the area until all the materials have completely dried. Once it is dry, make sure to use water-resistant materials upon restoration. 

Common Products Used to Clean Mold:

  • Bleach
  • Borax
  • Vinegar
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Detergent
  • Baking Soda
  • Tea tree Oil
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract
A  few things to take into consideration about water damage

1. There are possible health effects which can arise from either direct of indirect contact with mold. Respiratory problems such as asthma and allergic reactions can arise from mold spores throughout the air.

2. After water damage from flooding, you cannot get rid of all the mold by cleaning/drying the area, you must use moisture control tools such as a dehumidifier or proper ventilation.

3. If there is a water problem coming from a leak or crack, you must fix that problem first to contain the amount of water going in the room.

5. Any absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, carpet, foam, etc. must either may need to be replaced depending on how significant the damage is.

6. Add insulation to prevent any condensation or build up of wetness from pipes or windows.

7. Do not use carpeting in rooms where there are apparent moisture problems such as near sinks, water fountains, etc.

8. Molds can be found on about anything such as wood, drywall, tiles, food, or even air ducts.

For help with Water Damage in South Florida, call a mold remediation professional  today at

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mold Types, Identification & Effects on Humans


Understanding mold, how it forms, and the factors contributing to its development is one of the best ways to prevent it from forming in your home or office. Molds are a diverse group of organisms that can be extremely toxic, or equally beneficial to humans in some cases.

The Good - Beneficial Molds

Mold, although generally considered a nuisance or hazard by most of us, plays an important role in our environment. What we commonly refer to as molds are generally a type of fungi with a couple exceptions (more on that later). These organisms are important because without them the formation of soil, and in turn the growth of new plant life would not be possible. They are nature's digestive system, breaking down dead organic material into nutrient rich compounds that fuel the growth of new plant life. Their powerful ability to externally digest organic matter make them potent antibacterials in same cases.Molds of the genus Penicillium produce penicillin, which is used as an antibiotic. Molds also breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide just like we do. This may work in perfectly if your goal is to grow lots of healthy plants, but too much of these molds in your home can cause a suffocating effect, further exacerbating the respiratory problems that are commonly associated with most types of mold exposure.

The Bad - Toxic Molds

There are more than 140 species of mold documented to be pathogenic or disease forming in humans.  Some molds can be so bad for you that they are considered the most toxic naturally occurring substances known to man. So toxic that it has even been used in biological warfare. The concentrated T-2 trichothecene mycotoxins (the same toxins found in Stachybotrys or toxic black mold) were responsible for thousands of deaths in Laos during the Vietnam war. Symptoms can vary drastically, ranging from severe headaches to nausea, vomiting, cancer and even death.

Most Common Types of Mold

Soil, dead plant material. Light colored. Slow growing in moist environments. Rarely infects humans, but can when   other conditions are present, or immune system is weak. If infection occurs it can be a real problem. This mold was previously known as Cephalosporium. Used to derive the class of antibiotics known as Cephalosporins.
Toxic. Indoor, found in areas with high oxygen. This is a common contaminant of starchy foods such as bread and potatoes. It is known as the second most common mold to infect humans. This mold is also commonly found on damp walls. Watch for any signs of leaks or water damage.
Indoor and outdoor, very common green to brown to black colonies. Found on living and dead plant material. This most commonly causes infections of the skin and toe nails.
plants, soils, mostly harmless, in humans w bad immune systems: nails, cornea. used as a food and has been weaponized by the soviet union.
white to gray/beige - plants, soils, most unable to infect humans because they cant stand warm environments, but those that do can cause a kind of flesh eating condition known as zygomycosis.
Occurs indoors and can cause serious illness and even death in humans. Best known as Toxic black mold, it is frequently associated with poor indoor air quality after water damaged building materials. All the symptoms listed below but heightened are very common with this mold.   
A major plant pathogen, Alternaria is are common allergens in humans which grow indoors. They can cause fevers and even lead to asthma. This mold is a fast spreader and is a large problem in human health. It has also been known to destroy crops.

Other Types of "Mold"
In some rare circumstances, mold isn't Fungus at all. The exceptions to the fungi rule are two types of mold previously believe to be members of the Fungi kingdom; slime mold, and water mold. Water and slime molds, as we later learned, are not fungi at all. This is important to acknowledge when identifying, and remediating these types of mold growths. These Fungi-like "molds" are classified as a diverse group of eukaryotic microorganisms known as protists. These Protists can be unicellular when food is abundant, or multicellular when it isn't. Unlike Fungi, their cells do not show differentiation into tissues in their multicellular form. Instead, each cell can change its role in the organism as it sees fit. This simple cellular nature is the primary difference that excludes them from the fungi kingdom. In most other respects, their behavior is considered very fungi-like.

These water and slime protists can be dangerous pathogens, such as in the case of Plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria in humans. You don't have to worry about this particular protist growing in your air conditioner though, as it is an exclusive parasite of animals, but it does help to illustrate how dangerous some of these organisms can be to humans.

When does mold Form?

The most common mold growths are triggered by environmental factors, such as high humidity, temperature range, oxygen levels, and the existence of organic material for the mold to consume. These conditions can be inadvertently created as a result of many common household occurrences, such as:

- Flooding, or water damage such as pipe leaks
- Malfunctioning air conditioning units
- Rodent / insect infestations
- Ground water absorption
- Keeping a steady ambient temperature for long periods of time

Some of the most common household environments perfect for mold formation are air conditioners, AC ducts, in between sheetrock or wooden walls, and basements. Even slime molds have been found to grow in air conditioners.

How can you eliminate mold in your home?

The mold remediation process can be a real challenge. Spores travel quickly and can spread throughout your home completely undetected. Even when a small mold growth is properly cleaned up, you may have new formations beginning to grow elsewhere. In some cases sections of wall or ceiling may need to be replaced entirely as the mold will not only be deep rooted and difficult to annihilate, it may even compromise the structural integrity of your home.

Common Symptoms of Mold Exposure
  1. Itchy eyes
  2. Itchy ears 
  3. Coughing
  4. Sneezing 
  5. Sore throat 
  6. Irritated, itchy skin
  7. Watery eyes
  8. Sinus headaches 
  9. Congestion 
  10. Weakness
  11. Shortness of breath 
  12. Hair loss

1. "Common types of mold " -
2. "Mold Symptoms"

4.  Castlebury L, Rossman A, Sung G, Hyten A, Spatafora J (2004). "Multigene phylogeny reveals new lineage for Stachybotrys chartarum, the indoor air fungus". Mycol Res 108 (Pt 8)
5. Nowicki, Marcin et al. (30 August 2012),
Vegetable Crops Research Bulletin,Versita, Warsaw, Poland, doi:retrieved 2012-09-01

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Water Damage from floods South Florida.

Floods are Common for Florida Residents

Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters outside of fire. According to the Palm Beach County flood facts, Florida residents and businesses hold more than 40% of all flood insurance policies in the nation. Any flood, big or small, needs to be taken care of immediately because destructive water damage travels fast.

If flooding occurs:

1. Move Furniture: Remove everything you can from a wet carpet (dyes and stains on wood furniture may bleed onto the carpet); if you can't move a piece of furniture, put aluminum foil or a plastic bag under the legs.

2. Lift draperies: Leave draperies in place but get them up off the floor by putting them on clothes hangers and hooking the hanger onto the drapery rod.

3. If water reaches a wall, pay attention: If you can spot water in the carpet or it reaches a wall juncture, treat the problem seriously. It may have traveled unseen four or five feet along the floor, through the carpet pad, possibly reaching cabinets, walls, insulation, other rooms and the subfloor, elevating the risk of mold.

4. Get help right away: A professional water restoration company that pays attention to detail, should be contacted without hesitation.Water Damage is a serious issue that can lead into mold growth, which is a health hazard. 

Here is a video to help prevent and find signs of a water leak in your home.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Water Damage South Florida

Water Damage

    Water damage can really cause destruction to your belongings and home's structure which will eventually lead to health complications if not taken care of properly. Living in South Florida we are unfortunately set squarely in the crosshairs of almost any major storms coming from the Atlantic basin, especially during hurricane season. Along with the weather, water damage can originate from numerous sources inside your household.  Common occurrences such as clogged toilets, broken pipes, and plumbing leaks make water damage unavoidable in most cases. Even if you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Water damage is definitely not something to ignore because it steadily gets worse over time. Moisture sticks behind walls, under floors, in foundation cracks and throughout the infrastructure of your home. This especially rings true for the high humidity climates like we have in South Florida.

      If moisture and oxygen are present, eventually this will formulate into mold growth. When water damage is overlooked it will start eating away at materials, affecting the look, smell and structural integrity. The airborne fungus that develops from this will cause allergies and in some cases even cause serious problems such long term irritation to the lungs.

    Molds reproduce by creating tiny spores (viable seeds) that usually cannot be seen without magnification and will continually float throughout the air being inhaled by anyone occupying the space. There are no EPA or government standards that have been established for mold or mold spore levels, so it is impossible to prove that a building or room is in compliance with any regulations concerning mold exposure.
With this being said, it’s imperative to tackle the issue at the source as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more extensive the damage.