Facts About Moisture, Mold and Asbestos

indoor-environmental-concerns March 1, 2016 10:55 pm

Indoor Environmental Concerns

There are many pitfalls when it comes to owning and managing both commercial and residential property. Some may feel the biggest concern is keeping the residents happy or exceeding their expectations. It’s not an easy task when you do not often hear from your residents or worse they do not let you know about moisture related damage until it’s too late to dry it and by now likely has suspect visual mold growth.
Moisture related damage commonly referred to as water damage comes in many forms. A very common source is from a leaking drain pipe under a kitchen or bathroom sink. Other sources are from broken supply lines to the sink, toilet, washing machine, water heater, sprinklers and from water being left on that was forgotten about. The most common surface moisture-related problems, regardless of climate, are mold, mildew, and condensation. The single most important factor influencing these problems is relative humidity near surfaces. This not so obvious source of moisture often goes undetected. Understanding the factors that govern relative humidity will enable property owners and managers to control surface-related moisture problems.

Relative Humidity and Vapor Pressure

The terms absolute humidity, humidity ratio, and vapor pressure refer to the same concept. Air contains varying amounts of moisture in gas or vapor form. The actual amount of moisture contained in the air is referred to as absolute humidity; more precisely, the absolute humidity is the ratio of the mass of water vapor to the mass of dry air. This is also referred to as the humidity ratio. The amount of moisture air can hold is dependent on its temperature. The warmer the air is the more moisture it can hold. The cooler the air the less moisture it can hold. Air is said to be saturated (at 100 percent relative humidity) when it contains the maximum amount of moisture possible at a specific temperature. Relative humidity is defined as the ratio of the amount of moisture contained in the air to the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold art a given temperature. Sources of moisture related damage that do not get enough attention is moisture often caused by the resident living in the unit or worse too many residents living in a smaller space. Simple breathing along with cooking, extended hot showers coupled with lack of proper ventilation will accelerate this problem. Moisture also enters the building through the exterior siding. This moisture is more likely to enter the living space from penetrations, cracks, holes and missing exterior stucco.
Excessive moisture leads to water damage and mold. Who is responsible to remediate the problem? Is it the landlord responsibility or is it the resident’s responsibility to fix? There are many factors at play to consider before making that determination. What does the lease say when was the water damage/mold discovered, how did it get there? Was the moisture problem created by the resident? Has the moisture source been identified? The answer depends on the answers to the questions above. One thing that is for sure the moisture source or sources must be identified and should be eliminated before any work gets started.

Is what you are seeing really mold? How can you tell?

Proper mold investigation and discovery is essential in determining how to address the moisture and suspect mold concerns. Often times the visual suspect mold is on the surface only and there is no need for expensive mold remediation. A professional inspection should be done preferably by an IEP, Indoor Environmental Professional who is board certified as either a Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant, CIEC or a Certified Indoor Microbial Consultant, CIMC by the American Council of Accredited Certification, ACAC. Many people think an Industrial Hygienist is the best choice, however speaking from experience this is often not the case. Many Industrial Hygienist are not trained in mold through their education at school and often do not have a lot of training in building science. Who you end up choosing should have at least eight years’ experience in the field as a Certified Indoor Environmental Professional. Some professionals have a higher pain tolerance than others and are not as likely to require extensive testing or mold remediation when it is not necessary. I have seen too many times where the IEP will write a scope of work to remove walls when all that was necessary was proper cleaning to remove surface mold that was present due to high humidity. When no elevated moisture is present in the building materials of concern providing a non-evasive wall cavity check or physically removing a small section of the wall to provide a through visual inspection goes a long way in saving time and spending unnecessary funds to remediate when it is not necessary. When unwanted moisture is present for a period of 72 hours or more the likelihood of mold/mildew being present in the wall cavity and not just on the surface is much greater. Often times if the building materials have been wet 72 hours or more the IEP would advise further investigation and discovery or recommend the Certified Mold Remediator include wall removal in their scope of work to be done. Following the ANSI/ IICRC 2015 S 520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation and the S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration is highly recommended.

Before any walls, floors and ceilings are removed the following information pertaining to Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) must be adhered to:

Materials for which sample analysis by PLM resulted in greater than 0.1% asbestos (for any one sample collected from a homogeneous material) are classified as ACM and are regulated materials under the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1403. Materials containing more than 1/10th of 1% asbestos also require licensing for asbestos with the CCLB and registration with Cal/OSHA. Certain Cal/OSHA requirements apply to materials containing any level of asbestos, including exposure assessments and wet work methods.

SCAQMD Rule 1403 requires (with limited exceptions) that both friable and non-friable ACM in buildings be removed prior to maintenance, repairs, renovation or demolition that would disturb the material. Work involving the disturbance of asbestos-containing material also requires ten working days prior notification to SCAQMD and notification to Cal/OSHA (exemption for less than 100 SF). These materials should not be disturbed, except by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor who complies with all applicable regulations.

Under the California Health and Safety Code Section 25915 et. seq., notification about asbestos containing construction materials must be provided initially by the building owner within 15 days of receipt of the information to co-owners, tenants, employees, contract workers, or others who may encounter the material, and the notification must be provided annually thereafter.

Author: Vince

Vincent J. Attardo is the President/CEO of Coastline Environmental Solutions, Inc. He provides Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) investigations, mold and bacteria testing, water damage/mold remediation and repair, and is available for consultation and public speaking. For more information please visit www.coastlineclean.com. Readers may contact him at 800-847-3867 or email at vince@coastlineclean.com.