Late summer and early fall is the peak season for mold, according to subject matter experts in Fort Lee’s Environmental Management Division.
Mold is naturally occurring and can be found indoors and outdoors. Visible concentrations in homes could be a health risk and should be cleaned and removed immediately, especially when occupants have allergies, asthma or compromised immune systems. Steps also should be taken to reduce the chances of it reappearing in damp areas with poor ventilation.
According to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, if visible or suspected mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary in most cases and simply removing and cleaning it is sufficient.
Qualitative or do-it-yourself mold sampling kits are known to be ineffective, the EMD team also advised. They often return false positives due to improper collection technique and no naturally occurring mold concentration baseline for comparison. Sampling for mold to identify the spore type should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in collection and correctly interpreting the results.
Maintaining air circulation is the best way to prevent mold. Most modern HVAC systems are designed to operate in a closed building with no open windows or exterior doors; therefore, leaving them open with the belief that it “promotes healthy air flow” isn’t actually true. Opening windows and exterior doors leads to changes in temperature and humidity, which can promote mold growth. In housing, mudrooms and garages without vents are meant to be closed off from the rest of the dwelling as the HVAC system was not designed for the additional load from those areas.
In some cases, mold may indicate a leak in windows, doors or walls that should be investigated. Moisture meter readings less than 5 percent in dry wall and between 7-8 percent in hardwood floors are acceptable. Ideal indoor humidity overall is 45 percent.
Fort Lee has established an Indoor Air Quality Team comprised of representatives from the Garrison and CASCOM Safety Offices, Directorate of Public Works (including Environmental Management and others), and the Preventive Medicine Division of Kenner Army Health Clinic. Individuals suspecting mold that is beyond DIY cleaning or does not clear up after it’s removed should contact the IAQ by submitting a “Support Request Form” found at kenner.nrmc.amedd.army.mil/Healthcare-Services/Preventive-Medicine/Industrial-Hygiene. Send the completed form to email@example.com.
Upon receipt of an IAQ request, the team will assess the situation and provide recommendations for cleaning, repairs, and heating ventilation and air conditioning operations to minimize the moisture source for mold growth. Tenants in non-residential areas should call 804-451-1914 and provide the IAQ information for service orders. If the effort of work is greater than 10 square feet, the authorized user will submit Form 4283 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents in Fort Lee Family Housing will submit a service ticket through the Hunt Resident App.
Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may need to be thrown away if they become moldy. Cleaning procedures for small isolated areas of less than 10 square feet are as follows (for individuals who are not sensitive to mold and bleach):
1) Gather two buckets, a garbage bag, at least two rags, bleach, water, safety glasses and non-permeable/waterproof gloves.
2) Add 10 percent bleach to 90 percent water in one bucket. Make only the amount of bleach solution needed for immediate cleaning as the chlorine dissipates in a short time. Fill the second bucket with water for rinsing.
3) Dip the first rag in the bleach water bucket and wipe the area in one direction. Discard the rag, never double dip or reuse it.
4) Dip the second rag in the water bucket. Wipe the surface in the same direction as the first time. Discard the rag as well as any loose or flaking paint that comes off on the rag.
5) Ensure all accessible areas are wiped, repeating the steps needed without reusing the rags.
6) Discard the used water into the commode, not the hand sink. This will reduce the likelihood of clogging the sink drain with leftover solid particles. Throw rags and as much solid particles as possible in the trash.
7) When finished cleaning, remove gloves and dispose in trash.
8) Wash hands thoroughly. Scrub nails and cuticle areas carefully around fingers. Remove and rinse off safety glasses.
Additional guidance can be found at www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq and home.army.mil/lee/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-public-works/environmental-management.