Black mold is something ordinarily associated with residential homes; however, that is not the only place where these spores proliferate. Indeed, many commercial buildings are at risk from stachybotrys chartarum (scientific name for black mold). This particular fungus can be a serious risk for anyone with respiratory problems. Building-related illnesses (BRIs) cause health problems for the work force and severe cases of black mold contamination have caused buildings to be evacuated.
Likely breeding grounds are warehouses and storage areas. Black mold requires moisture and humidity to spawn. Both can be found in warehouses and not necessarily in the basements. The moisture may come from leaking pipes or ceilings. Storage places in a commercial building may have sealed paper boxes. These could get dampened by any number of causes. When humidity due to poor ventilation rises, the boxes become excellent places for the growth of black mold. Kitchens and bathrooms are potential breeding grounds because of the presence of moisture. Black mold spores can also become airborne. As a result, if the HVAC or air conditioning system in a building has moisture contaminated with black mold in it, the spores can actually be sprayed over the facility.
Preventing black mold takes routine, proactive measures. This is a situation in which an ounce of prevention can prevent a pound of a rather expensive cure. The moisture level in the air needs to be controlled to prevent the growth of black mold. This can be done by increasing the temperature in areas where moisture build up is possible, encouraging quick drying as a result, or bringing the humidity down to acceptable levels (humidity that is more than seventy percent has the potential for black mold generation). The ventilation and air conditioning must be inspected on a routine basis and all damp air filters have to be removed at once. Watery leaks don’t always come from the pipes alone. Damaged gutters and rain spouts can literally pour rain water into the building. These need to be inspected and repaired when needed. The plumbing ought to be routinely checked for leaks, and particular scrutiny must be given to those pipes going into kitchen and bathroom parts of the building.
A plan of action for any commercial building ought to have provisions for testing the environment. Sampling suspect areas for the black mold mycotoxins can give an early warning about the possibility of existing, or growing, contamination. The most commonly used instruments are mold spore traps and the swab test. The former checks the atmosphere while the latter is used to sample surfaces suspected of breeding black mold. They are not interchangeable; one may not be used to test for mold in the other’s area.
Management should be concerned about the existence of black mold for the health of their employees but if that is not sufficient motivation, there is another reason. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an interest in the health hazards in a commercial building. Should an employee file a complaint and an OSHA inspection reveal unacceptable presence of black mold, the company may face some serious repercussions.
It need not reach that stage at all. Black mold prevention is little more than customary precaution and inspection. The threat to both the structure and occupants is sufficient to make preventive measures an ordinary part of building administration and maintenance. With an active plan for preventing black mold in place, a commercial building’s management team should be able to keep the place safe from contamination.