OSHA Issue Information Bulletin on Mold

Oct. 15, 2003
A new Safety and Health Information Bulletin issued by OSHA gives recommendations on how to prevent mold growth and how to protect workers involved in the prevention and cleanup of mold. Indoor exposure to mold can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks in some individuals.

"This bulletin offers workers some basic information on how to prevent, control and remove mold in buildings leading to the reduction of health risks," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "By reading this bulletin, workers with little or no experience with mold remediation may be able to determine if a mold problem exists and whether the contamination can be managed in-house or if outside assistance is required."

The Safety and Health Information Bulletin is directed primarily at building managers, custodians, and others responsible for building maintenance. It offers recommendations on how to prevent mold growth, proper use of personal protective equipment, ways to assess mold or moisture problems and methods to cleanup damage caused by moisture and mold growth.

The bulletin also includes checklists on mold prevention tips, how to determine if a mold problem exists, cleanup methods and mold remediation guidelines based on the size of an affected area to make it easier to select the appropriate techniques. Additional sections address personal protective equipment, sampling methods and remediation equipment.

Mold prevention tips offered in the bulletin include:

  • Repairing plumbing leaks and leaks in the building structure as soon as possible.
  • Looking for condensation and wet spots. Fix source(s) of moisture incursion problem(s) as soon as possible.
  • Preventing moisture from condensing by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level in the air (humidity). To increase surface temperature, insulate or increase air circulation. To reduce the moisture level in the air, repair leaks, increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry), or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid).
  • Keeping HVAC drip pans clean, flowing properly, and unobstructed.
  • Performing regularly scheduled building/ HVAC inspections and maintenance, including filter changes.
  • Maintaining indoor relative humidity below 70 percent (25 to 60 percent, if possible).
  • Venting moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside where possible.
  • Venting kitchens (cooking areas) and bathrooms according to local code requirements.
  • Cleaning and drying wet or damp spots as soon as possible, but no more than 48 hours after discovery.
  • Providing adequate drainage around buildings and sloping the ground away from building foundations. Follow all local building codes.
  • Pinpointing areas where leaks have occurred, identifying the causes, and taking preventive action to ensure that they do not reoccur.

Molds are found almost everywhere and can grow on virtually any substance as long as moisture and oxygen are present. Molds can damage building materials and, if left unchecked, can eventually cause structural damage to wood-framed buildings by weakening floors and walls.

Some molds have the potential to cause adverse health effects, including asthma attacks in some people who are allergic to mold. Exposure to mold can also cause other types of allergic reactions, including hay fever type symptoms, skin rashes, and irritation to the eyes, noses, throat, and lungs in both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.

To view the bulletin, visit www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib101003.html.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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