Mold spores are found almost everywhere and mold will grow on virtually any organic substance as long as moisture, oxygen, and certain temperature ranges are present. It can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores from the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture. Since mold requires water to grow, it is important to prevent moisture problems in buildings.
The control of moisture is the key to mold control. Water leaks or other moisture issues in residence halls should immediately be reported to Residential Services. Leaks or moisture issues in any other WPI building should be reported immediately to Facilities. The following are some guidelines to keep moisture levels at a minimum:
- Fix leaky plumbing and leaks in the building envelope as soon as possible.
- Watch for condensation and wet spots.
- Prevent moisture due to condensation by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level in air (humidity). To increase surface temperature, insulate or increase air circulation. To reduce the moisture level in air, repair leaks, increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry), or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid).
- Keep heating, ventilation and air conditioning drip pans clean, flowing properly and unobstructed.
- Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside where possible.
- Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally 30-60%, if possible.
- Perform regular building/HVAC inspections and maintenance as scheduled.
- Clean and dry wet or damp spots within 48 hours.
- Don’t let foundations stay wet. Provide drainage and slope the ground away from the foundation.
In some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces, such as the backside of drywall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets, etc. Possible locations of hidden mold can include pipe chases and utility tunnels (with leaking or condensing pipes), walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), condensate drain pans inside air handling units, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).
Hidden mold may be suspected if a building smells moldy, but the source is not visible, or if there has been water damage and building occupants are reporting health problems.
The following procedures are to provide general guidance for actions to be taken for various scenarios relating to mold issues.
- In the event of flooding or larger water leaks, immediately inform Facilities at x 5500. In an emergency, contact Campus Police at x5555 who will coordinate any evacuations and notify the Fire Department if deemed necessary.
- Locate and secure the source of water. An effort will be made to dry wet porous materials (installed carpeting, upholstered furnishings, drywall, etc.) effectively within 24-48 hours by vacuum extraction or dehumidification to prevent mold growth.
- If a musty/moldy odor exists in the building or occupants have any other reason to suspect the presence of mold but none is visible, contact Facilities to investigate and resolve the problem (s). Facilities will conduct a thorough visual investigation and conduct an assessment of indoor air quality including all sampling deemed necessary.
- If visible mold is present, action will be based on the amount of mold present and the type of material contaminated (i.e. whether it can be cleaned or must be discarded). Porous materials from mold cannot be cleaned and must be removed from buildings. Non-porous building materials may be cleaned using detergent, diluted bleach or cleaners specifically formulated for mold.
The goal of remediation is to restore satisfactory building conditions. In all situations, the underlying cause of water accumulation must be rectified or mold will recur. Remediation should be conducted in a manner that will remove or clean contaminated materials while preventing the spread of fungi and dust from the work area to adjacent clean areas.
The removal of mold from contaminated surfaces will vary depending on the material, the location, and the extent of mold growth. Generally, some degree of isolation or containment will likely be required, and larger areas may require evacuation of occupants along with contracting of trained abatement professionals. Representatives of Facilities will assist in making this determination.
Evaluating the Completeness of Remediation/Cleanup
- The water or moisture problem should be corrected.
- Mold removal should be complete. Use professional judgment to determine if the cleanup is sufficient. Visible mold, mold-damaged materials, and moldy odors should not be present.
- If air sampling has been conducted, the kinds and concentrations of mold and mold spores in the building should be similar to those found outside, once cleanup activities have been completed.
- Revisit the site shortly after remediation, and it should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.
- People should be able to occupy or re-occupy the space without health complaints or physical symptoms.