EAST MORICHES, N.Y., Aug. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- With some extremely heavy rain levels in many parts of the U.S., retailers with multiple locations in multiple states need to be aware that mold (fungi) is a serious problem that cannot be taken lightly. In the aftermath of record-breaking rain fall levels, now is the time to pay particular attention to signs of mold damage.
Scott Crennan, CEO of SMI, a New York-based In-store Maintenance Company is no stranger to dealing with emergencies related to natural disasters and preventative maintenance for large retail chains. "Whether its roof leaks, flooding or plumbing-related, when the interior of a building becomes wet, mold is typically the single source of indoor air pollution. And, large amounts may cause mild to serious health problems, not to mention structural issues and escalating repair costs."
Although no one knows exactly how many types of fungi exist, it is estimated by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that there are upwards of 300,000. Some of the more common indoor molds are: Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria and Aspergillus.
The CDC also states that if exposed, some people display symptoms such as eye irritation, nasal stuffiness, wheezing, or skin rashes. Some people with mold allergies may show more severe reactions like high fevers, shortness of breath or even lung infections with certain pre-existing conditions. Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children. These are just a few health concerns to be aware of in a retail environment with high people traffic.
SMI recommends daily inspections following prolonged water exposure (24-48 hours) to any retail location or facility. In instances where mold issues were not immediately addressed, SMI's Disaster Recovery Services (DRS) Company has reported damages that exceeded six figures per store. Before you and/or facility maintenance assess possible mold damage, first and foremost make sure the materials that appear wet do not contain asbestos. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that exposure to airborne asbestos can cause lung cancer and a cancer of the lung lining called mesothelioma. While lung cancer has a number of associated causes, asbestosis and mesothelioma are uniquely associated with exposure to asbestos. If in any doubt, the store or facility should be tested by a professional and should not be touched.
According to the EPA, once mold is identified in any porous materials like drywall, cement board, insulation, carpets, plaster, ceiling tiles, and paper products with mold growth, all need to be bagged and removed. Non-porous surfaces like hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned with detergent and water, and dried completely. A disinfectant may be used to eliminate any mold missed by the cleaning. Keep people with mold allergies out of the area while cleaning. Everyone should use protective equipment and techniques while cleaning up mold. Unfortunately, microorganisms will continue to thrive if there is any moisture that remains. Dehumidifiers, air conditioners and industrial fans are often used in low to moderate recoveries if fumes are not too strong. In more prominent cases, air scrubbers are used in the enclosed environment. Air scrubbers are portable filtration systems that remove particles, gasses, and/or chemicals from the air within a given area. These machines draw air in from the surrounding environment and pass it through a series of filters to remove contaminants. The size and complexity of an air scrubber system will depend on the size of the space being serviced, as well as the range, type, and size of contaminants that must be removed from the area. Typically, air scrubbers are left to the professionals.
Crennan concluded, "If, by chance, you attempt to clean moderate mold and shortly after see more or experience a musty smell, you should contact a professional because the mold issue is likely much larger and deeper than anticipated."