Category 3 Water Damage from Roof Leaks

March 25, 2018

The New Restoration Money Grab

Ceiling StainI want to be clear that the restoration industry is dedicated to quickly responding to those in need during some of the most difficult times.  These trained professionals are on call 24 hours a day and have the equipment and training to restore any property to its pre-loss condition.  However, there are those that look at a loss as little more than an opportunity to make money with little or no consideration for the property owner.

These are the restoration contractors who are misclassifying water damage from roof leaks.  This is advantageous to restoration contractors but not to the property owners.  In today’s restoration of roof leaks, the roofers refer a restoration contractor to any observed ceiling stains.  The restoration contractor then recommends an IEP, Indoor Environmental Professional, to evaluate the water stain to determine the best approach to the restoration of the ceiling stain.  Keep in mind that in virtually every case, the stains have long since been dry and have had no negative impact on the occupants either in odor or health.  The stains were simply a visual issue that the property owner intended to correct with paint.

This is where it obviously becomes over complicated.  The restoration contractor will restore the ceiling stain based on the IEP’s recommendations, which far too often involves the containment and removal of the ceiling stain because the stain is reported as Category 3 water; therefore, an exposure risk to the occupants.  The IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration defines Category 3 water as grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.

The most specific aspect of Category 3 water is that it can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.  Without confirmation of the contamination we’ll never know the true category of the water.

Regardless, this theoretical exposure risk is explained to the property owner who becomes convinced that they should allow the IEP and restoration contractor to help them with the stain.  Of course, the IEP and restoration contractor explain to the homeowner that it will be a covered loss and that they will help them by handling the claim and invoicing with the insurance company via the AOB (assignment of benefits). Neither the IEP nor the restoration contractor can ensure coverage.

I can assure you that we’ve had ceiling leaks for as long as we’ve lived in shelters and until recently, we’ve never declared a ceiling stain grossly contaminated and a health risk to occupants.  I can’t imagine how the ceiling stain would pose an exposure risk to the occupants unless they licked the ceiling.

The problem is that these IEP’s, roofers, and restoration contractors have identified a new untapped revenue stream.  The roofers report the ceiling stains to the restoration contractors for a small cash referral fee, avoid the “M” word (mold) by using an IEP to declare the stain as Category 3, and pursue the ceiling stains as restoration of water damage.  With a signed AOB, the IEP and restoration contractor invoice the insurance company for the assessment and water damage restoration.

Bear in mind that this is not the typical approach to any small water damage or ceiling stain.  An active water leak, maybe.  But a small ceiling stain, not hardly.

By enlisting a willing IEP, the restoration contractor can easily state that he or she is only following the IEP’s recommendations.  The work was preformed and the AOB signed.  The restoration contractor will then use one of the many restoration law firms to sue the insurance company for payment if the insurance company declines the loss.  In most cases, the property owner is unaware of the litigation involving the work performed in their property.

Unfortunately, the way the AOB laws are written, the restoration attorney would not have to pay the insurance companies legal fees if they lose the case.  However, the “one-way attorney fee statute” requires insurance companies to pay legal fees against any named “or omnibus insured” who wins a court judgment or decree in an action against the insurer.

Courts interpret “omnibus insured” as meaning any assignee of the insured, and in cases against property insurers, that usually means water restoration contractors.  Armed with the AOB, the contractors and their attorneys started realizing that huge money could be made challenging claims denials or settlement offers.  This has led to the boom on category 3 ceiling stain restoration.

To get back to the unnecessary restoration of a ceiling stain, we need to review how the classification of water is established.  The classification of water damage is defined by the IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration which sets the standards for the cleaning industry and water damage restoration as either Category 1, 2, or 3.

According to the IICRC’s S-500 standard there are three categories describing the type of liquid involved in a water loss. These three categories refer to the degree of contamination involved.

From the IICRC website http://www.iicrc.org/the-basics-water-damage-restoration-training-a-23.html

Category 1. This is liquid from a clean and sanitary source, such as faucets, toilet tanks, drinking fountains, etc. But, category one can quickly degrade into category two.

Category 2. This category of liquid used to be called grey water and is described as having a level of contaminates that may cause illness or discomfort if ingested. Sources include dishwasher or washing machine overflows, flush from sink drains, and toilet overflow with some urine but not feces.

Category 3. This is the worst classification and is grossly unsanitary. It could cause severe illness or death if ingested. It used to be called black water and sources include sewer backup, flooding from rivers or streams, toilet overflow with feces, and stagnant liquid that has begun to support bacterial growth.

So how could the classification of water be so abused?  It’s all in the IICRC Category 3 definition.  It’s a wording issue.  As you read below, the definition clearly states that Category 3 water can include but are not limited to several various sources.  That doesn’t mean that all are Category 3, or that Category 3 water is limited to that list.  It simply means that all water could be Category 3 under the right circumstances.  To establish the presence of Category 3 water, samples of the suspected area would need to be collected.  The method used could either be by culturing a sample for bacteria or with the use of ATP.  Either way, the presence of Category 3 water would need to be confirmed.

The IICRC Definition of Category 3 Water IICRC S500 2015 page 14

Category 3 water is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed. Examples of Category 3 water can include, but are not limited to: sewage; waste line backflows that originate from beyond the trap regardless of visible content or color; all other forms of contaminated water resulting from flooding from seawater; rising water from rivers or streams; and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as wind driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather related events if they carry trace levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides or toxic  organic substances).

The critical aspect of category 3 water is that it can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.

The IICRC Definition of Category 2 Water S500 2015 page 14

“Category 2: Category 2 water contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans.  Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms, as well as other organic or inorganic matter (chemical or biological). Examples of category 2 water can include but are not limited to: discharge from dishwashers or washing machines; overflows from washing machines; overflows from toilet bowls on the room side of the trap with some urine but no feces; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums and punctured water beds.

The critical aspect of category 2 water is that it has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans.  Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms.

The IICRC Definition of Category 1 Water S500 2015 page 13

“Category 1: Category 1 water originates from a sanitary water source and does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure.  Examples of Category 1 water sources can include but are not limited to: broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; appliance malfunctions involving water-supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; broken toilet tanks, and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives.”

The critical aspect of category 1 water is that it does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure.

It’s important to remember that category 3 water is NOT potable water.  Potable water, is water that is safe to drink or to use for food preparation.  You cannot use category 3 water as a drinking source or to prepare your food.  Category 1 water may have come from a potable source but can change to category 2 or 3 once it contacts other surfaces.

So how do these guys creatively categorize the water stain as category 3?  They use a combination of source and duration.  They believe that the water as it passes through the insulation and drywall becomes category 3.  If that argument meets with resistance, then they use the duration of loss as altering the category from 1 to 3.

The rain itself isn’t Category 3.  Rainwater is predominantly evaporated water from a variety of sources such as lakes, rivers, and oceans.  According to IICRC S500, atmospheric rainwater is defined as Category 1.  We discussed that previously, falling rainwater is listed as an example of category 1 water.

Below are ways that the category of water can deteriorate according to the IICRC.

S500 2015 page 13

“Category 1 water can deteriorate to Category 2 or 3.  Category 1 water that flows into an uncontaminated building does not constitute an immediate change in the category.” “However, Category 1 water that flows into a contaminated building can constitute an immediate change in the category.”

S500 2015 page 13

Category 2 water can deteriorate to Category 3. Once microorganisms become wet from the water intrusion, depending upon the length of time that they remain wet and the temperature, they can begin to grow in numbers and can change the category of the water.”

According to the IICRC, the category can change.  It doesn’t say that it will change.  These roof leaks can be very short lived and may not deteriorate in category and may not need containment or removal. That’s the value in an IEP, and unbiased opinion of the category of water supported by sampling and the explanation of occupant risk to the water damage.

The opportunistic restoration contractors are claiming that the water is automatically Category 3 or the length of time that the Category 1 or 2 affected building materials remained wet and deteriorated the Category 1 or 2 water to Category 3.  This is ridiculous and only benefits the restoration contractor.  Property owners should base the need for removing a ceiling stain on exposure risk and cost, not policy coverage.  A few years ago, nobody would consider making a hole in their ceiling because they had a small stain from a roof leak.  Let’s face it nobody wants a nasty repair in the middle of their living room ceiling.  But today many restoration contractors are convincing property owners that they need extensive restoration to their homes because of the risk of exposure to category 3 water.

Let’s explore the occupant risk to the different categories of water damage and the possible need for removal of water damage stains.

Option 1

  • The roof leak began as water that does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. No need for extensive restoration. The area is dry and out of reach.

Category 1, examples include: broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; appliance malfunctions involving water-supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; broken toilet tanks, and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives.

Option 2

  • The roof leak deteriorated to water that has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. No need for extensive restoration.  The area is dry and out of reach.

Category 2, examples include: discharge from dishwashers or washing machines; overflows from washing machines; overflows from toilet bowls on the room side of the trap with some urine but no feces; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums and punctured water beds.

Option 3

  • The roof leak then deteriorated to water that can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed. No need for extensive restoration.  The area is dry and out of reach.

Category 3, examples include: sewage; waste line backflows that originate from beyond the trap regardless of visible content or color; all other forms of contaminated water resulting from flooding from seawater; rising water from rivers or streams; and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as wind driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather related events if they carry trace levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides or toxic  organic substances).

Unless the ceiling is compromised and/or there is visible mold on the ceiling there is no need for extensive restoration.  The area is dry and out of reach therefore not an exposure risk to the occupants.

Clearly Option 1 or 2 are the typical classifications of a ceiling stain resulting from a roof leak.  Some would argue Option 2.  However, neither would require containment and removal due to the risk of occupant exposure.  I think anyone reasonable would conclude that a simple ceiling stain from a short-term roof leak would not cause a significant adverse reaction to humans if contacted or consumed because the water has long since dried and the area out of reach.  Remember the ceiling stains that we’ve been called in to assess were all dry and posed absolutely no exposure risk to the occupants.  Could it be category 3, yes.  But does it need to be removed for the safety of the occupants, usually not.  Unless the ceiling is compromised and/or there is visible mold there is no need for extensive restoration.  The area is dry and out of reach therefore not an exposure risk to the occupants.

Any area of water damage can deteriorate to category 3.  The S500 provides examples of that.  According to the S500 reference guide the restoration contractor is responsible for categorizing the water.  If retained, the IEP has the responsibility to confirm the category of water before they recommend substantial restoration of a ceiling stain.  Can a roof leak be category 3?  Sure, but you better confirm before you begin removing a simple stain in any home I’m involved with as an IEP.

The restoration contractor’s objective is to profess occupant risk to the category 3 water stain that would lead the property owner to initiate an insurance claim.  The categorization of roof leaks as category 3 to suggest that the stained area would cause a significant adverse reaction to humans if contacted or consumed is simply being used to gain access to yet another home for yet another claim and another invoice.

Please share this with your friends and family.  We do not need this level of unnecessary water damage restoration just because the system is set in a way that would allow leveraging payment for the unnecessary restoration.

Stay safe and informed my friends.

 


Classification of Storm Water Damage

October 22, 2017

After the recent hurricanes we have found ourselves faced with the misclassification of rain water from the hurricane as Category 3 water (Cat 3).  The classification of water is defined by the IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration as either Category 1, 2, or 3.

After recent named storms many restoration contractors have been opportunistically categorizing rainwater from the storms as Category 3 water.  This benefits the restoration contractor.  With the classification of Cat 3 water the contractors can now remove substantially more building material that would otherwise be necessary.

To be clear there will always be Cat 3 water with named storms and flooding.  However, the recent abuse of the Cat 3 water is simply a means of extending the area of loss and increasing the cost to restore.  Don’t get me wrong here.  There are times when it is far more cost effective to bulk remove building material to accelerate the restoration process.  However, there are times when building materials that were wet and then dried, and then classified as Cat 3 with the recommendation of removal.  Double dipping.

For example, a 5-story condo building that had no surface water flooding and only wind driven rain entering the sliding glass doors.  The areas that were wet were quickly dried.  The restoration contractor then classified all wind driven rain at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors as Cat 3, grossly contaminated.   The recommendation was to remove the lower 2 feet of drywall from all the condos.  There was no supporting evidence that the water was grossly contaminated.  The vast majority of the units were occupied during and after the hurricane.  The damage was limited to very small and localized areas at the sliding glass doors.  Yet the restoration contractor recommended the full evacuation of the building so the “Cat 3 Grossly Contaminated” drywall could be removed.

So how could the classification of water be so abused?  It’s all in the IICRC Category 3 definition.  It’s a wording issue.  As you read below the definition clearly states that Cat 3 water can include wind driven rain from hurricanes.  That doesn’t mean that wind driven rain is Cat 3, just that like all water it could be Cat 3.  To establish the presence of Cat 3 water samples of the suspected area of the 3rd floor drywall would need to be collected.  The method used could either be by culturing a sample for bacteria or with the use of ATP.  Either way the presence of Cat 3 water at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors would need to be confirmed.

Category 3 water is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed. Examples of Category 3 water can include, but are not limited to: sewage; waste line backflows that originate from beyond the trap regardless of visible content or color; all other forms of contaminated water resulting from flooding from seawater; rising water from rivers or streams; and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as wind driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather related  events if they carry trace levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides or toxic  organic substances).

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then becomes heavy enough to fall under gravity. Rain is a major component of the water cycle and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the Earth.  It provides suitable conditions for many types of ecosystems and crop irrigation.

Collecting and using rainwater can be a great way to conserve resources.  Some people collect and use rainwater for watering plants, cleaning, bathing, or drinking.  The issue with the collection of rainwater is the method of collection and storage.  If rainwater is collected from a roof for example it can contain contaminants that accumulate on the roof.

The rain itself isn’t Category 3.  Rainwater is predominantly evaporated water from a variety of sources such as lakes, rivers, and oceans.  According to IICRC S500, atmospheric rainwater is defined as Category 1.

“Category 1: Category 1 water originates from a sanitary water source and does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. Examples of Category 1 water sources can include, but are not limited to: broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; appliance malfunctions involving water-supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; broken toilet tanks, and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives.”

Rainwater is Category 1 Water.  Therefore, rainwater associated with tropical storms or hurricanes is predominantly evaporated water from a variety of sources and according to IICRC S500, falling rainwater is defined as Category 1.

The restoration contractors defining wind-driven rain as Category 3 water either haven’t read the S500 or are specifically abusing their misinterpretation to their benefit.  As shown above the IICRC S500 clearly defines rainwater as Category 1 and clearly states that Category 3 water can include wind driven rain from hurricanes.  I think that is pretty clear even to the layman.

For the wind driven rain to be categorized as Category 3, the water must have been grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed. weather_channel_hurricane_irene

If rain is to be classified as Cat 3 water we’re all in trouble.  How many times do we see a TV weather forecaster leaning into the wind driven rain of a hurricane as he or she blurts out the weather?  Wind driven rain in Florida takes place virtually every day somewhere.

Clearly there are times when wind driven rain can be classified as Cat 3.  The IICRC recognized that and included the possibility in the standard.  To be Cat 3 the wind driven rain must be contaminated from something that was grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents.  There is also the possibility that Category 1 or 2 water deteriorated to Category 3 water over time.  The IICRC S500 addresses that possibility as well.

“Category 1 water can deteriorate to Category 2 or 3.  Category 1 water that flows into an uncontaminated building does not constitute an immediate change in the category.” “However, Category 1 water that flows into a contaminated building can constitute an immediate change in the category.”

Clearly the interior of an occupied condo is not a contaminated building.

“Category 2: Category 2 water contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans.  Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms.  as well as other organic or inorganic matter {chemical or biological). Examples of category 2 water can include, but are not limited to: discharge from dishwashers or washing1 machines; overflows from washing machines; overflows from toilet bowls on the room side of the trap with some urine but no feces; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums and punctured water beds.

Category 2 water can deteriorate to Category 3. Once microorganisms become wet from the water intrusion, depending upon the length of time that they remain wet and the temperature, they can begin to grow in numbers and can change the category of the water.”

Category 1 and 2 water can to deteriorate in category.  That fact remains undisputed.  However, the method of establishing the category of water appears to be the issue.  It would appear that the opportunistic restoration contractors are assuming that the wind driven rain water is automatically Category 3 or the length of time that the Cat 1 or 2 water remained wet deteriorated the Cat 1 or 2 water to Category 3.

The reality is both are nothing more than an unproven hypothesis.  To establish the Category of water that is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.  The assessor or restoration contractor would have to confirm the if water has trace levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides or toxic organic substances).

In the example provided earlier we talked about a 5-story condo building that was reportedly “grossly contaminated” by Category 3 hurricane rain.  No confirmation of the category was provided.  There was however a substantial estimate for drywall removal and sanitization of the grossly contaminated condos that were continuously occupied during and after the storm.

We provided a second opinion on the property and conducted onsite ATP sampling of the reportedly Category 3 contaminated drywall.  We used the Bio-Reveal Protocol for Sampling of Category 1, 2 and 3 Water Loss.  The Bio-reveal® bio-contamination detection system is designed to evaluate the level of surface cleanliness and sanitized hygiene in the indoor environment. This system will not detect specific strains of bacterial, viral or other micro-organisms, rather will measure and document the total surface or liquid conditions where these types of pathogenic organisms may be detected or harbored as a result of dirty, unhygienic or where direct impaction of Category 1, 2 or 3 water contamination may have occurred.  Additionally, the Bio-reveal® bio-contamination detection system can be used to generally quantify the total bacterial concentrations of Category 1, Category 2 and Category 3 water as referenced by the IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration.

All areas sampled were found to be well below the “Final hygiene goal for water loss restoration or remediation of building materials or contents to be salvaged.”  The condo owners did not evacuate and the drywall was not removed.  The total savings to the building were significant.

The trend of categorizing hurricane rain or wind driven rain as Category 3 needs to be nipped in the bud.  Do not allow a restoration contractor or mold assessor to declare rain water damage from a hurricane as Category 3 just because it came from the sky during a hurricane.  This assumed gross contamination only benefits the restoration contractor as it substantially increases their fee.

I hope this helped to clarify the Category of a water loss and prevented the unnecessary removal of building material that could otherwise be restored at a lessor fee.

 


What “IS” a Professional Mold Inspection?

October 21, 2017

A Professional Mold Assessment

To begin we should define a mold assessment and remind consumers that “All molds are created equal.  It is not necessary to determine what type of mold you may have.  All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.”  This is according to Center for Disease Control, CDC.  Consumers should be aware that anyone using the terms “Black Mold” or “Toxic Mold” are preying on their fears.

The purpose of a mold assessment is to clearly establish the

  1. Cause & origin,
  2. Location, and
  3. Extent of mold growth

A mold assessment is not the identification of the type of mold by sampling.

A mold inspector doesn’t simply look for visible signs of a mold problem, but instead looks for signs of the possible cause of the mold problem. There can be many cases with no visible evidence.   However, a professional mold assessor will know what and where to look.  A professional mold assessor will look behind base boards, inside walls, under flooring, inside ceilings, and in other hidden spaces.  a professional mold assessor will look for water damage, pathways for water movement, and the sources of moisture that are essential for the growth of mold.  Moisture and mold go hand in hand; without moisture there can be no mold growth.

If mold is identified in the clients home the mold inspection report should identify the cause of the moisture supporting the mold growth so that the cause can be corrected and the mold once remediated will not return.  The next step is to identify the extent of the mold damage.  This involves the use of a site plan as described by the ASTM D-7338 Standard Guide for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings. The report will be used by the remediation contractor as a scope of work or remediation protocol.

A Mold Remediation Protocol outlines the needed actions for any necessary mold remediation. Each plan is individually prepared based on the mold assessment of the property and the size and area of the mold contamination.  A properly prepared Mold Remediation Protocol should be written according to the ANSI Approved IICRC S-520 standard and reference guide for the remediation of mold damaged structures and contents.

When incomplete or poorly written, the mold remediation protocol can increase the cost of the mold remediation for the property owner as well as create possible liability for the remediation contractor.

Red Flag #1

Mold inspections by the mold remediator

The first “RED FLAG” when hiring a mold inspector is the “Free” mold inspection from the mold remediator.  Nothing is Free.  These free mold inspections are generally from mold remediators wanting to provide you with expensive mold remediation.  This is a huge conflict of interest and should be avoided at all cost.  These inspections typically include little more than the collection of mold samples to confirm the presence of mold and often to use the type of mold to scare the client into believing their mold issue is far more severe than they ever thought.  These guys will make a mold mountain out of a mold hill.

To protect the citizens of Florida from these scams, Florida Governor Crist signed Mold legislation (SB2234) into law. The new law regulates the Mold Inspection and Mold Remediation Industry.  The statute became effective July 1, 2010.  Under that statute it clearly states that the assessor cannot provide the remediation.

Florida Statutes and Rules  Chapter 468, Part XVI, Florida Statutes

468.8419 Prohibitions; penalties.—

A person may not: Perform or offer to perform any mold remediation to a structure on which the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company provided a mold assessment within the last 12 months.

Perform or offer to perform any mold assessment to a structure on which the mold remediator or the mold remediator’s company provided a mold remediation within the last 12 months.

Accept any compensation, inducement, or reward from a mold assessor or mold assessor’s company for the referral of any business from the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company.

Offer any compensation, inducement, or reward to a mold assessor or mold assessor’s company for the referral of any business from the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company.

One would think that the statute would prevent the continued mold assessments by mold remediators.  Unfortunately, this remains the mold industry’s #1 conflict of interest.

Red Flag #2

The sample only mold inspection.

Unfortunately, many believe that a mold assessment is simply testing for mold.  Many simply collect a few samples for mold and provide the client with a laboratory report.  These mold samplers provide no relevant or necessary information that would inform the client of the cause and origin of the water supporting the mold or the extent of the mold impacted building material.  Sampling definitely does not provide a scope of work or mold remediation protocol.

The government position on mold sampling

The Center for Disease Control, CDC. – There are no accepted standards for mold sampling in indoor environments or for analyzing and interpreting the data in terms of human health. Molds are ubiquitous in the environment, and can be found almost anywhere samples are taken. It is not known, however, what quantity of mold is acceptable in indoor environments with respect to health. CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a building. Measurements of mold in air are not reliable or representative. If mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal.

The Center for Disease Control, CDC’s current position is that air sampling for mold is nothing more than a snap shot and that such a snap shot is not reliable, representative or worth the cost. The CDC states very clearly that “Any claim based solely on air sampling results is inherently suspect.” The CDC goes on to state that “There is no reason to respond to questionable testing by conducting more of it. I believe that is a very clear position from a reputable source.

“The term “toxic mold” is not accurate. While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous. Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces.”

US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, – If you know you have a mold problem, it is more important to spend time and resources solving the moisture problem and getting rid of the mold than to spend it on sampling. If visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards.

The Florida Department of Health, – The Florida Department of Health does not recommend mold testing or sampling to see if you have a mold problem, or to see what kind of mold might be growing.

So, should you inspect for mold by just sampling for mold?

No, never for the purpose of mold investigation. Why? There are too many variables impacting the results and the sample size is too small for air testing for mold to be reliable. The type of mold will not change the necessary mold remediation. The genus of mold is just not relevant or necessary unless you are trying to frighten a client into believing that they have “Toxic” mold.

The industry Standard for Mold Assessment

The industry has a standard for the assessment of mold.  The ASTM D7338 Standard Guide for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings.  The standard was developed to provide a go-to reference for anyone inspecting for mold in buildings. The standard was developed by Subcommittee D22.08, part of ASTM International Committee D22 on Air Quality.

“The lack of consensus standards in the fungal sampling and analysis practice was the driving force behind establishing D22.08,” says its chairman, Lisa Rogers. “All of our efforts are focused on bringing consistency, reliability and accuracy to the practice.”

The ASTM D-7338 states that the assessor provide the Identification of Current Water Damage and Suspect Fungal Growth.  All surfaces within the inspection boundary should be systematically evaluated for indicators of moisture damage and fungal growth.  If the source is not apparent, intrusive investigation may be required.  The ASTM D-7338 states that the assessor provide the Classification of Inspection Observations.  Classify each distinct area or area of interest within the inspection boundary as one of the following categories:

  1. no apparent fungal growth and no apparent water damage;
  2. water damage having no visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth,
  3. visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth having no apparent water damage, &
  4. water damage having visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth.

A site/floor plan should be prepared showing each inspection classification, as determined in 7.5.6.   The plan should be sufficiently detailed to allow each area of interest to the assessment to be unambiguously located.

Documentation of Suspect Fungal Growth—Wherever suspect or confirmed fungal growth is identified during the inspection, documentation should include:

  1. extent (for example, approximate square footage of suspect growth),
  2. severity (for example, relative darkness or continuity of stain), growth pattern (for example, light versus heavy growth and spotty versus continuous growth), and
  3. clues to apparent cause (for example, exterior wall, condensation near a HVAC vent, associated with water staining).

Documentation of Moisture Damage—In addition to documenting the location of moisture damage, as above, further documentation should include:

  1. apparent sources of leaks and other moisture sources, and
  2. apparent timing and duration (for example, whether the moisture has been resolved, active (currently wet) or the moisture source is likely to reoccur

What should the client receive at the end of their mold inspection. 

Mold Inspection Report and Mold Remediation Protocol if necessary

The written report should be written in accordance with the ASTM D-7338 and signed by the licensed mold assessor that performed the assessment.  The Remediation Protocol should be very specific to the client’s loss.  The protocol should outline the specific material and cleaning process for the mold remediator.  The area of loss should never be ambiguous or left to the remediator to define.  Each plan should be individually prepared based on the mold assessment of the property and the size and area of the mold contamination.  The protocol should include a floor plan clearly identifying the area of loss, the extent of the damage, the mold impacted building material to be removed, and the necessary containment strategy to separate the impacted areas from the unimpacted areas.

Questions you should ask your mold assessor before you hire them.

  1. Are you licensed by the State of Florida?
  2. Do you perform mold remediation?
  3. Will you be conducting a visual inspection or just mold testing?
  4. Will I be getting a written report from you or the laboratory?
  5. How do you interpret the laboratory results?
  6. Will you be performing the mold assessment in accordance with the ASTM D-7338 Standard Guide for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings?
  7. Are you familiar with the IICRC S-520?
  8. What qualifications do you have to perform mold inspection?
  9. What certifications do you have?
  10. Do you have references from clients within the past year that I can call to ask how the inspection went?

 


Storm Damage Mold Remediation Consumer Alert!

October 7, 2017

bb-gif1.gifMany across Florida have been directly impacted by the recent storms that wreaked havoc on our beautiful state.

In a recent discussion with Richard “Rick” Morrison, Executive Director, Division of Professions Mold-Related Services Licensing Program regarding the possibility of the Governor waving licensure requirements for mold related services.  Rick felt that the state has enough licensed mold professionals to not recommend waving the licensing requirements at this time.

Those impacted by the storm and in need of water and mold damage restoration should ensure that the contractors providing services are licensed and in good standing with the state of Florida.  http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/mold/index.html

I also wanted to take a minute to provide a few questions that you can ask your mold assessor or mold remediation contractor before you make the decision to hire.

  1.     Are you licensed?
  2.     Who will be providing the mold assessment?
  3.     Who will be providing the mold remediation?
  4.     What will my mold assessment consist of?
  5.     Will I receive a written report or just a laboratory report?

The most common mistake property owners can make is to allow the mold remediation contractor to provide the mold assessment.  Mold remediation is a very profitable business. Many mold remediation contractors use free or deeply discounted mold inspections as a means to acquire expensive mold remediation jobs.  This is the beginning of the “Fear” based approach to mold not the “Fact” based professional approach.

Unfortunately, this is a common practice.  The assessment often includes the collection of mold samples and the declaration that the home is contaminated with “Black Mold”.  Sampling of any kind is more often than not necessary and more often than not used to scare the homeowner into believing that their home is contaminated with “Toxic Black Mold” or “Stachybotrys”.  Fear not Fact!

If your mold professional brings up the “Black Mold” issue walk him or her right out the door.

The Center for Disease Control clearly states, “There is always some mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. You do not need to know the type of mold growing in your home, and the CDC does not recommend performing routine sampling for molds.”  Fact!

The type of mold will not change the need for mold remediation nor will the type of mold change the severity of the water and mold damage.  There are over 100,000 molds and over 10,000 have the ability to produce mycotoxins.  There are also a few well know molds that are repeatedly used to scare consumers such as “Black Toxic Stachybotrys”.

From the CDC website.  “The term “toxic mold” is not accurate. While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous. Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces.”

These “Black Mold” fear tactics began in Cleveland, Ohio, when in 1993 and 1994 where there was a cluster of cases of pulmonary hemosiderosis among infants. with a conducted titled “Study of Toxin Production by Isolates of Stachybotrys chartarum and Memnoniella echinata Isolated during a Study of Pulmonary Hemosiderosis in Infants.”  Yes that is a mouth full but most government studies have grandiose titles.

The problem with the study is that it was preliminary and incomplete.  Worse yet is that most in the mold and restoration industry have never read any of these studies or the final opinions of these studies.

Below is the final opinion of the study from the CDC.

“A review within CDC and by outside experts of the investigation of acute pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis in infants has identified shortcomings in the implementation and reporting of the investigation described in MMWR (1,2) and detailed in other scientific publications authored, in part, by CDC personnel (3-5). The reviews led CDC to conclude that a possible association between acute pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis in infants and exposure to molds, specifically Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly referred to by its synonym Stachybotrys atra, was not proven.”

The CDC Position on Toxic Mold and Stachybotrys.  https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm

The term “toxic mold” is not accurate. While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous. Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. There are very few reports that toxigenic molds found inside homes can cause unique or rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxigenic mold and these conditions has not been proven.

Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC145304/

While many papers suggest a similar relationship between Stachybotrys and human disease, the studies nearly uniformly suffer from significant methodological flaws, making their findings inconclusive. As a result, we have not found well-substantiated supportive evidence of serious illness due to Stachybotrys exposure in the contemporary environment.

Despite the well documented lack of connection between Stachybotrys and health effects, including the CDC, many in the mold and restoration industry continue to use these wild and scientifically unsupported scare tactics to charge for mold remediation services that are unnecessary.  I can assure you that Stachybotrys is in every home and building to some degree or another.  We have been cohabitating with mold since we lived in caves.

The value in a professional mold assessment is in the identification of the specific area of the mold contamination by a licensed professional that is not providing the mold remediation.  With the identification of the specific area of mold contamination in a written report from your assessor, licensed mold remediators can provide estimates for the mold remediation.

The specific area of mold contamination cannot and will never be revealed by sampling the air and scaring homeowners with specific molds.   The sample only approach to a mold assessment has no value to anyone but the sampler who collects a fee for the sample.  Remember the type of mold does not change the method of mold remediation, does not change the area impacted by mold, and will never elevate the concern for exposure to occupants.  All claims that the type of mold raises the severity are either by the ill-informed or those looking to prey on your fears for profit.

A professional mold assessment would include the area affected by the mold as required by the ASTM D-7338.  A professional assessment would report that the area impacted by mold.  For example, the area of mold growth is approximately 4 square feet of the exterior south facing bedroom wall as shown on the attached restoration floor plan and diagram.  Remove the base boards and the drywall from the floor to a height of 2 feet.  The diagram would show the area of affected building material that would require removal.  The type of mold would not matter and would not change the area impacted or the method of remediation.   Fact not Fear.

Those wanting to insight fear would report nothing more than the spore counts of samples collected as elevated or as having the presence of Stachybotrys “Black Toxic Mold”.  Fear not Fact.

The cost of restoring your home can be greatly increased if you’re not careful when hiring a mold professional.  Be aware of scare tactics, ask for references, never hire anyone that is recommending sampling, never ever hire anyone that uses the term “Black or Toxic Mold”.

I hope this helps at least one family through this time of recovery.

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Antimicrobial Use During Mold Remediation #IAQS

December 15, 2013

IAQS Bio-HazardThe goal of mold remediation is to remove or clean mold contaminated materials in a way that prevents the emission of mold and dust contaminated with mold from leaving a work area and entering an occupied or non-remediation area, while protecting the health of workers performing the mold remediation.  The goal is not to kill the mold it’s to collect and remove it.

The first step in solving an indoor mold problem is stopping the source of moisture. Next is to remove the mold growth.  Next is the proper cleaning and removal of mold contaminated personal property and building material. The proper method is the collection and removal of the mold. Improper methods for cleaning mold include the application of fungicides and biocides to kill mold. These methods may render the mold non-viable (dead or incapable of growth); however, the mold and its by-products can still elicit negative health effects. The mold is still and allergen in your home until its removed.

A mold spore is an allergen that may or may not have the presence of mycotoxins.  Some of these mold spores have the ability to germinate and may eventually grow to be a colony.  To prevent this we correct the moisture that was supporting the mold growth and wala the mold will not have the available moisture to grow.  Now all we have to do is collect the remaining allergens (aka mold spores) and remove them from the home.

If we simply apply fungicides or biocides to kill the mold so it won’t grow we still have the mold spore or allergen that may or may not have the presence of mycotoxins.  But…the mold spores are still in your home, still an allergen, still have the potential of containing mycotoxins, and are now completely covered in a poison, just Wonderful.  And the poisonous mold still needs to be removed.

New York City Department of Health NYCDH

“The use of gaseous, vapor-phase, or aerosolized biocides for remedial purposes is not recommended. The use of biocides in this manner can pose health concerns for people in occupied spaces of the building and for people returning to the treated space if used improperly.

American Industrial Hygiene Association AIHA

The goal of remediation is removal of mold and the moisture source because: a) biocides do not alter mycotoxins or allergens; b) it is generally not possible to get 100 percent kill with biocides; and c) because of (b), the newly deposited spores, re-growth will occur after the biocides if moisture returns.

North American Air Duct Cleaning Association NADCA position on Sanitizing Ductwork

The EPA has not registered any products for sanitizing or disinfecting ductwork. Further, no fungicides are registered for use in ductwork. It is a violation of federal law to use a product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. For antimicrobials, this law is the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Therefore, any claims of sanitizing or disinfecting ductwork would require the use of a product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling, which is a violation of FIFRA.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA

“The purpose of mold remediation is to remove the mold to prevent human exposure and damage to building materials and furnishings. It is necessary to clean up mold contamination, not just to kill the mold. Dead mold is still allergenic, and some dead molds are potentially toxic.

John P. Lapotaire, CIEC


IT’S NOT THE HEAT, IT’S THE HUMIDITY

December 9, 2013

ImageHumidity control was the problem that originally spurred the need for air conditioning. Lack of humidity control in hot, humid climates, in particular, can lead to mold growth and other moisture-related problems. High indoor humidities can lead to health and comfort problems.

Modern air conditioners dehumidify as they cool; you can see that by the water that drains away, but this dehumidification is incidental to their main job of controlling temperature. They cannot independently control both temperature and humidity.

In hot, humid climates the incidental dehumidification that occurs may not always be enough to keep the indoor humidity conditions acceptable. (ASHRAE recommends roughly a 60% relative humidity maximum at 78F.) The maximum dehumidification happens not at the hot times of the year—when the air conditioner is running a lot—but at mild times of the year when the air conditioner runs very little.

Although there are some leading edge air conditioning systems that promise to independently control humidity, conventional systems may not be able to sufficiently control the problem and can cause comfort or mold problems in certain situations. Some current high-end systems have enhanced dehumidification, but when the existing system cannot sufficiently dehumidify, it may be necessary to buy a stand-alone dehumidifier.   There are things that consumers can do to lessen the need for dehumidification:

Do not set your thermostat to the “fan on” position. In this position the fan blows air all the time whether your cooling system is running or not and one key impact is that a lot of the moisture your system just took out of the air, will be blown back into the house before it can drain way.

Use exhaust fans during moisture-producing activities. Cooking, bathing, washing, and similar activities produce a lot of moisture inside the home. Exhaust that moisture directly outdoors using a fan. Similarly, avoid drying clothes indoors except with a clothes dryer that is exhausted directly outdoors.

Do not open windows or use ventilative cooling when it is too humid outside

 

Full Story at ASHRAE https://www.ashrae.org/resources–publications/free-resources/top-ten-things-about-air-conditioning 

 


Why so many certifications?

November 14, 2011

Specialty certification programs are a benefit to consumers and professionals alike.

Certifications with a narrow focus are the best way for professionals to explain their expertise to potential customers – and the best way for consumers to find experts who can help them.  Specialty certifications give specific information about skills and experience that broad, industry-wide designations cannot duplicate.

Whether you are a professional or a consumer, look for specialty certifications that match your needs – you’ll be connected with the right people in no time!

Did you know?
All decisions to award an ACAC certification are made by unanimous agreement of a board of expert industry volunteers.  No paid staff members participate in ACAC board-awarding decisions at any time.  Currently, more than 100 industry experts serve on ACAC certification boards.

Charlie Wiles, executive director


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