By Robert Weitz

Before demolishing a wall, ceiling, or structure, a savvy contractor will order asbestos and lead testing to make sure that demolition won’t spread those toxins into the air. But what happens if you break through the surface and you uncover what looks like widespread mold?  What should you do? The answer is simple: STOP! Even if you’ve set up some type of protective barrier, such as a plastic containment area or even a temporary wall structure, you can’t keep mold spores from spreading.

A disturbed area of mold less than one square inch can generate millions of mold spores into the air. If you continue demolition, you potentially endanger the health of your employees and your client, and risk contaminating the entire structure. Airborne mold spores can cause individuals to cough, sneeze, or worse, and mold spores will exacerbate or can even lead to asthma or other serious respiratory conditions. Continuing demolition work when mold is suspected is a risk no contractor should take.

What to Do

At the first sign of what could be mold, stop demolition and call in a certified mold inspector to investigate. The inspector can identity the type of mold growing, tell you if the mold is toxic or allergen, measure the amount of mold in the air and recommend how a remediation company can eliminate the mold problem. (Note: hire two separate companies to perform the inspection and remediate the mold. There’s a clear conflict of interest when one company does both.)

Most likely, the mold inspector will recommend establishing proper containment and negative air pressure to reduce the chance that mold spores will migrate to unaffected areas of the worksite. The inspector also typically will recommend using biocides and antimicrobials to treat and seal any staining to help ensure everyone’s safety. Once the remediation firm removes the mold and cleans the area, ask your environmental testing firm to return for a final inspection and sampling. It typically takes fewer than seven to between 10 to 14 days to complete the initial inspection, remediation and final inspection.

Although the process may cause a slight delay in your project, the extra effort to use professionals protects you and all parties involved in the construction process. It’s never worthwhile to take shortcuts when health and safety are at stake.

Robert Weitz is a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, a leading environmental testing and consulting firm serving the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. For more than 25 years, Mr. Weitz has helped residential and commercial property owners address serious environmental hazards such as mold, lead, asbestos, water, soil, radon, and indoor air quality. 

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