The New York City Department of Health Guidelines have become moderately antiquated (written almost 20 years ago), yet still represent one of the more widely referenced outlines for mold remediation. The document originally focused primarily on Stachybotrys atra (today called Stachybotrys chartarum). In 2000 the original guidelines were revisited and updated to include all fungi.
The panel that authored the original guidelines explicitly stated that it was intended for building engineers and management, but available for general distribution. Although there are important facts outlined in the guidelines, the public has extracted convenient sections of the document and applied certain practices out of context. As with any outline or guidelines, the document has its limitations and its scope is not omniscient. For example, the NYC Dept. of Health Guidelines does not call for the use of exhaust fans. Even though it may not always be a necessary precaution, ventilation and/or negative pressurization will help prevent cross-contamination, even in small isolated areas with microbial growth (Level I).
Utilized correctly the guidelines represent one of many available resources for mold remediation. As with any do-it-yourself projects, untrained individuals should proceed with caution and follow directions in their entirety. We should also always consider the dated resources we consult, and be careful to look further than a quick and convenient solution to mold growth. Environmental consultants and mold remediation professionals have spent years developing protocols that incorporate a very detailed, specific, comprehensive, and labor-intensive approach to addressing microbial growth. Mold testing before and after remediation should also be considered.
If you decide to consult only one, now slightly outdated resource for mold remediation amidst a multitude of available resources, do yourself a favor and read the entire document carefully. The guidelines are based primarily on the area (or number of square feet) affected by microbial growth. Although I might think I am only addressing a small area, the actual area of involvement is often difficult to determine before removing gypsum wall board, or other porous building materials.
So what’s the bottom line? Proceed with caution and do your homework. There are many products and ‘professionals’ attempting to take advantage of people unwilling to read before they spend. Even after researching mold remediation, microbial growth, and appropriate practices we need to be vigilant and realize that mold remediation contractors would not be in business if all we needed to do was buy a do-it-yourself mold testing kit and a bottle of mold-be-gone at the corner store.
There are situations where mold can be addressed without the help of professionals, but significant amounts of time, energy, and money can be saved with a few phone calls and some basic research.
More often than not prevention is the key. Seek a professional’s opinion. Moisture is crucial in preventing mold growth and finding that moisture can be obvious or require a more trained eye and a detailed investigation.
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