Experts: To Stop Mold, Stop the Water

(Toronto – January 16, 2004) — More than eight out of 10 U.S. experts on the front lines fighting the battle against mold and poor indoor air quality (IAQ) say mold problems have increased over the last three years and more than two-thirds predict they will get worse over the next three years, according to a new industry survey.

The vast majority of those surveyed say poor building practices or conditions that contribute to water infiltration and damage are mostly to blame for growing mold and indoor air quality problems. The factors most often cited include deterioration of a roof or wall, poor construction practices, lack of building science knowledge, condensation from air leakage and deterioration of plumbing.

"Water is well-known to be the single greatest contributor to mold growth, along with the right temperature and a food source," says Bruce Small, environmental health and building design consultant and executive director of the Technology and Health Foundation. "More and more IAQ professionals are recognizing that water causes damage in obvious ways such as through a flood, leak or plumbing failure and through less visible forms of transport, such as condensation from air leakage."

Stop Moisture to Stop Mold

Not surprisingly, IAQ and mold experts say the solutions most likely to remedy mold problems are those that control moisture infiltration into a home, as well as condensation and humidity within a home. These include improved mechanical ventilation systems, insulation and air barrier systems and exterior moisture control systems.

"Several proven technologies and practices are making it easier to address less visible forms of moisture and condensation transportation into a home," says Small. "Among the most effective of these is a light-density spray foam insulation called Icynene, which is meeting the stringent IAQ standards of healthy building projects such as American Lung Association Health Houses."

Icynene creates a complete air barrier to minimize airborne moisture infiltration and condensation across the building envelope and works with a properly designed HVAC and ventilation system to help control humidity and optimize indoor air quality.

Potential Health Risks From Poor IAQ

IAQ and mold professionals draw a clear connection between mold and poor indoor air quality, along with their negative effects. More than 90 percent of those surveyed believe poor indoor air is always, frequently or occasionally linked to mold and moisture problems. As with mold, more than three-quarters of respondents say indoor air quality problems have grown over the last three years and nearly as many expect them to get worse in the next three years.

Experts dealing with mold and poor IAQ first-hand warn the consequences of not dealing with poor indoor air quality can include health risks, increased costs to remediate the problem, wasted time and money on cover-up measures and potential legal issues.

Homeowners Most at Risk

The study found that a large number of homeowners could be at risk for the consequences of mold and poor indoor air quality. Experts surveyed say residential buildings are the most frequent setting for both mold and indoor air quality problems. Furthermore, 80 percent of respondents say that, in their experience, at least one in five homes has a mold/moisture problem and nearly half say four out of 10 homes have a mold problem.

Areas of homes seen as most susceptible to mold include basements, bathrooms and exterior walls. Specific building materials where mold is most often found include drywall, wall coverings, floor joists, sub-flooring, duct work and insulation.

Clear Need for Education

The survey found there is a need for more education on how to prevent and deal with mold and poor indoor air. When asked what things would most likely manage the risk of poor indoor air quality, better education of building owners and professionals topped the list.

The potential positive role education can play is also reflected in the fact all respondents have seen mold/moisture problems misdiagnosed or ignored. Nearly two-thirds say they have seen these problems misdiagnosed/ignored more than 20 times and more than half have seen problems misdiagnosed/ignored more than 30 times.

The survey indicates IAQ experts may also be able to assume a larger role in supporting better decision-making for mold remediation projects. When asked who most often recommends building products following a remediation project, respondents most often say it is the building owner or occupant, an engineer or facility manager.

"There is a huge opportunity for indoor air experts to help address the root causes of mold and poor indoor air quality by working with homeowners and building professionals to ensure all components of a home work together to limit potential sources of moisture damage," says Small. "With mold lawsuits mounting, IAQ professionals can help builders and trades manage their exposure to rising insurance costs and litigation and help create healthier indoor environments for homeowners."

The industry survey was conducted in November 2003 on behalf of Icynene, Inc., with accredited indoor air quality professionals across the United States with the following areas of expertise: IAQ investigation, remediation contracting, HVAC installation/service/hygiene, engineering and design, duct cleaning, insurance, specifying, risk management, architecture, facilities management, equipment supply, laboratory analysis, cleaning/maintenance and education.

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