FORT LEE, Va. – The Environmental Management Division here reminds Team Lee members about the seasonal issue of indoor mold growth and the importance of preventing it to protect indoor air quality.
Mold is a type of fungi that thrives in warm, humid conditions. Sustained moisture is the primary element it requires to grow, which explains why it is commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements and crawl spaces. It can accumulate in air ducts where humidity levels combined with cold air cause condensation.
Common signs of excessive mold growth within a dwelling are slimy black streaks/patches on tubs, shower curtains and registers; a slick orange film around sink and tub drains; or fuzzy white patches on floor beams underneath a home, for example. Mold also can be green or purple.
Spores from mold are typically harmless in small amounts. Concentrated levels, though – meaning growth to the point of becoming noticeable – can be troublesome to those with compromised immune systems, allergies or breathing complications like asthma. Others who may be sensitive to it include infants/younger children and the elderly. Thus, controlling mold or removing concentrated patches in a timely manner is imperative.
Eliminating moisture and maintaining dry air circulation are the best ways to prevent mold growth. This does not mean flinging open doors and windows to let in “fresh” outdoor air. Mold spores are everywhere, so open passages provide an easy avenue for entry into a living area or workspace. Furthermore, open windows and exterior doors introduce humidity and temperature changes that can’t be compensated by HVAC systems, meaning greater potential for mold growth. Those living in homes with a garage or an un-air-conditioned mudroom also need to be aware of this and keep doors to such areas closed.
A quick note about HVAC maintenance before moving on. Those who feel their building’s cooling/heating system is not functioning the way it should are encouraged to submit a work order to get it checked out. For administrative buildings on post, call the service order desk at 804-451-1914. Barracks occupants can submit a service order request at www.armymaintenance.com or army.deps.mil/army/cmds/imcom_kc/ArMA. Family housing occupants can call 804-733-1558, option 3, or use the Hunt Resident App.
If patches of mold are discovered, the following steps have proven effective for removal. It’s a resident responsibility if the growth area is smaller than 10 square feet. Individuals who are sensitive to mold or bleach products should seek assistance from others.
· Gather two buckets, a garbage bag, two or more rags, bleach, water, safety glasses and non-permeable/waterproof gloves.
· Add 10 percent bleach to 90 percent water in one bucket. Make only the amount of solution needed for the cleaning task at hand as the chlorine dissipates in a short time. Fill the second bucket with water for rinsing.
· Dip the first rag in the bleach water and wipe the area in one direction. Discard the rag. Never double dip or reuse rags.
· Dip the second rag in the water bucket. Wipe the surface in the same direction as the first time. Discard the rag along with any loose or flaking paint attached to it.
· Ensure all accessible areas are wiped. Repeat the steps as needed without reusing the rags.
· Discard the used water into the commode, not the hand sink. This will reduce the likelihood of clogging the drain with leftover solid particles. Throw rags and as much solid particles as possible in the trash.
· When finished cleaning, remove gloves and dispose in trash.
· Wash hands thoroughly, including nails and cuticle areas.
· Remove and rinse off safety glasses.
Chronic, recurring mold may indicate a leak in the area and should be investigated. Suspicion of hidden mold growth similarly should be checked out by qualified individuals who have specific experience in sampling protocols, comparative analysis and interpreting results. Do not rely on qualitative or do-it-yourself mold sampling kits as they often return false positive results due to improper sampling technique and no naturally occurring mold concentration baseline for comparison.
A professional will tell you that moisture meter readings less than 5 percent in dry wall and between 7-8 percent in hardwood floors is acceptable. The ideal indoor humidity level is 45 percent.
Fort Lee has established an Indoor Air Quality Team that is comprised of representatives from the Garrison and CASCOM Safety Offices, Directorate of Public Works (including the Environmental Management, Engineering, and Operation and Maintenance divisions), and Preventive Medicine at Kenner Army Health Clinic.
Individuals suspecting mold that is beyond DIY cleaning or does not clear up despite efforts to keep it in check can contact IAQ by submitting a “Support Request Form” found at kenner.nrmc.amedd.army.mil/Healthcare-Services/Preventive-Medicine/Industrial-Hygiene. Send the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon receipt of the request, the IAQ Team will assess the situation and provide recommendations for cleaning, repairs, and heating ventilation and air conditioning operations to minimize the moisture source for mold growth. Tenants in non-residential areas will call 804-451-1914 and provide the IAQ information for service orders. If the effort of work is greater than 10 square feet, the authorized user is required to submit a DA Form 4283 to email@example.com. Residents in Fort Lee Family Housing will put in a service ticket via the Hunt Resident App.
Additional guidance can be found at www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq and home.army.mil/lee/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-public-works/environmental-management.