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Hurricane Sandy – Mold Problems from flooding

Because common building materials are capable of sustaining mold growth, and mold spores are ubiquitous, mold growth in an indoor environment is typically related to water or moisture indoors. Mold growth may also be caused by incomplete drying of flooring materials such as concrete. Flooding, leaky roofs, building maintenance problems, or indoor plumbing problems can lead to mold growth inside.

For significant mold growth to occur, there must be a source of water (which could be invisible humidity), a source of food, and a substrate capable of sustaining growth. Common building materials, such as plywood, drywall, furring strips, carpets, and carpet padding are food for molds. In carpet, invisible dust and cellulose are the food sources (see also dust mites). After a single incident of water damage occurs in a building, molds grow inside walls and then become dormant until a subsequent incident of high humidity; this illustrates how mold can appear to be a sudden problem, long after a previous flood or water incident that did not produce such a problem. The right conditions reactivate mold. Studies also show that mycotoxin levels are perceptibly higher in buildings that have once had a water incident (source: CMHC).

Although this home suffered only minor exterior damage from Hurricane Katrina, small leaks and inadequate air flow permitted this mold infestation.

Spores need three things to grow into mold:

  • Nutrients: Cellulose is a common food for spores in an indoor environment. It is the part of the cell wall of green plants.
  • Moisture: Moisture is required to begin the decaying process caused by the mold.
  • Time: Mold growth begins between 24 hours and 10 days from the provision of the growing conditions. There is no known way to date mold.

Mold colonies can grow inside building structures. The main problem with the presence of mold in buildings is the inhalation of mycotoxins. Molds may produce an identifiable smell. Growth is fostered by moisture. After a flood or major leak, mycotoxin levels are higher in the building even after it has dried out (source: CMHC).

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