Frequently Asked Questions
It should be noted that currently no Federal or State of Michigan regulations, or exposure limits, exist for mold in commercial buildings or private residences. In the absence of such regulations, industry standards are utilized, which generally compare the levels of mold indoors with the outdoor levels of mold at the time of sampling. Ideally, the surface samples taken from inside a building should reflect no more than trace or light levels of mold. Airborne concentrations should be a fraction of exterior levels. Visible mold growth inside a building is not acceptable. If mold can be seen or smelled inside of a building remediation should be performed to identify and eliminate sources of moisture and to clean up and remove the mold and affected building materials. Please refer to Online Information Sources on this website for published information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other governmental sources. Gulf-coast states like Florida and Texas, for example, have rules and regulations regulating mold. Michigan will likely never have these rules.
Do I need to leave the house when mold remediation takes place in my home?
The answer is maybe. If you or a child has an acute mold allergy meaning that exposure to mold will likely put you in the hospital with respiratory complications I recommend that you don’t stick around. However, when we do mold remediation we install what’s called critical barriers at the entrance to the rooms where we work. In these containments, constructed of 6-mil polyethylene sheeting, we install high efficiency particulate air (HEPA)-filtered air filtration devices (AFDs) to create negative air in the containment. That means all the dust and mold spores generated in that room or rooms will be vacuumed outside through a flexible duct. You can see the poly on the door will be vacuumed inside the room because it will be tight to the doorway, flexed inside. If the air can’t leave the room you should be OK. Or, take a mini vacation.
Why did you quote the removal of the drywall? Can’t it just be treated?
If the drywall is black then the studs behind the drywall are likely black with mold as well. If we just treat the drywall and the studs in the wall cavity are black with mold it will return. The drywall I treat with fungicides can’t support fungal growth but the untreated other side of the wall can, so here it comes. We remove it and treat the underlying building materials so it won’t return. Hopefully ever.
I tried cleaning the mold with bleach and it just keeps coming back. I thought bleach kills mold?
Bleach will clean the visible fungal growth you can see. What you can’t see are the hyphae or roots of the mold that are in the drywall paper feeding the black mold you see on the wall. Bleach evaporates very quickly since it doesn’t have wetting agents in it to keep it wet. Bleach only kills germs (and mold) while it is wet. Our hydrogen peroxide-based fungicide has wetting agents in it so it stays wet for at least 5 minutes and kills the mold. The final step, the encapsulant, seals the hyphae behind a layer of fungicide so the mold can’t return.
The mold in my attic can’t hurt us, right?
Attic mold is harmless unless you are trying to sell your house or you store Christmas decorations up there. Any good home inspector will note the mold in the attic and the buyer will likely want that remediated before they provide an offer on the house. Then at the last minute you are calling me in a panic because the closing will be delayed until the mold is treated. It can be done as long as we have time to do it. If you go into the attic several times a year for this or that the mold spores will find their way into the living areas of your home and affect those who are allergic to it.
So there’s mold. Who cares?
Mold is an allergen like poison ivy, bee stings, and Penicillin. Some people are deathly allergic to these things and some people aren’t. Therefore, unless you know the allergies of every person in your home or who visits your home you don’t know if the mold will create problems. Visiting grandchildren, your children, guests, etc. may have mold allergies that you don’t know about and the mold spores will create a respiratory problem that takes a while to fix. Mold spores under the microscope look like burrs that stick on our clothes with tiny barbs on the end of stalks. The barbs hook themselves into the alveoli of the lungs and they stay there until white blood cells can destroy them. Fixing a mold problem in the human body takes time.
What if the mold comes back? Will you come back and fix it?
Since 2008 no one has called me to come back and re-treat a room or attic because the mold has returned. If you call me we will come back and perform an inspection to see if a water intrusion has occurred since we left. If we see water damaged drywall from a roof leak, for example, then common sense will prevail and we can fix the problem but not under our warranty. We use the best fungicides on the market for this very reason. When we leave your home or business we don’t want to come back because the mold returned. I don’t buy anything at Home Depot or Lowes because those fungicides are designed for homeowners who don’t have mold remediation certifications. My supplier would not sell you what I use because you need to know what personal protective equipment must be worn to protect the person applying the fungicides. Some of the products on the market are very dangerous if you don’t know how to use them. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide is a very strong oxidizer you don’t want to breathe or get on your skin.
What is this “black mold” thing all about?
Of all the types of mold out there, literally thousands of types of mold, there are just a few black molds. One type is Stachybotrys chartarum. That’s the Genus-species name of a specific type of mold. There are approximately 25 species of the mold Genus Stachybotrys. All “black molds” create what are called mycotoxins as they digest whatever they are growing on. Mold only grows on what it can eat, or digest. You will never see mold growing on a stainless steel sink. Maybe it’s growing on food particles left on the sink but it’s not growing on the sink. These mycotoxins are very allergenic to more people than most so they get the term “black mold”. These types of mold are just more dangerous than most because it affects more people. A costly 2-week test will determine if you have black mold in your home or business.
Why is it so expensive?
Like any home improvement project it will usually cost more than you anticipated. I’m sure you have gone into a home improvement store and been shocked at the cost of the few items you have in your cart. Mold remediation is just like that. I have 3 certifications I have to renew each year, I use the best fungicides on the market, and I have a $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy with 2 environmental riders. If you want a cheap fix I recommend you just do it yourself and live with whatever happens. If you hire Environmental Affairs, LLC you get a warranty, your home’s occupants are protected while we work, and you get clearance air and/or surface samples collected to prove the mold is gone. Do it right. Do it once.
Asbestos history and rules summary:
According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) and the State of Michigan’s asbestos rules and regulations detailed in the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) and the State of Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (MiOSHA) any building material that contains more than 1% asbestos is a regulated hazardous material and must be removed by licensed abatement firms. Mr. Piddington and Environmental Affairs, LLC are both licensed by the State of Michigan for asbestos inspections and removal, respectively. Typically, only the ACBMs identified in the “Scope of Work” detailed in our proposals will be removed or encapsulated during this project. The EPA only gives asbestos contractors 2 choices to handle asbestos: encapsulate or remove. There are choices you can make to ensure your budget is met. Typically, encapsulation is less costly than removal and there are several choices for both forms of abatement. Also, we have to remove 100% of the asbestos we identify. We can’t remove, for example, ½ the floor tile in a basement. Or walk away from the asbestos mastic (glue) under the floor tile. It’s either 100% or none.
What about vermiculite in my attic?
Most vermiculite used in the U.S. was mined at the Libby Mine located in Libby, Montana. That site is a National Priority List (NPL) site cleaned up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Literally thousands of families were affected by the cleanup because they had to be relocated, they lost loved ones, and the site is like the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia. Asbestos was everywhere because that small town only existed because of the mine. It was a small town and almost everyone had a family member who worked there or knew someone who worked there. Then in 1982 the Federal government said asbestos will kill you and that town became famous. They produced bags of insulation called Zonilite™. I have received calls from homeowners who still have a few old bags of the stuff. Zonolite, or vermiculite, is a lightweight cube about ¼ the size of a typical dice. Back in the 50’s through 70’s the bags were hauled into the attic and poured onto the top of the ceiling drywall or plaster in the attic. Then the stuff is raked out evenly over the attic rafters. Apparently it has very good insulation characteristics. Typically, people install fiberglass insulation over the vermiculite. Sometimes it’s the only thing in the attic as shown below:
Vermiculite in an attic covered with plywood for access for storage purposes.
I think I may have asbestos floor tiles.
The old asbestos floor tiles are measured 9”X9” square. After the Federal government stepped in to remove asbestos from our homes in approximately 1982 the new floor tiles became 12”X12” square. Now these 12” floor tiles may still have asbestos in them as I described above so the best way to know is to sample anything you want removed. The worst thing you can do is to remove the 9” or 12” floor tiles and spread a regulated hazardous material (asbestos) all over your house for everyone to breathe. Typically, the 12” floor tiles will not have asbestos in them but every once in a while I get test results back from the lab and they are positive. Usually, the very thin, brittle, 12” floor tiles are positive for asbestos. Sometimes but not always.
What about the black glue under the tiles? I hear that has asbestos in it.
The color of the mastic (glue) doesn’t matter. I have tested lots of black mastic and maybe only 1 test in 20 comes back positive for asbestos. When I come for an inspection I will either test both the tile and glue or we can assume the tile has asbestos in it and just sample the glue. That’s cheaper than sampling both materials. I am required by the EPA to collect 2 samples from residential buildings but if your budget only allows 1 sample I can live with that. I don’t recommend it but I can live with it. Several times I have seen 2 samples come back from the lab and 1 has asbestos in it and the other doesn’t. If you decided to remove the floor tile yourself based on that 1 test and it had asbestos in it then you are spreading a regulated hazardous material all over your house for its occupants to breathe. Asbestos testing is done by a technician at the lab and it is not a guaranteed result produced by some machine. There are human flaws in the testing.
How do you remove the glue?
Asbestos mastic (glue) can be either encapsulated or removed. Encapsulation is cheaper than removal by several dollars a square foot. There are 2 methods for removal of the ACBM. The mastic can be removed using commercial floor grinders that are attached to a HEPA vacuum to reduce asbestos emissions. If this method is selected the State of Michigan must be notified of the removal because of the emission of asbestos fibers during the process. A State of Michigan inspector may show up at the project to determine if the project is being completed in accordance with MiOSHA rules and regulations. If the mastic is removed using chemical methods the State of Michigan does not need to be notified because the asbestos will not be ground, sanded, or pulverized in accordance with MiOSHA rules and regulations. This method is slower than the mechanical method of removal but is recommended for residential areas with a small amount of asbestos (<1,000 square feet). The method of removal is often discussed with the owner prior to the preparation of a proposal for asbestos abatement.
What do I do if I want to demolish my house or business?
The State of Michigan requires a form to be submitted prior to the renovation or demolition of any residential or commercial structure. If you do the work yourself, as the owner, you don’t have to submit the form. If you hire a contractor to do any part of the work then it has to be submitted. The State of Michigan Intent to Renovate/Demolish Form has several areas that must be completed by the asbestos abatement contractor if asbestos was identified. The form is required if friable asbestos is removed prior to demolition. Friable asbestos is any material that can produce asbestos fibers using hand pressure alone. The State of Michigan requires a 10-day notification prior to removal. The form must be submitted in accordance with 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M and P.A. 135 of 1986, as amended, Section 220 (1-4) or (8). If you don’t submit the form and a state inspector shows up there will likely be fines and the work will stop until the rules are followed.