Mold: Worker and Employer Guide to Hazards and Recommended Controls

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Occupational and Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a publication to help workers and employers deal with mold issues. The document, Mold: Worker and Employer Guide to Hazards and Recommended Controls, summarizes basic procedures for mold remediation after flooding and other disasters with an emphasis on worker protection.

The guide states that there are many of different types of mold that can grow anywhere moisture is present. Water during and after natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, can lead to the growth of mold and contamination of building materials. It also states that workers exposed to mold during disaster recovery and cleanup may experience a variety of health problems. Removing mold growth and correcting the underlying source of water responsible for the mold contamination can help to reduce mold exposures and related health symptoms.

Potential health effects listed in the piece due to mold exposure include:

  • Itchy, runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Severe allergic responses (e.g., rhinitis, asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis)
  • Infections (some types of mold can cause opportunistic infections in people with a weakened or suppressed immune system)

The document also states that some symptoms have been attributed to poisonous substances released by some types of mold. These substances are known as mycotoxins.

The publication goes on to share the fact that mold can grow on just about any substance, as long as moisture and a food source are available and that the longer a structure is left in disrepair after a disaster, other sources of moisture can also lead to excessive mold growth.

Mold remediation tips are provided along with an explanation of the difference ways to handle non-porous, semi-porous and porous materials. The document also discusses the importance of engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate potential worker exposures.

These are just a few things to know about this guidance document and occupational exposure risks that workers may encounter when dealing with mold. To learn more about this or other microbial, industrial hygiene, environmental, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.

Clark Seif Clark
EMSL Analytical, Inc.
LA Testing
Zimmetry Environmental
Healthy Indoors Magazine