How to Handle a Mold Problem

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PSP Members share advice about handling mold.

 

PSP Disclaimer: Mold can be a serious problem and hazardous to your health.  As a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for seeking professional advice to dealing with mold in your home. Never delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP Yahoo! Group or on the http://www.parkslopeparents.com/ website. Never rely on information in an e-mail or on our website in place of seeking professional advice.  

 

RELATED RESOURCES ON PSP:

PSP Members reviews of Mold Inspectors

 

ORIGINAL QUESTION:

I'm 36+ weeks pregnant, and we just discovered that there is a serious water leak in what will be the baby's room.  We notified our landlord and asked to hire an inspector to check for mold, but he refused to hire a mold inspector.  Instead, he said that he would just come on Monday, remove the wet material, allow it to air out, and this would kill any mold that was growing.  Our cursory internet research suggests that although mold is killed by lack of moisture, dead mold can still cause harm and should be somehow removed.  Of course, without an inspection, we have no idea whether or not we actually have live mold, dead mold, or no mold.

(1)  Can anyone recommend an affordable but reputable mold inspection company?  Ideally, we would allow the landlord to repair as he sees fit, but then hire our own mold inspector to give us peace of mind.  If there is no mold at that point - great, problem solved.  If there is a mold after the landlord's approach to the problem, we can then take the next necessary steps.

(2)  Does anyone have any other suggestions, experiences, or recommendations for how to approach the problem?  I don't want to be a paranoid first-time mom and don't want to be unreasonable about this if what the landlord is suggesting is the appropriate thing to do, but I also don't want to take unnecessary chances with a potential health problem for the baby or us.

 

 MEMBER ADVICE:

 

Advice from a Contractor:

"I am a contractor (and also a mom) and have dealt with various mold issues of different severities and offer the following advice:

A. You are right to take the issue seriously, especially with a newborn, but don't panic. If the leak is new, it's very possible that you don't even have mold growth yet. You are also correct that if mold is present, it should be removed properly.
B. You (or actually your husband/partner/friend or anyone who is not pregnant) can do this test without putting out a lot of money for a specialized inspector.
C. Be forceful with your landlord if necessary.  You are in the right here and need to look out for your safety. Get the process in writing if need be, but don't get pushed into a situation where you are unsure or uncomfortable about your family's safety.

Here's how I would handle the situation as a mom or as a contractor:

1. Buy 2-3 mold test kits. I highly recommend the one made by Pro-Lab and it is often available at Tarzian on 7th Ave. They cost less than $15 each.
2. Have your landlord open the wall or ceiling where the leak occurred and dispose of all wet materials.
3. Your eyes are your first tool. Look inside the wall and see if there is any sign of saturation. Not knowing what materials you are dealing with, I can't say exactly what to look for but I'd be happy to give you
more detail if you can describe the construction. Take photos of everything.
4. Check again after 24 hours. Anything look different? The most important thing at this stage - before any reconstruction - CONFIRM THE LEAK IS GONE! Whatever the source was, make sure it is resolved.
5. Read all the instructions on the mold kit. I usually set up 3 tests: 1 air test near the area in question, 1 spore test (if there is anything visible that looks like it could be surface mold), and 1 test far in another part of the house near a window/fresh air (control test). After 48 hours, you will see results. After 72 hours is most conclusive. Depending on the severity and type of mold, if any, there are some over-the-counter product you can use to clean this up yourself (also depending on your access to the area). If any mold cleaning is done, I would encourage you to do another test to confirm it has been removed before allowing your landlord to close the wall again.Please please please do not do any of this work while you are pregnant - limit your exposure to the area and don't handle the chemicals in the mold kit."Dry, dead mold is very dangerous and needs to be eliminated. The landlord is also correct in the first steps to take, to dry the area out and remove the wet wall material. However; the dead, dry mold could still be present and the only way to know the extent of the mold is to have an analysis done by a professional lab."

 

Test for mold yourself:

"About after our baby was born we had a leak in her nursery and I was completely freaked out. I essentially sealed off the room and was convinced it was a death trap. When the insurance inspector came to look at the damage he assured me that if there was mold you would be able to smell it (apparently it smells horrible). I still wasn't convinced so We bought mold tests off amazon. They were like $50 and completely worth it. You basically mix up a solution and leave it in the room for a day and see if anything grows. If there is something you can send it to a lab for analysis which was maybe $50. The reviews all said they were super sensitive and out of the two we used, one had a little bit of growth that ended up being nothing. I'm sure as long as the landlord takes care of things promptly everything will be safe for your new baby, but highly recommend the at home test for peace of mind."

 

Dry things out:

"A dehumidifier or fans could be super helpful to get things very dried out!"

 

Use a mold inspector to identify trouble spots:

"Mold remediation is a huge pain. We discovered mold after moving with our 1 month old. The inspector found it in the baby's room and both bathrooms, so it may be less of a pain for you, but an inspector can give you piece of mind, identify other trouble spots, and most importantly, refer you to a mold remediation specialist. There is a right way and a wrong way to remove mold so you may not want to leave it up to your landlord."

 

Definitely use a mold inspector:

"I'm glad to see that someone recommended a mold inspector. I would definitely have this done. We regret terribly not doing this when our first child was born 10 years ago. We lived in southern California at the time. After our son was born, he had terribly congested and had an ear infection for 12 weeks straight. He ended up being on many rounds of antibiotics and it was really really hard for him -- and therefore for us. It turns out that his bedroom had mold in it -- and that he is very allergic to mold, in general. We moved out of the house when he was 4mths old. Congestion and ear infections stopped. He was a completely different child. We felt
terribly for all he went through. :(

We went on to have a mold problem in another house - had it inspected, removed properly and it was all done and we had no problems.

I would highly recommend that you move forward with the inspection. When you call for the inspection, I would ask them whether the landlord should remove the moldy/wet materials. My guess is that this will release spores into the air - and that it would be better for you to have it done with plastic hung up and proper venting fans, etc.. Also - make sure you choose an inspection firm that only does inspections. Some companies also do remediation, and I think that creates a bit of a bad incentive."

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OTHER RESPONSES

Since it is at your landlord's expense, they are going to do the bare minimum/cheapest job possible.  If the leak has been going on for awhile, than there will be mold issues. (Sheetrock should be removed in wet area, patched with new sheetrocking & repainted.If it was a one time leak than mold wouldn't be an issue since it has not been exposed to moisture for a long period of time. But at the bare minimum ask them to provide dehumidifier so that the moisture is removed as quickly as possible. Also, you can buy mold test kits on amazon quite cheaply & test for it yourself.

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When I was concerned that I had mold (under a leaking airconditioner), I ordered a home test (which came with sample collectorsthat you could process immediately at home and then also could beshipped off to a lab to be analyzed more completely). I was able tothen present my landlord with the results and ask him to remediateappropriately - in my case it was a very small area and they were ableto simply treat the area with bleach and cutout and replace whateverwas more infested. Maybe you could go this route? I think I bought thetest on Amazon.______________________________________About after our baby was born we had a leak in her nursery and I was completely freaked out. I essentially sealed off the room and was convinced it was a death trap. When the insurance inspector came to look at the damage he assured me that if there was mold you would be able to smell it (apparently it smells horrible). I still wasn't convinced so We bought mold tests off amazon. They were like $50 and completely worth it. You basically mix up a solution and leave it in the room for a day and see if anything grows. If there is something you can send it to a lab for snalysis  Which was maybe $50. The reviews all said they were super sensitive and out of the two we used, one had a little bit of growth that ended up being nothing. I'm sure as long as the landlord takes care of things promptly everything will be safe for your newbaby, but highly recommend the at home test for peace of mind.  This is the one we used
Pro-Lab MO109 Mold Do It Yourself Test Kit

 

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Mold remediation is a huge pain. We discovered mold after moving with our 1 month old. The inspector found it in the baby's room and both bathrooms, so it may be less of a pain for you, but an inspector can give you piece of mind, identify other trouble spots, and most importantly, refer you to a mold remediation specialist.  There is a right way and a wrong way to remove mold so you may not want to leave it up to your landlord.
Good luck! Hope things get resolved quickly.