September 12, 2017, posted by Dan Rouse
Ask around and it wouldn’t be too difficult to find office workers who suspect their workplace makes them sick. But, this can literally be true when dampness causes excessive mold growth inside office buildings.
It’s not uncommon for office buildings to develop dampness issues from roof and window leaks, condensation, plumbing leaks, and high indoor humidity. Inadequate building design or poor construction work can exacerbate these issues. If moisture-related problems aren’t dealt with quickly and properly, the resulting excessive mold growth may cause illness in a building’s occupants.
Though we have “Home” in our name, Healthy Home isn’t limited to residential services. We are more than capable and eager to go to work inside office buildings as well, which is where we found ourselves earlier this spring.
In late April, we were called to perform mold assessment and microbial air sampling services for our client, Jennifer, at her Oregon City office. Jennifer’s office is located on the second floor of a commercial building which contains several other office spaces.
Our investigation was in response to concerns about the potential for hidden mold growth inside Jennifer’s office. Mold needs only moisture and a food source to flourish, and it can grow unseen for a long time inside dark, damp walls and crevices.
A mold issue had recently been addressed in the office space directly below Jennifer’s. This recent issue, coupled with experiencing troubling allergy-like symptoms, prompted Jennifer to contact us.
It would not be too surprising to discover that an overgrowth of mold caused by dampness was causing people in Jennifer’s office to experience respiratory symptoms. The relationship between excessive moisture and mold in buildings and respiratory illness in people has been studied at length.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports, “Research studies have shown consistent associations between the presence of dampness and mold in buildings and respiratory symptoms in building occupants.”
The range of symptoms and illnesses NIOSH says are reported by occupants of damp buildings include:
Though many of these symptoms are general and difficult to determine the cause of, they can also be a serious drain on workplace productivity and lead to increased worker absences. These symptoms and illnesses may also pose serious threats to immunocompromised, chronically ill, or elderly people.
Our assessment began with a visual inspection of inside Jennifer’s office. We were looking for mold growth, evidence of water intrusion, or any moisture-related issues in the readily accessible areas of Jennifer’s office. We didn’t see mold growth during the inspection. We did, however, note an area of staining along the broadloom carpet flooring.
Of course, we didn’t rely on our eyes alone for the assessment. We also used a moisture meter and an infrared camera to test building materials inside Jennifer’s office for abnormal moisture content that might indicate conditions conducive to mold growth.
All the building materials we inspected were within acceptable standard moisture content levels. Temperature and relative humidity readings inside the building were also within acceptable industry ranges.
Next, we needed to assess whether mold spores were prevalent in the air within Jennifer’s office. We used microbial air sampling to determine if the concentration of airborne fungal spores in Jennifer’s office would be higher than a control sample. We compared the results of the microbial air sample taken from inside Jennifer’s office to a control sample taken outside the office building.
The results showed that the concentration of airborne mold spores was no greater inside Jennifer’s office than outside the building. We recommended that any moisture-related issues in Jennifer’s office be dealt with promptly to prevent the potential growth of mold in the future.
The Pacific Northwest provides excellent conditions for mold growth. We live in an area where many office buildings experience dampness and moisture-related issues. If you suspect mold may be a problem in your building or home, call us. We understand the local environment’s unique challenges and can help you move forward to a healthy future!