Microparticles from mold?
You know what “micro” means…very, very small. These are particles that are much, much smaller than mold spores. In fact, microparticles are SO small that they remain suspended in the air after mold cleanup. They get knocked about by air molecules so that they can’t make their way via gravity to the floor.
Microparticles could be bits and pieces of cell walls, spores, by-products of mold, etc. High numbers of them might be released during demolition and other mold clean-up processes. One bit of research suggested that 500 microparticles might be present for each mold spore. Other research revealed that microparticles are not removed through conventional remediation tools such as HEPA-vacuums, air scrubbers, or negative air machines. Microparticles also do not show up in conventional lab testing, so you would not know if you had them or not.
What’s the big deal about microparticles?
Research has identified a half dozen types of microparticles as inflammagens. That is, exposure to a relatively small number of microparticles could start an inflammatory cascade in a sensitive person out of all proportion to the amount of exposure.
Remember that story on the home page where the untrained worker tracked contaminated material down the stairwell, and the mother and daughter got sick again in their home? The remediator knew that his guy had done the wrong thing, and he cooperated in trying to clean up these invisible mold particulates. He set up negative air, rotating the apparatus from floor to floor in the house. The homeowner meanwhile vacuumed and cleaned, and cleaned and vacuumed. At last contact, she said that things were getting better but that she and her daughter were still reacting.
Question: How can you clean up these microparticles? I don’t want to spend a lot of money for remediation and be left with dirtier air than before remediation.
Response: Fortunately there is a way to clean them up. After demolition and basic cleaning, the remediator would fog the area of containment with a glycerine-based product. (Products with mildewcides/pesticides are available, but most of my clients wouldn’t want to get rid of one troublesome issue only to introduce a pesticide to their homes.) The fogging “droplets” adhere to the microparticles and drag them down by gravity. A second fogging with pure water drags down the residue. Then, once the microparticles are on the floor, walls, and ceiling, they can be wiped up with an alcohol-based product. That’s the end of the microparticles.
A story: Katherine lived in a high rise apartment, and there was a flood from the apartment above. Her floors were removed, plus the lower part of the drywall. Then the remediators finished cleaning the apartment, working in accordance with industry standards. Katherine, however, was very sensitive. Every time she returned to her apartment, her symptoms came back.
It was decided to get rid of upholstered furniture and books, and to wash her clothing. That was done, along with a re-cleaning of the apartment, but she still couldn’t tolerate the apartment or her clothing. Everything was removed from the apartment, clothing was discarded, and the unit was thoroughly cleaned and wiped down again. All air test results were fine. Still Katherine’s symptoms returned whenever she entered the apartment.
Finally, having no other alternative, she sold her apartment. Air sample results were fine, and she figured that it was only her extreme sensitivity to mold that made it impossible for her to continue living at the apartment.
Some years later, information became available about microparticles. I called Katherine and told her this latest information. Her response was immediate: “That explains why I could never go back to that apartment. It also explains why I’d always be reactive for a few months after a remediation job in my new apartment.” Now, after a new incident of a plumbing leak, she had the fogging done. This was a small leak and she may not have reacted anyway, because there wasn’t much mold, but to be safe, the fogging was done.
The question for you
If there is going to be significant disturbance of mold during the course of clean-up, maybe with demolition, will you go according to conventional mold remediation guidelines (which may leave many microparticles suspended in the air), or do you want to have the fogging done before final cleaning?
Fogging would be especially significant under these conditions:
- There will be demolition of very moldy materials in a living space.
- Someone in the house is very sensitive to mold or has health challenges, such as Lyme Disease.
Who would do the fogging?
- You could do the fogging. You would need to buy a dedicated fogger, about $350 from Greg Weatherman (or get the correct size and buy it locally), plus the glycerine solution from Greg. (He holds the patent on it and the process.) After demolition and basic cleaning, you would turn off the negative air machine if present, fog with the glycerine product in the area of containment, follow with fogging with plain water, and then do a wipe-down of all surfaces before taking down containment.
- Your remediator could do the fogging. Your remediator may or may not be familiar with fogging, but even if familiar, they would have to follow the Weatherman protocol to remove microparticles safely, without use of conventional chemical fogging products. You would have to find someone willing to cooperate and work outside the box.
Question: How can I learn more about this fogging procedure?
Response: Spend time reviewing Greg Weatherman’s websites, www.aerosolver.com and www.aerobiological.com. Greg can be reached at gw at aerobiological.com. If you want to learn more about the inflammatory effects of microparticles, email me for an email copy of the 180-page review of scientific research. may at createyourhealthyhome.com.
Question: What would you do?
Response: I would want the fogging step built in to a remediation project. A down-side is that carpeting and upholstered furniture (maybe mattresses, too) often cannot be adequately cleaned of microparticles and may need to be replaced. The deciding factor may be whether mold is visible and shows up as elevated in air sample results. If it does, the chances for microparticles working their way into upholstery would be high. If the mold is all hidden in wall cavities, then the furniture may be ok – as long as negative pressure and containment are properly used during remediation.
Disclaimer: I have no financial interest with Greg Weatherman or his products.