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Cleaning in the USA

The Impact of Mold on Human Health
I was headed to South Dakota to go fishing for a week and to spend some time with my parents. But when an opportunity arose to attend a two-day symposium on mold at the Harvard School of Public Health, I let the fish live and my parents wait a couple more days. I flew into Sioux Falls, So. Dakota had lunch with my parents and got back on a plane three hours later for Boston. It’s not every day you get a chance to attend a cutting edge symposium on mold at Harvard, so how could I say no.

As for symposium on June 7 & 8th, about 200 people were in attendance from around the world and a tremendous amount of information was presented. Nearly all the speakers had PhD’s and are involved in research related to wet environments, fungi and its impact on human health. Quite frankly, I didn’t hear anything earth shattering, although some new information was presented. What was most important is that what we have been saying and teaching over the last 10 or 15 years is now being validated by independent studies and scientific research. One theme that I heard repeated throughout the program is that there is more about mold and fungi and it’s impact on human health that we don’t know, than we do know.

David Butler gave the keynote address. Butler was the Study Director for the “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health” study recently completed and issued by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The 275-page report created quite a stir when a number of newspapers and other media outlets around the country used the study as the basis for reports that exposure to mold is not a serious risk to public health.

“Quite the contrary” said Butler. “That’s the media for you. They report what they want regardless of the facts. In reality what the study did find and say is that at this time, there is inadequate evidence of a medical link between mold and health problems to draw a conclusion. At the same time, the study did find sufficient evidence of an association between damp environments and a risk to public health to say that further study is needed and recommended. The link is plausible.”

Other points of the study include:

There is an overall lack of scientific knowledge regarding this subject. At this time we don’t even know what we should be measuring.
Exposure and assessment methods are lacking and existing methods need refinement.
There is very little research on the impact of chemical releases such as mycotoxins from fungi on human health.
There are no universally accepted definitions of dampness.
Mold and Fungi are commonly found on all surfaces.
HVAC systems need more attention in buildings and homes.
No single cause of health impacts could be identified. This is not a simple issue.
Excess indoor dampness is a public health issue.
There are economic issues related to materials, construction, design, maintenance and remediation.
The study recommends that animal studies be conducted to determine the impact of low level and long-term exposure to fungi and damp environments on human health.
When it comes to remediation, much info is available, however no health based standard is available that will enable you to determine when the work has been done correctly.
Occupational exposure to organic dust and mold is a health issue for farmers and workers in silos, grain elevators and pig, chicken and cattle farms.

For more info or to obtain a copy of the study visit:

Other interesting tidbits from the two-day program include:

There are over 70,000 known species of fungi and we have studied less than 4% of that number.
Dust mites and fungi live off each other at different stages of their lives.
Skin scales are one of the dominate contaminates found in living spaces.
Airflow and activity in homes causes contaminates to become airborne.
We know how to make perfect homes; we just can’t make 100 million of them.
Canada and Europe are conducting mold studies of their own and expect to release the results within the next year.
New species of Penicillium and Stachybotrys have been found.
Draperies, upholstery and carpeting are sources of contamination. When you walk over or use them contaminants become airborne. It’s like walking in a pigpen as a dust cloud develops around you. The best thing you can do is to keep thing clean and dry.
Building design, materials and construction play a key role in preventing unhealthy environments.
Don’t expect fast results. It took the FDA 32 years and billions of dollars to determine a parts per billion-exposure limit for Aflotoxins in food (they cause liver cancer even in small amounts).
Homes and buildings contain a cocktail of contaminants, then you have other issues like, stress, weight, sensitivities, previous exposures, genetics and the list go on and on.
There is a lot of information out there, some of it good, much of it bad.
The presence of visible mold is not necessarily a hazard; dose, exposure and other issues play a role.
Fungi like bacteria secrete enzymes to decompose organic materials so they can extract food from them.
Approximately 30 to 50% of the housing stock in the US and Canada has moisture issues.
The more you process wood, the more susceptible to mold growth it becomes. Building materials that have become wet will be more susceptible to mold growth in the future because of a change in the cellular structure of the material.
All windows need drip holes, window wrap, pans and flashing.
Building enclosure / envelope designs often contribute to moisture problems by providing a pathway for pollutants to get from one area to another.
Residential mold issues are dropping off; mold problems in commercial properties are on the increase.
Infrared thermography and radar are new systems coming on the market to detect moisture in walls, floors and materials.
New products and processes such as dry heat, paperless wallboard and anti-microbial coatings are beginning to show up in the marketplace.
Insurance companies are fearful that mold will become the next asbestos.
Worker’s compensation claims for mold exposure on the job are increasing and are expensive to settle.
Schools and educational facilities are a primary infectious source in communities as thousands of people gather here each day; they link communities and cross traditional barriers.

Carpet Dyeing and Color Correction
At the last CMI Expo in Baltimore MD, I had an extra day so I sat in on Ruth Travis’s Color Correction Certification seminar. I do a little side match work and some spot dying but, I really don’t do enough of it to get good at it so a little more training didn’t hurt me any.

I have a dental lab that calls me every 3 or 4 months to come over and take care of the bleach spots around the dental chairs in each operatory. It normally takes me about two hours to fix all the spots and I charge them about $300.00 so it works out pretty well. It’s an easy job as the carpet is a dark brown color so I can’t really screw it up to much. One thing I did learn the other day was that to get brown when you have a yellow spot, simply add purple. It worked great. In the past I have been mixing up a dark brown color and overwhelming it I guess, adding a little purple was much faster.

For my side match correction work I have a working relationship with Richard Mittie in Portland, OR. Richards’s specialty is side match feather blending. His approach is unique in that he doesn’t use hot water and applies the dye mix with a small airbrush. Other people I know use expensive and cumbersome equipment and hot water.

Ruth did a nice job, she explained all the fibers and then the rest of the class was hands-on practice putting the color back in the ten samples we were given.

Here are a few tips from the class:

About 14% of carpet cleaners provide color correction services.
Nylon and wool are the only fiber types that are fairly easy to dye, other fibers aren’t considered correctable on site.
93% of the carpet market is tufted goods.
5% of the carpets sold today are wool.
Nylon accounts for approximately 50% of the carpet sold today, polypropylene accounts for 30%, polyester 10%
Area rugs account for roughly 18% of the soft floor covering sold today.
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + yellow = Green
Blue + Red = Violet
It’s easier to use a small dye kit with 20 or 30 per mixed powdered color than to try to mix a color from the 3 primary colors.
The three primary colors are Red, Blue and Yellow.
When spot dying a bleach spot, add the missing color. Normally the spot will be off white or some shade of yellow.
Start light and layer in more color with repeated application of the dye solution.
When correcting bleach spots, first you have to neutralize the bleach then, clean it and then apply the dye solution.
Practice makes perfect. Get some scrap carpet, apply bleach and practice color correction until you perfect your technique.

Ruth provided a detailed manual with the class. For more information or to purchase a copy of Ruth’s Color Correction Manual, contact her at: or call: 423-877-0771.

That’s it for this month. Till we talk again, keep it clean out there. If you’d like to share your thoughts you can reach me at: