Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns.
Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Popular IAQ topics include asthma, mold, radon, and others. Find out more about popular IAQ topics at the Environmental Protection Agency's IAQ page.
Facts about Mold
Molds can be found almost anywhere. They can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.
Strategies to Prevent Mold Growth
Moisture is the key to mold control.
- ACT QUICKLY to clean up leaks or spills. If wet or damp materials are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
- Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60% (ideally between 30% & 50%) relative humidity.
- Vent appliances that produce moisture such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters.
- Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed.
- Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher, etc.
- Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical (not while the air conditioning is on). Use fans when needed.
If you have health concerns that you think may be caused by molds consult your healthcare provider. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. The color of mold is NOT an indicator of its potential to cause negative health effects. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash.
Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing.
Check out this tip sheet from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Eight Tips for Keeping a Healthy Home.
What to do if you have Mold Growth
If you live in government housing you should contact your facility manager for assistance. If you have mold in your workplace talk to your supervisor.
Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back. Any obvious water leaks or similar sources of moisture should be correctly quickly to prevent mold growth.
Visible mold on hard surfaces such as tile or vinyl should be removed through surface cleaning with a detergent or soap solution. Mold on porous materials such as ceiling tile or wallboard requires replacement of the contaminated materials, and may need professional removal with appropriate worker protection.
Healthy Homes Principles - National Center for Healthy Housing
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) - United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Flood Cleanup: Protecting Indoor Air Quality – EPA
Local Air Quality Conditions - AirNow (EPA)
Mold – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mold and Your Home – EPA
Mold TriFold Pamphlet - APHC
Preventing Mold in Homes Fact Sheet – APHC
Indoor Air Quality and Mold Sample Result Fact Sheet – APHC
Radon - EPA
What you Need to Know About Mold – Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
***Example screening and assessment forms***
Mold Recognition, Evaluation, & Control
Ceiling tiles, paper-covered gypsum wallboard (drywall), structural wood, and other cellulose-containing surfaces should be given careful attention during a visual insMold Recognition, Evaluation, & Controlpection. Ventilation systems should be visually checked for damp conditions and/or mold growth on system components such as filters, insulation, and coils/fins, as well as for overall cleanliness.
• Determine the total surface area of visible mold affected (square feet).
• Consider the possibility of hidden mold.
• Clean up small mold problems and investigate and repair moisture problems before they become large problems.
• Select remediation personnel/team based on the assessment.
• Investigate areas associated with occupant complaints.
• Identify source(s) or cause of water intrusion or moisture problem(s).
• Note type, location and amount of water-damaged materials (wallboard, carpet, etc.).
• Check inside air ducts and air handling unit (i.e., condensate drain pans).
A visual inspection is the most important initial step in identifying a possible mold problem and in determining remedial strategies. The extent of any water damage and mold growth should be visually assessed and the affected building materials identified. A visual inspection should also include observations of hidden areas where damages may be present, such as crawl spaces, attics, and behind wallboard. Carpet backing and padding, wallpaper, moldings (e.g., baseboards), insulation and other materials that are suspected of hiding mold growth should also be assessed.
Air sampling may be necessary if an individual(s) has been diagnosed with a disease that is or may be associated with mold exposure (e.g., aspergillosis) and the occupational health physician/medical practitioner desires to confirm the causative agent.
Learn more from APHC's Technical Guide 278 (TG278), Mold Assessment Guide, October 2018.
Mold Remediation & Personal Protective Equipment
Mold removal guidelines are based on a number of factors like the size of the affected area and the material the mold is growing on. Consult Appendix B: Mold Remediation Guidelines, in TG278 for further guidance or TG 277 for Army Facilities Management remediation Guidance.
The Army recognizes culture and direct microscopic exam results using either an American Industrial Hygiene Associate (AIHA) –Lab Accreditation Programs, or LLC Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Accreditation Program (EMLAP) -accredited lab or equivalent.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards
These may be purchased from ASHRAE or viewed here for free.
Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality (62.1 and 62.2- 2016)
Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy (55-2017)
Army Facilities Management, Technical Guide 277 – APHC
Checklist for Mold Remediation – APHC
Control of Legionella (Fact Sheet 55-022-0311) – APHC
Efflorescence (Fact Sheet 55-022-0211) – APHC
Formaldehyde - Deployment Occupational and Environmental Health Concerns (Fact Sheet 55-012-1011) – APHC
Hurricane Response PPE - Information Paper – APHC
Indoor Air Quality – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Mold Decision Making Tree & Logic Notes – APHC
Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings - EPA
Mold Resource Center – The American Industrial Hygiene Association
Mold Sampling – EPA
Protecting Soldiers and Families from Potential Health Impacts Related to Residential Indoor Environmental Mold Exposure
- OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 19-026 (milSuite CAC required)
Radon Toolkit for Public Health Professionals - CDC
Whole Building Design Guide – part of the National Institute of Building Sciences
Evaluate patients presenting with symptoms of asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinitis, or rhinosinusitis with the appropriate diagnostic tests for these disorders. If an evaluation reveals that patient symptoms could be associated with damp housing conditions, healthcare providers will conduct a two-part interview to assist in determining whether or not there is justification for a building assessment focused on moisture/fungal growth issues.
If Applicable, Recommend Home Assessment
If applicable, notify the patient that a home assessment is recommended. Provide the patient with contact information for Preventive Medicine Services/Public Health Department to assist with coordinating a home assessment. Notify the installation Preventive Medicine/Public Health Department of all health care provider-recommended home assessments, to include the location of residence.
Indoor Air Quality Health Complaints: An Integrated Clinical and Environmental Approach - APHC
Guide for Clinicians Caring for Patients with Mold-related Complaints - Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors - EPA
Mold – National Library of Medicine
Resources for Health Professionals – EPA
California – Mold and Dampness
New York – Mold and Your Home: What you need to know
New York State Department of Labor Mold Program
Minnesota Department of Health – Mold and Moisture
APHC IH Field Services can help Installation IHs by providing comprehensive IAQ surveys, in-depth studies, and desktop or onsite consultations upon request. Call 410.436.3118 with your questions or to schedule a consultation.