Indoor Environmental Quality: Mold in the Workplace

rusty pipes and a water-damaged wall

Testing and Remediation of Dampness and Mold Contamination

There are no established health-based standards for acceptable levels of biological agents in indoor air. We do not recommend routine air sampling for mold with building air quality evaluations because air concentrations of molds cannot be interpreted with regard to health risks.  In many cases, very short-term sampling for mold spores is conducted; however, the results may not be representative of actual exposures. Furthermore, spore counts and culture results, which tend to be what are included in indoor air quality reports, do not capture the full range of exposures. What building occupants react to is largely unknown. It may be mold, a compound produced by mold, something related to bacteria, or compounds that are released into the air when wet building materials break down. We have found that thorough visual inspections and/or detection of problem areas via musty odors are more reliable. These methods have been used in past NIOSH research and have shown a correlation with health risks in buildings that have indoor environmental complaints.

Wetted materials need to be dried within 48 hours of getting wet or subsequently removed, and necessary repairs need to be made to prevent further water entry into the building. If mold is identified on materials, appropriate remediation guidelines with proper containment should be used to minimize exposure to building occupants. Inappropriate remediation (e.g., painting over water-damaged materials or moldy surfaces) can cause further problems with building degradation and symptoms in occupants.

For complete remediation guidelines go to the New York City Department of Health and Hygiene’s Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environmentspdf iconexternal icon site.

Page last reviewed: September 1, 2015