Respirators - Cleaning Mold

 Texas America Safety Company
Mold Cleanup Information

There are a lot of varieties of fungus, including molds, mildew, yeasts and rusts. The majority of these are harmless but some can cause respiratory and other disorders when people inhale or come into contact with these organisms. Inhalation is the route of exposure of most concern to flood cleanup workers. The recommendations below offer strategies for people cleaning up flooded homes, buildings, and other structures to protect themselves while handling contaminated building materials.

For workers cleaning up flooded homes, buildings and other structures, excessive moisture or water accumulation indoors will promote the growth of the fungi that are already there. Some fungi can cause adverse health effects such as asthma attacks and allergic responses. People who are sensitive to molds may have stuffiness, eye and nasal irritation, all symptoms of allergic reactions. These people should minimize exposure by wearing gloves, respirators and eye protection. These workers should also seek to eliminate fungi, as described below.

Repeated or prolonged contact of the skin with flood water and continuous sweating can lead to fungal skin infections. These infections can be avoided or minimized by washing the skin with warm, soapy water and keeping it as dry as possible.

If a cleanup worker experiences severe allergic or skin symptoms, or severe flu-like symptoms he or she should see a health provider. A health care provider can determine whether medication or any other precautions are necessary.

Tips to remember:

  • Avoid breathing dust (fungal spores) generated by crops, wet building materials and other substances.
  • Use a N-95 NIOSH-approved disposable respirator as a minimum when working with moldy or damp hay, compost, grain, or building materials.
  • Discard all water damaged materials. Items that are visibly contaminated with mold should be thrown out.
    Throw it out if in doubt! .
  • Surfaces that have a light covering of mold should be scrubbed with warm, soapy water and rinsed with a disinfectant made of one half liquid household bleach per a gallon of water.
  • Do not mix bleach with other cleaning products that contain ammonia.
  • Wash thoroughly after working with mold-contaminated materials, including hair, scalp, and finger nails.
  • If the safety of food or beverage is questionable, throw it out. Only drink safe drinking water that has been bottled, boiled, or treated until there is confirmation that the community water supply is safe for consumption.

For workers that are cleaning up or renovating buildings and homes that have been flooded, consider the following recommendations:

  • If flooding has caused severe damage to a building or home and there is the chance of extensive mold growth, consult with your insurance carrier or local health department to identify a professional with expertise in mold remediation.
  • If you suspect that flooding has damaged building integrity, consult a structural engineer or other professional with appropriate expertise.
  • NIOSH-approved respirators are strongly recommended. Respiratory protection such as the N-95 must be used in accordance with OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). Also wear gloves and eye protection.
  • Remove building materials and furnishings that are wet and may become contaminated with mold growth and place them in sealed impermeable bags or closed containers. Large items with heavy mold growth should be covered with polyethylene sheeting and sealed with duct tape before being removed from the area. These materials can usually be discarded as ordinary construction waste.
  • Remove and discard porous organic materials that have become wet or are visibly contaminated (e.g., damp insulation in ventilation system, moldy ceiling tiles, and mildewed carpets). Again, these materials can usually be discarded as ordinary construction waste.
  • Clean and disinfect nonporous surfaces where microbial growth has occurred with detergents, chlorine-generating slimicides, or other biocides and ensure that these cleaners have been removed before air handling units are turned on. When you use a biocide or disinfectant, use appropriate personal protective equipment. NIOSH-approved respirators with the appropriate chemical cartridges are recommended. Wear gloves and eye protection also.

For cleanup workers in rural and agricultural communities:

  • Silos and other enclosed areas should be vented prior to entry. However, this may not eliminate the problem entirely. If a worker is transporting or working with moldy animal feed, exposures are likely to be threatening if the feed and the worker are enclosed in a barn, silo or other structure. Workers will still need to wear respirators.
  • Workers uncapping a silo, shoveling grain, or working with feed, especially in any enclosed space, should always wear at a minimum a NIOSH-approved N-95 particulate respirator. Grain and hay should be stored when fully dry.

For additional information concerning fungi, health effects, and addressing flood damaged materials, please see OSHA's Safety and Health Topics webpage on Molds and Fungi at:

Texas America Safety Company
  4400 Danhil Drive
  Brownwood, TX 76801
  Toll Free 1-800-646-5346
  Outside US 1-325-646-5346
  Local 325-646-5346
  Fax 1-325-646-3790