Overview of Motorhome/RV mold, Marine/Boat mold, formaldehyde and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
Molds are microscopic organisms that are most commonly found in nature. Their purpose is to help breakdown plant/ animal matter and they can typically be found outdoors in shady, damp areas or where there is of course organic decomposition. However the same outdoor mold can migrate to indoors and even proliferate to cause problems. For example, indoor molds can grow and flourish on virtually any surface (i.e. carpet, wall board etc.) that has been exposed to water. Unfortunately, their growth may also facilitate adverse health effects (i.e. irritation, allergic reactions etc.) of those that may occupy the indoor space.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a wide range of carbon-based molecules (i.e. Formaldehydes and other aldehydes, ketones, and other light hydrocarbons) that are found in the atmosphere. However as with mold, indoor sources of VOCs may cause health problems due to off-gassing. For example building materials, (i.e. carpet, furniture, shelving, wall covers etc.) paint thinners, cleaning solvents, semiconductor cleaners and petroleum fuels, are common indoor sources of VOCs that are likely to contribute and/ or cause sickness. Additionally, these compounds may also facilitate adverse health effects that are quite similar to mold exposure. In fact, exposure to molds and VOCs together may even have an additive negative health effect.
So who are at risk and what is the health effects related to molds and VOCs exposure?
When molds are disturbed, they release tiny cells, spores and mycotoxins, into the surrounding air. Typically the elderly, young or immunocompromised are most affected by mold however, anyone may have an allergic response, depending upon your individual immune system. For example, those effected acutely may be at increased risk for lung infection. Additionally and depending upon the type of mycotoxin, chronic exposure to mold particulates may even lead to other severe diseases. For example aflatoxin, a potent mycotoxin from the mold Aspergillus, is among the most carcinogenic substances known. In fact, aflatoxin (in weapons grade purified form) is so toxic that it can be produced and stored for use as a bioweapon!
For VOCs, anyone exposed will display symptoms and adverse health effects at some level of airborne concentration. The major toxic effects caused by acute low dose VOCs exposure via inhalation are headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation and effects on the nasal cavity. Other acute effects seen from exposure to high levels of VOCs (i.e. Formaldehyde) in humans are coughing, wheezing, chest pains, and bronchitis. Additionally, a chronic Occupation exposure study of Formaldehyde noted a limited but statistically significant association between exposure to formaldehyde and increased incidence of lung and nasopharyngeal cancer.
Do you have a suspicion of potentially being exposed to hidden mold or VOCs?
For example, you may suspect hidden mold because it smells moldy or if you know there has been water damage, but you cannot see and do not know the type or extent of the mold contaminant. Or, you may suspect potential VOCs off-gassing from the carpeting or furniture because you constantly get headaches or eye irritation. But what to do? What are you being exposed to? How much is too much?
Investigating hidden mold and VOCs problems may be difficult and require professional help, especially if those involved display related symptoms or are very young, elderly or immunocompromised. The most qualified Indoor Air Quality Investigator and the industry standard to conduct mold and VOCs investigations is the Industrial Hygienist. Simply put, the field Industrial Hygienist is most qualified to tell you what you are exposed to and at what levels. The Industrial Hygienist can also recommend steps to safely remediate and minimize the potential for future exposures. Our highly qualified Industrial Hygienist has a Bachelors degree from Purdue University, one of only 27 Universities within the United States that are accredited by the American Board of Engineering and Technology in Industrial Hygiene and the first and one of only five Universities accredited at the Bachelors level. Our Industrial Hygienist has more than eight quality years of experience conducting extensive mold and VOCs investigations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If you need an Industrial Hygienist for any specific needs, we can assist.