Best Practices for Remediation in Controlled Environments

Remediation work within controlled environ­ments requires careful planning and consid­eration between a variety of service providers, processes, and products. Key considerations are:

  • Safety
  • Efficacy
  • Synergy
  • Chemical Burden
  • Cost
  • Time

Working to diligently address concerns and par­ticipate in the formulation of an effective plan at the outset will avoid problems during and after remedia­tion activities are completed.

We can define a controlled environment as any indoor space that has a heightened requirement for sanitization or overall cleanliness due to use or oc­cupants. Examples would include hospitals, nursing facilities, or laboratory environments. Facilities that house or work with immune-compromised individ­uals have stringent requirements to prevent further complicating already challenging health issues.

For this reason, the presence of a visible mold problem requires prompt correction. As with any remediation project, the goal is to restore the en­vironment to a normal fungal ecology. One major difference being that the normal fungal ecology for a controlled environment may be markedly lower than that of the average residential home.

Contamination removal should always be focused on source removal. Porous building materials impacted by direct water damage are removed while secondary damage areas and surfaces can generally be cleaned.

Providing for the safety of workers and occupants is one of the key principles of any remediation project (IICRC S520 Standard for Professional Mold Remediation, pg. 18). Acknowledging the increased risk of occupants or the exceptional clearance require­ments is justification for “a more cautious or conservative approach to remediation” (EPA, Mold Re­mediation in Schools and Com­mercial Buildings, pg. 13).

Prior to working on site, some facilities may require mandatory safety training for all remediation workers. Coordination of the remediation contractor with on-site safety personnel can help to streamline the start of the project and meet regulatory require­ments that you may not be aware apply. Safety data sheets (SDS), safety plans, emergency plans and other documentation should be readily available on site for work­ers and building occupants.

Moisture was found to be coming from an unconditioned space through a ceiling.

Planning and implementing containment for impacted areas may include vacancy of not only the workspace but adjoining rooms and locations as an in­creased measure of caution and layer of isolation from remedia­tion activities. On occasion, an entire wing or section of a larger facility may need to be vacated and isolated to provide appropri­ate isolation from sensitive indi­viduals or an effective means of egress from the work area to the exterior of the building.

Signage is important to notify workers, residents, and employ­ees to the risks associated with the work area. Movement of patients in a nursing facility may be required due to the presence of active mold growth (Condi­tion 3). This could involve the coordination of physicians and other health care workers as well as equipment. Families need to be contacted and appropriate per­missions sought prior to move­ment. Items within the contain­ment area may require additional care or specialized cleaning that cannot be completed on site or require individuals’ authorization for movement and cleaning.

Contamination removal should always be focused on source removal. Porous build­ing materials impacted by direct water damage are removed while secondary damage (Condition 2) areas and surfaces can generally be cleaned. Mold remediation is and will always be about con­trolled demolition and exten­sive, detailed cleaning. Cleaning should always be of primary importance with the use of bio­cides playing a supporting role as opposed to a primary one.

Water main, treatment, and fire suppression systems within a contained space.

If disinfection is requested or required, additional precautions should be taken to inform workers and building occupants of what will be used, and the risks in­volved. Sanitizing and disinfecting of surfaces are always done after gross contamination and strenu­ous cleaning is completed. Safety data sheets should be available onsite for any cleaning of disin­fecting chemicals that may be used. Minimizing the overall vol­ume of any chemical cleaners and disinfectants limits the impact that these substances have on workers and the facility itself.

Catalytic solutions offer one route to this reduced chemical usage. One such family of catalysts is the Fe-TAML catalysts invented by Terry Collins at CMU. These catalysts are water-soluble, and activate a wide variety of oxidants to accelerate and enhance activity. The addition of trace amounts of these catalysts allows for 20-50­fold reduction of active chemical usage, or in some cases, the substi­tution of a more tolerable ingre­dient like hydrogen peroxide for a harsher one like hypochlorite.

“The key to mold control is moisture control” is a mantra that has existed for more than two decades. The evidence for neg­ative health outcomes in damp environments is well documented and summarized in the Institute of Medicines 2004 book entitled
Damp Indoor Spaces and Health among many others.

Mold growth on a ceiling caused by a C-PAP machine of an occupant within a nursing facility.

The source of moisture lead­ing to an active water situation is always important and can gener­ally be ascertained and corrected. However, this is not always as simple as fixing a plumbing leak or breach in the building envelope. Many times, the source of mois­ture is the interaction between a building’s design and needed equipment or cleaning procedures. Controlled environments require additional planning and higher levels of execution on be­ half of the remediation contractor. Keeping safety in mind, planning prior to the start of work that focuses on effectively achieving goals in coordination with build­ing maintenance staff is critical.

Making sure that work falls within the budget and time frames laid out by the client and that the types of products utilized are both safe and effective is important. Always understand the why! Why does the work need to be done, why are the goals what they are, and why do the products and processes we are employing make sense? As a mentor once asked me many years ago, “Can you justify this to the client and workers?”

Brian Lester

Brian Lester has been in the restoration and cleaning industry since 1998, and has been operating Indiana Mold Remediation since 2000. Over the years, Brian’s fo­cus on clients with mold sensitiv­ity increased, as did his desire to find techniques and products that left less of a footprint on spaces he and his team cleaned and remediated. He is also a product specialist for dot Cleaner.

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