Pipe bursts and roof leaks can be dramatic, but some of the most serious moisture problems develop out of sight. Moisture can accumulate behind walls or underneath building materials, leading to hidden mold and moisture problems that gnaw away at your building and leave occupants feeling sick. All the while, you’re completely unaware of the damage being done. Find out:
- Where these hidden moisture problems could be lurking in your hospital.
- Why they’re dangerous.
- How to identify hidden mold.
- What to do if you think there’s a problem in your hospital.
Where do hidden mold and moisture problems develop?
Inside walls. Under floors. Above ceilings. Hidden mold and moisture problems can occur just about anywhere moisture becomes trapped and accumulates out of sight. Here are a few places where hidden moisture problems can develop:
- Inside walls, around pipes
- On the backside of wallpaper, dry wall, tile and paneling
- On the surface of walls behind furniture and appliances
- On the top side of ceiling tiles
- Area above drop ceilings
- Underneath carpet and carpet pads
- Underneath floorboards, tiles, and other flooring materials
- Other Areas
- Inside HVAC ductwork
- Utility rooms
- Roofing materials exposed to leaks
Why are hidden mold and moisture problems dangerous?
Hidden mold and moisture problems can wreak havoc on occupant health and building materials. The worst part is that most of the time, no one is aware of the danger until the damage has been done. This can cause serious issues on several fronts, including:
1. Occupant Health
Because hidden mold and moisture problems are so hard to find, occupants can experience health symptom for months without knowing their health is at risk. This puts patients/building occupants at risks for long-term exposure to mold and microbials that can cause serious discomfort, and sometimes even infections in immunocompromised patients.
2. Infection Control Emergencies
Hidden mold growth and moisture problems are usually not uncovered until renovation work is already underway. This can lead to an infection control emergency because once hidden mold has been exposed, it’s too late to contain the mold spores and protect high-risk patients from exposure.
The fix? Be sure to implement proactive infection control measures before starting any renovation or maintenance work that could disturb mold. Otherwise, you could put your patients at risk for some pretty scary construction-related Hospital Acquired Infections.
3. Building Damage
Seemingly simple moisture problems can do major damage to building materials, especially when left to do their work over extended periods of time. For example, if humidity issues are not recognized and resolved, condensation on the backside of vinyl wallpaper can break down adhesives and lead to harmful mold growth. Long-term exposure can also corrode, rot or degrade building materials, resulting in cost repairs once the damage is finally discovered.
How can you identify hidden mold and moisture problems in your hospital?
To identify a hidden mold or moisture problem, you’ll have to look for non-visible clues of moisture damage and mold growth.
First, trust your nose. Many common strains of mold emit microbial VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that have a uniquely musty smell. So if you smell any moldy or musty smells, it’s usually a pretty sure sign of hidden mold growth.
Second, listen to building occupants. If there is an increase in complaints about health symptoms, a hidden mold or moisture problem could be the reason. Pay special attention to reports of coughing, wheezing, upper respiratory symptoms and increased asthmas and allergy symptoms. People sensitive to mold can also experience headaches, eye irritation, nasal stuffiness, and other flu-like symptoms.
If you think you there might be a hidden mold or moisture problem in your hospital, be sure to call in a professional right away. Identifying the issue will require removal of some building materials, which can disturb mold growth and release countless mold spores into the air. Also make sure to have an infection control specialist set up proper containment measures before you begin any renovation or maintenance work that might disturb building materials. These measures will help you protect patients and avoid an infection control emergency.
Please contact Dan Taylor if you have any questions or think there might have a hidden mold or moisture problem in your hospital.