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June 10, 2008
What is required for effective air duct cleaning in mold remediation?
by TransWorldNews

Tampa, Fl -- WATE 6 TV recently headlined a story entitled “Businessman takes woman's money, never cleans mold or repairs carpet” exemplifies the charlatan and shaman mentality of many of the so called "IAQ experts" that prey on the unsuspecting public.  This activity has grown to epidemic proportions. Indoor Air Quality issues are rapidly becoming part of the general public’s consciousness through the mass media’s portrayal of proliferating toxic mold. Many Floridians, along with the rest of the nation are now discovering that non-qualified commercial mold remediation firms and residential duct cleaning services can be just as hazardous.

Numerous post-hurricane mold cleanup efforts have been ineffective. A recent article stated that 40 percent of the certified duct cleaners do not follow their certifying entity’s procedures and protocols. Many states are rushing to introduce legislation that qualifies and regulates the currently unregulated remediation industry. At this point, the question must be asked: Does air duct cleaning or mold remediation really help improve IAQ?

The first step to consider before embarking on a duct cleaning or mold remediation project is to determine the hygiene condition of the HVAC system and the potential sources of mold. Keep in mind, the source of a mold problem may not be visibly apparent, and just cleaning the ducts may not be the answer. Contact a reputable environmental consultant who can conduct an indoor environmental walkthrough that includes a pragmatic series of diagnostic tests to determine the environmental baseline status of your home or office.

What does Duct Cleaning or Mold Remediation Entail?

Mold Remediation includes a large variety of components (e.g. drywall, wood, carpet, building furnishings, etc.), which may also include duct cleaning. The type of mold, levels of contamination, and clearance levels will determine the protocols employed during the remediation project. It is important that the remediation service provider environmentally clean all the contaminated components so unclean sections will not re-contaminate the home or office again.

Anti-microbial chemicals are sometimes applied during the cleaning process and in some cases incorporated into the encapsulating products. Ensure all chemicals used are EPA registered for the specific application. All MSDS sheets should be maintained on the project worksite. Some newer remediation efforts include cryogenic processes for mold treatment.

Duct cleaning entails cleaning the various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems. These components include the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, variable area volume (VAV) boxes, fresh air ductwork, and the air handling unit housing.

The service provider should take preventive steps to protect individuals from exposure to dislodged contaminants during the cleaning process. These steps may include the use of containment barriers; the utilization of negative air machines (NAM) employing High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filtration rated 99.97% efficiency for particulate size of .03 microns on the cleaning equipment, effective “tools of the trade” to facilitate proper removal, and the use of employees who are trained in OSHA safety practices.

In an office type building, remediation should be performed at night, to again minimize the occupational disruption of the tenants and potential contaminants disturbed during remediation processes.

Signs of Mold:


The most efficient means of determining the presence of mold is through indoor environmental surveys. Often, building occupants exposed to mold contamination experience allergic symptoms, asthma attack, etc. Some non-ideopathic entities like rapid changes in air temperature and humidity levels, building pressurization, fluctuating lighting, and odor-causing evolutions can elicit similar symptoms and sometimes even can mask a mold-related problem.

Mold requires moisture for growth. Moisture intrusion due to poor construction design, materials, laborers, and technique is currently a major industry problem. There are currently no regulations for mold contaminant levels, but there have been multiple bills introduced at the various levels of government (federal and state) with regulation coming in the not too distant future.

Opportunistic pathogenic molds are well documented as well as others that generate toxic chemicals (MVOC’s). Even if you have visible mold present, reputable professionals should do the qualification and quantification with all assay analyses performed by an accredited laboratory.

Guidelines for acceptable levels of molds have been developed through trend analysis of the Computer Assisted Air Management Program Systems (CAAMPS) at the Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory of Pure Air Control Services (www.pureaircontrols.com). CAAMPS contains data from over 100,000 samples collected in over 500 million sq. ft. of commercial and residential sites during 10,000 indoor environmental studies.

Signs That Ducts Should Be Cleaned:

Several factors help determine if the duct system should be cleaned. One major factor is visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts or on other components of your system. Be aware that although a substance may look like mold, it may not be. The use of an AIHA accredited environmental laboratory will accurately determine whether a sample is mold or simply debris that resembles it.

If the air duct insulation is saturated with water, it should be removed and replaced and the cause of the growth corrected before the cleaning or removal occurs.

Other factors include rodent or insect infestation and a clogged HVAC system that actually releases contaminants into the building or home through the registers.

Risk Factors:

If proper mold remediation or duct cleaning procedures are not followed, these processes can cause more dust, debris, and molds to be released into the air. Inadequate negative air machine collection systems and poor containment can cause this problem.

Also, there is the possibility the service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, which could result in increased heating and air conditioning operational costs, expensive repairs or replacements.

Listed below are questions that should be posed to the prospective remediation and duct-cleaning contractor:

• Are the New York City Department of Health Mold Remediation Guidelines level I through level V being utilized for mold cleanup? • Is the company NADCA certified and in good standing?
• Are the NADCA ACR 2002 specifications utilized?
• Are the IICRC Standard for Professional Remediation S520 utilized?
• Do they maintain adequate insurance coverage’s? e.g. Professional Liability (E & O) $5M w/$1M mold remediation coverage; Contractor Pollution Liability $5M w/ $1M mold remediation coverage; General Liability $1M w/ $2M aggregate; Workers Compensation $1M; Automobile $1M,
• How long has the service provider been in business? • Is their work mostly residential homes or commercial buildings?
• Does their respective state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) require licensure?
• What are the qualifications of the firm?
• Do they guarantee their work?
• What is the guarantee?
• Does the firm work with the medical community? (Health implications of work)
• Are their chemicals registered with the EPA for specific ductwork applications? (Fiberglass vs. Sheet Metal)
• What quality control/quality assurances (QA/QC) protocols do they provide to assure that mold, fiberglass, dust, pollen and dander have been effectively removed after the cleaning process?
• Are the technicians who will be performing the work environmentally trained?
• What are their backgrounds? Their experience? Have they been trained in the following OSHA programs: 
     • Respiratory Protection Program: 1910.134
     • Hazard Communication Program: 1910.120
     • Confined Space Program: 1910.146
     • Lock Out - Tag Out Program: 1910.147

Detailed environmental HVAC and Mold project remediation specifications are essential in any indoor environmental remediation project and should be mandated to confirmed the qualifications of the individual as well as provide some assurance of the project’s success.  Duct cleaning & mold remediation works….if done right.

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For mold inspection, mold remediation, and mold prevention for your real estate property anywhere in the world, please contact mold consultants Phillip Fry and Divine Montero by email phil@moldinspector.com or by phone toll-free 1-866-300-1616 or 1-810-639-0523 or cell phone 1-480-310-7970.         Website updated August Nov. 23, 2015, by mold expert Phillip Fry