Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I love the internet.  At any time, day or night, on a sudden impulse of seeking infinite knowledge about anything in particular, I simply type it into Google and voila! -Everything I ever wanted to know about that "anything in particular" is delivered on demand!  How did we even manage to get through life pre-Google?  Reminiscing to the old fashioned way of finding information via a trip to the local library, flipping throuh encyclopedias, and scanning through (gasp!) microfiche, causes my thoughts to whirl at the time-consuming efforts we used to make to find bits and pieces of information here and there, like an ant following a trail of little crumbs in a lifelong quest for the Mother Load.

As a result of technology, we are indeed a more informed society.  Or.. are we becoming a misinformed society?

Google Search: "Mold Removal"
If you enter "mold removal" into Google's search engine, you will instantly be presented with roughly 2.5 million results!  That should keep you busy for a while...  Interestingly, of those 2.5 million pages for your reading enjoyment, 496 thousand results mention "black mold", as well.  It's ironic how mold removal automatically leads to black mold on nearly 20% of internet results.  That may not seem like a lot to you at first thought, it's only 20%, after all.  But if you consider that there are literally hundreds of thousands of mold species in our environment, black mold is undoubtedly the star.  One of the most common household mold species, penicillium, only gets mentioned in 17 thousand of the 2.5 million results.  

I'm going to lay one more statistic on the table for you.  "Toxic black mold" still far exceeds a highly common household mold, penicillium, with 200 thousand results of those 2.5 pages of mold removal information on Google.  

Why is black mold so prominent in mold removal information?
It all began with one big scary word: "mycotoxins".  Yes, it is correct that stachybotrys has the potential to produce mycotoxins, releasing them throughout the indoor air environment, which may create an unhealthy indoor air environment for individuals, especially the elderly, young, and those with compromised immune systems.  The media learned about mycotoxins and discovered immediately that it creates very interesting news stories.  We all love a little drama and fear in our daily news, don't we?  How many times did you see a shocking teaser on the evening news, and think to yourself, "Wow I can't miss that one!".  Simply stated, toxic black mold makes for sensational news.  Unfortunately, it also creates the opportunity for many "experts" to  utilize scare tactics to sell large-scale mold remediation projects based upon the perceived "toxic environment" in a client's home, whether this toxic environment is actually present or not.  No one wants to live in a toxic environment!  Frankly, if I thought my family's health were at risk, I would be prompted to take immediate corrective action too.

Here are a few misconceptions that I found on the web about black mold.

  • One Google search lead me to a mold remediation company who initially explains where to find mold then in the next paragraph heads straight down the black mold path stating accurate information however in an alarming tone.  For example, it mentions deaths of babies in the very first sentence, followed by recommendations of remediation which is "critical" for the purpose of preventing suffering on your family's behalf.  
    • Is the information true?  It can be in very severe cases.  What truly alarms me is the lack of a recommendation for a mold inspection or lab testing, and the advertiser only shows "mold removal" in their available services.  (which is fine as many believe that it is a conflict of interest to have the same company conduct the testing and the remediation for the same job - however I would expect that there would be a mention that the affected area should be inspected and tested, first) If you have done any homework on the web, you probably already have a vague idea that mold species cannot be positively identified without prior testing.  Any responsible mold removal company is going to protect their clients first and foremost, as well as their own liabilities through inspections and testing before and after the mold removal job to ensure that the job was done right.
  • Another website recommends to hire "Black Mold Inspectors".  
    • There is no standard title for a "Black Mold Inspector" and what you are looking for is referred to as a "Certified Mold Inspector".  If you happen across someone who labels him/herself a "Black Mold Inspector", then I would be concerned about their integrity.
  • One particular website ONLY addresses black mold.  All of the other hundreds of thousands species of mold are simply ignored.  Furthermore, they advise that upon a water event, black mold can grow extraordinarily fast and upon its first appearance you should assume you have a black mold problem within a day or two if it is not cleaned right away.  
    • As a mold professional, statements like this rings to the same tune as the old car salesman who claims another person looking at the car in an hour so you better buy it now!  The message incorrectly leads an uninformed reader to believe that if they discover visible mold following a water event that the mold growth is definitively black mold.  In fact, depending on the specific conditions and the environment, the type of mold that settles in the affected area can be one or many types of mold, sometimes including or excluding stachybotrys.  And although I do agree that it is always adviseable to address a mold situation as soon as possible, I wouldn't necessarily agree with the statement that within 2 days you can bet you have a mold "problem" in all cases.  Again, part-truths that are presented in a manner to cause panic and rushed decisions.  
  • My favorite find is a website that explains the difference between "good black mold" and "bad black mold" inside a house.
    • Statements like this one leave me completely speechless.  There is no such thing as "good mold" or "beneficial mold" on the building materials within a home or building.  There is, of course, a benefit to mold in our environment.  If mold did not exist we would be over our heads in leaves since mold plays a key role in breaking down organic matter.  And, to give partial credit to the website's statement, some mold is beneficial in the creation of products such as blue cheese.
    • Mold is a normal occurance in our environment, and every home will typcially test positive for a variety of mold species in the indoor air environment simply through the exchange of indoor & outdoor air from opening doors and windows for example.  The important thing to understand is mold can become problematic when it it is at elevated levels indoors as compared to the outdoor control sample collected.  I can assure you with confidence that no good can come from any type of mold growing on the walls of a home or building.
  • I also found various product websites promising to clean the air in your home from black mold.
    • Although these air "cleaners" in many cases do have the ability to help lower mold counts, they fail to mention that if you do not address the source of the mold, the problem will continue to fester getting worse over time.  No air cleaner is going to effectively remove mold if there is water damaged sheetrock causing the mold spores to continue colonizing in the indoor air environment.  

Some related Black Mold and Mold Removal facts:

  • There are several hundred thousand mold species in our environment.
  • When mold is visible, it is always best to address the situation right away.  
  • Mold grows at varied rates depending on several environmental factors including temperature, disturbance, humidity, light, and the substrate on which it grows.
  • Mold that is black in color is not always stachybotrys, commonly referred to as "black mold" and "toxic black mold"
  • The only way to positively identify mold is by testing and analysis by an accredited laboratory
  • A mold inspector who refers to himself as a "black mold inspector" would raise a red flag in my professional opinion
  • A company that only mentions black mold or toxic black mold, and does not consider the possible  presence of other mold species would also raise red flags in my professional opinion.
  • There is no such thing as "good mold" and "bad mold".  All species of mold have the potential to create health concerns to individuals at varying levels depending on the individual.  All species of mold that are growing on building materials should be addressed sooner than later.  There is no "good mold" growing on your bathroom wall.  It should be cleaned as soon as possible and recurrence or large amounts (more than 10 sq. ft.) may indicate that there is a contributing factor causing the mold growth which should be addressed through further investigation.
It has been my experience that information from the web should always be digested with a grain of salt.  Caveat emptor.  Similar to any other significant decision if you feel like you are being rushed or pushed into a decision, it's always sound advice to obtain a second opinion.

-Steve Spinelli

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


NYC has been battling cockroaches for many years. Although the media has been highly concentrated on bed bugs in NYC as of late, (guilty!), let's not ignore the fact that cockroach infestations continue to plague New York City and its surrounding area.

Did you know that cockroaches have been around for 400 million years? If you recall back to your school days when you learned about Darwin's Theory of Evolution, the fact that cockroaches have changed so little over the past 400 million years tells us that they were created almost perfectly for survival since the beginning.  That's great news for the cockroaches, but not so great news for New York City residents and others who are battling these mighty creatures inside their New York apartments and buildings.  New York Exterminators have a lifelong battle to endure, residents to reassure, and a little biology to understand to be victorious in the combat against cockroaches.

There are different species of cockroaches and each has its own preferences of nutrition and habitation.  Some types of cockroaches include:

  • American Cockroach (Periplaneta Americana (Linnaeus))
  • Australian Cockroach (Periplaneta Australasiae (Fabricius))
  • Brown Cockroach (Periplaneta Brunnea Burmeister)
  • Brownbanded Cockroach (Supella Longipalpa (Fabricius))
  • German Cockroach (Blattella Germanica (Linnaeus))
  • Oriental Cockroach (Blatta Orientalis Linnaeus)
  • Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach (Parcoblatta Pensylvanica (DeGeer))
  • Smokybrown Cockroach (Periplaneta Fuliginosa (Serville))
Today we will concentrate on the most prevalent and common cockroach, the "German cockroach".  This specific cockroach is a concern due to its attribution to illnesses, its contribution to the transmission of several pathogenic organisms, and its ability to create allergic reactions in individuals.  The German cockroach may be found worldwide, including New York City.

What does a German Cockroach look like?

With coloring light brown / tan in most cases, the adult spans about 1/2" to 5/8" long with a flattened body, six legs covered in spines, and long antennae.  German cockroaches do not fly.  The adult German cockroach wings cover approximately 1/2 of its abdomen (although non-adults may not have wings, yet), and there are 2 dark longitudinal stripes on its pronotal shield.  (see illustration)

The German cockroach is often mistaken with the Asian Cockroach due to the similar coloring, and the Pennsylvania wood cockroach however note that the Pensylvania wood cockroach lacks the 2 dark stripes on its pronotal shield.  Confirmation of the specific cockroach species is instrumental in any exterminator's success, so whenever there is doubt it is highly recommended to confirm the type of cockroach present with an expert.

Biology of a German Cockroach
Eggs are carried by the female German cockroach until only 1 to 2 days prior to hatching time.  She then deposits her eggs in a safe place.  Female German cockroaches create a robust population through their egg-laying tendencies:  Typically she will produce around 5 oothecae (i.e. "egg casings") which contain anywhere from 30 to 40 eggs each, giving us an approximate total anywhere from 120 to 500 eggs each.  One cockroach can literally multiply into hundreds overnight.  From egg to adulthood, the development time of a German cockroach can vary anywhere from 54 to 215 days with the average right around 103 days.  What this tells us is when German cockroaches are present, there are likely more nymphs present within the population then the actual cockroach population in most cases.  Reports show up to 75% of cockroach infestations are comprised of nymphs.

Where do you find German Cockroaches?
German cockroaches prefer warm and relatively humid environments.  As many have unfortunately experienced, German cockroaches love the kitchen, followed by bathrooms.  Generally they will harbor wherever there is nutrition, so in essence wherever you eat.  Dining rooms, dens, living rooms, and even bedrooms provide prime real-estate for a cockroach, when there is nutrition present.  The German cockroach spends much of its time in cracks and crevices in New York City buildings close to their nutritional needs.  These nutritional needs are not only the foods us humans enjoy, but also other elements such as glue, for example the glue used to hold together paper bags and cardboard boxes.  German cockroaches also find their nutritional needs in toothpaste and even soap.  

The German cockroach's activity will vary upon its life stage with reproducing females being the most active of the bunch.  While the reproducing females are busy bustling about, the males are hanging out resting within their harborage including nighttime, too.  This always makes most of my female clients chuckle ;)  Meanwhile, the nymphs that are on the verge of molting will spend their final 3 days in harborage, too.  This is why many nymphs are missed during a visual inspection and will be a crucial point to remember when discussing the pest control treatment of German cockroaches.

Where do German cockroaches come from?
In many cases, the German cockroach, as well as its other relatives in the cockroach family are introduced into their new environment through the transportation of paper products and packaging for example, cardboard boxes, paper grocery bags, and paper cups.  They can also be introduced into your environment through secondhand appliances so I always advise that you thoroughly inspect any estate sale or garage sale bargain before bringing it into your home or building.  I give the same exact advice on my bed bug blog as this is a common way to unwittingly disperse bug infestations from one home to another.

How do you get rid of German cockroaches?
Understanding the reproduction and harborage habits of the German cockroach, it becomes clear that to completely eradicate the infestation it will require more frequent service.  The clean out service is paramount and must successfully exterminate 95% of the current cockroach infestation in order for the follow-up maintenance visits to be completely effective.  To be cockroach free, the following protocol is the most effective:
  • Prevention
    • Like many other situations, prevention is the best way to keep an environment infestation-free from cockroaches.  It is also the most cost-effective as preventative measures do not require an exterminator.  Always inspect items that are brought into your residential or commercial space to be sure there are no cockroaches harboring inside.  Be aware of everything that is brought into your environment.  Also, proper maintenance of the building itself is a highly effective way to prevent cockroach infestations, as well as many other types of insect infestations.  By reducing entry points you dramatically reduce the risk of a cockroach infestation.  Seal cracks and small holes, especially surrounding electrical wiring and plumbing fittings, and fix leaks immediately.  If condensation or humidity is high, increase ventilation appropriately.
  • Sanitation
    • Sanitation along with Prevention is in many cases the most effective way to prevent a cockroach infestation from having the chance to develop in the first place.  Proper sanitation removes the nutritional source, harborage, and water that cockroaches seek for their survival.  A space that has piles of paper and boxes, opened food containers, and standing water in bowls inside the sink for example provides the optimal environment for cockroaches to live.  Reduce clutter, store food in tightly sealed containers, wipe off countertops, empty garbage properly, and eliminate any standing water to help ward off cockroach infestations.  Regular housekeeping through wiping down surfaces, vacuuming (using a HEPA filter if cockroaches may be present will help prevent airborne debris), and washing down floors will remove any food particles that will feed a cockroach infestation.  Don't forget to pick up Fido's food dish, as pet kibbles sitting in a bowl on the floor are an open invitation for a cockroach party.  If you must keep recyclables inside, rinse them out thoroughly before placing them into your indoor recycle container.
  • Inspection
    • Regular pest inspections by an exterminator with a trained eye as well as the correct tools will help keep your home or building from becoming infested with cockroaches.  Sometimes, even when a home or building owner is religious about sanitation and prevention, a cockroach can still find harborage within the indoor environment.  Through regular pest inspections, any potential infestation can be treated before the situation gets out of hand.
  • Initial application
    • Should your exterminator find the presence of cockroaches in your home, apartment, or building, he or she will recommend an initial application, often referred to as the "clean out service."  As mentioned above, the purpose of the clean out service is to remove 95% of the cockroach infestation in a single treatment through the use of residual baits, liquid pesticides, aerosol applications, microencapsulated products, and/or dusting within voids.  Each situation is unique so each exterminator will evaluate the situation and will recommend the correct protocol for you.  Using a licensed NY Exterminator is recommended, due to the various product regulations that are constantly changing.  A licensed exterminator is required by law to attend continuing education classes to maintain his or her license and will understand the safest and most effective way to treat your home or building.  In cases where the infestation affects a commercial food preparation space the products recommended for use may be different depending on regulatory statutes and product labels for public safety.
  • Maintenance
    • This is where many cockroach treatments fail.  Many residents or building owners will call in an exterminator to treat for a cockroach infestation, and upon finding the results of the clean-out (remember, 95% of the cockroach infestation is targeted for elimination during the initial service), will enter into a false sense of security upon finding that the cockroach activity seems to be gone.  What is happening during this time, however, is the remaining 5% of the cockroach infestation within the cracks and voids are still present.  As the nymphs develop, they eventually emerge, and the problem seems to resurface once again.  This ends up causing more stress, money, and anxiety for all involved.  So my recommendation is, stick with your maintenance program to be assured the cockroach infestation has been effectively exterminated.  Then, you can go back to the simple steps of Prevention, Sanitation, and Inspection.
Interesting facts about the German Cockroach
  • Three life stages: egg, nymph, adult
  • The German cockroach produces an odorous secretion.  This secretion can affect food flavor.
  • At high level infestations, the odorous secretion from German cockroaches is detectable in the general area of the infestation
  • Known pathogens carried by cockroaches
    • Salmonella
    • E. coli
    • These pathogens are dispersed throughout the area of infestation through the cockroach saliva, feces, and molted skins
  • Illnesses linked to the German cockroach
    • food poisoning
    • dysentery
    • diarrhea
  • Allergic reactions caused by the German cockroach
    • skin rash
    • watery eyes
    • sneezing
    • nasal congestion
    • asthma
  • Cockroaches are active at night and remain concealed within cracks, crevices, and voids during the day.  Unless the population is overcrowded, whereby they may be seen during the day.  Whenever cockroaches are spotted during daytime it is a potential sign that a significant cockroach infestation exists nearby.
  • A cockroach can survive long periods of time without food or water
  • German cockroaches are commonly referred to as "waterbugs"

An old cockroach joke although it may be debated that there may be some truth in this -
Q:  What are the only things that would survive a nuclear bomb?
A:  Cockroaches and a fruit cake, and the cockroaches would starve.

-Steve Spinelli
NYC Cockroach Exterminator
Titanium Laboratories, Inc.

Monday, April 25, 2011

General Household Insects - NJ Pest Control

As a NJ Exterminator this time of year begins a rather hectic season with lots of phone calls from homeowners about general household pests, such as flies, mosquitos, ants, silverfish, and centipedes. How can a homeowner prevent pest infestations from occurring in the first place? Some homeowners simply call their local nj exterminator for a preventative annual spraying hoping that gesture alone will aid in the prevention of pest infestations. General pest control preventative treatments are very helpful, and there are some things that you, the homeowner, can do in conjunction to your preventative pest control service to stretch your dollar and really ward off pests from becoming a nuisance in the first place.

Today, we're going to concentrate on the elimination of breeding grounds for pest control, as well as the elimination of entry points into your home.  By following these simple steps, your exterminator treatments will be a lot more effective for you.

Standing Water
Standing water on the property is a breeding ground for a multitude of pests, most notably mosquitoes. If you want to keep mosquitoes to a minimum then the absolute best way to do this is to eliminate any standing water from your property. Things to look for are bird baths, swimming pools, depressions in the lawn's landscape, and clogged gutters & leaders, which all contribute to stagnant water that provides a breeding ground for insects. Take some time to inspect around your home and your property. Clean out any fountains or bird baths from stagnant water, don't neglect your swimming pool and get it opened on time for the season so that the filter continually cleans the water. Look over your lawn for uprooted trees or soil depressions and fill them in so that rain water does not collect and sit. Clean and check your gutters for any clogs and wet leaves. Not only will these steps help prevent pest infestations, but they are generally good home maintenance tips that will keep your home free from water intrusion and water damage, too.

Lawn Debris
Now is the time to begin getting the gardens and lawns looking nice for your summer barbecues and outdoor gatherings! Not only will cleaning up lawn debris improve the aesthetics of your home, it's curb appeal, and overall property value; it will also help reduce the incidence of pest infestations. Wet leaves also provide a breeding ground for pests so clean them up before pests become a problem in your home. Also, trim back any trees or leaves that are situated against your your home. These minor efforts will help you ward off ants, silverfish, and centipedes, to name a few.

Caulk holes
Sometimes pests breed outside and then find their way into your home. It's always a good habit to regularly caulk any small holes to prevent pests from entering your home. Did you know that a mouse can fit through a hole as small as the size of the tip of your finger? Just think of how many ants can march through that very same hole. Check along the foundation, window and door frames, and along any seams in your home structure.  This is a cheap and easy way to help prevent bugs from getting inside your home and is a great preventative pest control tactic.

Window Screens
Now that the weather is getting warmer, it's refreshing to finally open up a window and let the fresh air inside your home. Before doing so, you will want to be sure your screens are in tact to prevent unwanted pests from invading your home. Screening may be purchased very inexpensively from your local home improvement store. Repair and or replace any screens that have rips or holes before opening the windows. Obviously the smaller the screen mesh, the more effective it will be in aiding your home pest control. Finer screen meshes will prevent the smallest of pests from entering your home and can also help in the prevention of pollen and outdoor allergens from entering, too, an added bonus for allergy-sufferers.

Here is a useful YouTube video that will show you step-by-step the simple process of replacing a window screen.

These simple procedures are helpful pest control tips throughout the year, best handled in the spring while pests are still in their larvae stage. A little bit of effort will pay off big time by saving you the hassle and costs of dealing with pest infestations before they have the opportunity to occur in many cases.

-Steve Spinelli

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bed Bug Video

I like to watch You Tube. Depending on my mood I can watch fascinating videos of any subject, and most recently I found myself watching videos about bed bugs. As a bed bug exterminator I was curious to observe people's bed bug do-it-yourself remedies, some of which offered some decent suggestions of how to rid your home of bed bugs, and others were simply laughable. Since YouTube video content is all user uploaded we have to remember to take some of the information we find with a grain of salt. My goal was to find a video that was accurate and informative, and I did stumble upon a short documentary-style video uploaded by Discovery Networks. Being a fan of The Discovery Channel it caught my interest. They uploaded a video named, "Bed Bugs on the Rise" that I would like to share with you below.

This video is very useful to you for several reasons. It discusses some basic information about bed bugs, and you can actually see what bed bugs look like in action as they crawl around on the Entomologist's hand. (Warning: watching this video may cause you to feel itchy!) Discovery Networks does a great job explaining why the bed bug population is increasing and where bed bugs come from. You will learn about bed bug bites, what bed bug bites look like, and the video offers some good points for preventing bed bugs and bed bug infestations, too. So sit back, enjoy, and watch and learn some key information about bed bugs in a short two and a half minute video.

-Steve Spinelli
AKA "Bed Bug Exterminator"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What do bed bugs look like?

As a licensed NYC Exterminator and NJ Exterminator, I answer this question countless times every day on service calls.  With the onslaught of media centered around bed bugs, an exterminator may as well change their title to “bed bug exterminator.”  Personally, about 90% of our NYC exterminator service calls as well as our NJ exterminator service calls are all in the name of… BED BUGS.

So you want to see pictures of bed bugs because you are searching for an answer to the question that everyone seems to be asking these days:  “What do bed bugs look like?”

Knowing that I would be starting this blog, I have recently taken some pictures of bed bugs, as well as what signs to look for that indicate a bed bug infestation, so that you can see a clear example of bed bugs to use as a reference point if you want to look for bed bugs or signs of bed bug activity in your home or building.

Bed bugs and bed bug fecal matter on a box spring

A bed bug in the center, and the larger bed bug to the left is pregnant and will drop eggs shortly.  If you compare the size of these two bed bugs to the staple in the photograph, this will give you a good frame of reference to understand the size of a bed bug.  Black markings indicate bed bug excrement along the underside of a box spring along the seaming.

Picture of a bed bug
What do bed bugs look like? This is a standard example of a bed bug on the underside of a box spring and is a close up of the image above for a better view.

Bed bug excrement on mattress seam
"How do I know if I have bed bugs?"
In looking at the above picture of a mattress seam, you will see the dark markings that are hallmark of a bed bug infestation in your mattress or bedding.  Let's take a closer look at these signs of bed bug infestations:

Bed bug casings and excrement on underside of box spring
See how the edge of this box spring looks like someone took a sharpie pen and marked it up? The black markings that look like ink are bed bug feces.  Orange-brown matter are the expelled bed bug casings (ie. bed bug skin)  Bed bugs shed their skins with each growth phase.

Bed bug casings and excrement on box spring
Black ink looking markings indicate bed bug fecal matter along the edge of the underside of this boxspring.  Lighter brown matter are the shed bed bug casings.  (ie. bed bug skins)

Bed bug cluster on the underside of a sofa cushion
 Some more bed bug pictures.  Note that bed bugs tend to cluster together.  Each cluster typically contains about 6 to 12 bugs.  Also, bed bugs do not only infest beds and may be found on the bottom of a sofa cushion as well as almost all other furnishings.

Bed bug cluster on the underside of a sofa cushion
Close up view of the above bed bug cluster found on the bottom of a sofa cushion.  What do bed bugs look like?  The above bed bug picture provides an excellent example.

Bed bug signs of an infestation
In multiple dwellings, like apartments, hotels, condos, and townhouses, a bed bug infestation may easily move from one unit to the next.  See the small hole next to this electrical outlet and note that it is roughly the same size as one of the small plug holes.  A hole this size creates ample room for bed bugs to travel from unit to unit.

Stay tuned for more bed bug pictures from your bed bug exterminator.

-Steve Spinelli
AKA "Bed Bug Exterminator"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

17th Annual Three Hands Grand Ball

My hat is off once again to the committee who organized The 17th Annual Three Hands Grand Ball.  Titanium Laboratories was proud to attend and join our colleagues and clients for a spectacular event on Saturday, March 5th including the Manhattan Resident Managers Club, The Metropolitan Building Managers of NY and the Scandinavian American Building Managers Guild.

This was truly a spectacular event at the Hilton Hotel on 53rd St. and 6th Ave. in NYC where over 500 guests dressed to impress, and celebrate in good spirits, good company, and savor top-notch cuisine.  Finest vendors and building managers were honored by their respective organizations, and overall Titanium Laboratories enjoyed the greatest event of the year!

Red Carpet Photo

Titanium Laboratories
a proud sponsor of the 17th Annual Three Hands Grand Ball

Congratulations Robert G Taylor
Scandanavian American Building Managers Guild
Building Manager of the Year 2011
-Steve Spinelli

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NJ Flooding 2011

From: The Mold Tsunami

Recent river cresting in New Jersey swiftly left homes and businesses submerged in water.   Over the weekend, as I drove around towns such as Little Falls, Wayne, Fairfield and Pompton Lakes I was knocked over after observing the sheer area affected by NJ’s swollen rivers.  Many buildings that were not flooded still had water banked up against the foundation, which poses a serious concern for home owners and building owners alike.  After events like this one, the phones in my office typically take a sudden turn into the haphazard, with scores of good questions about household mold in particular, many of which follow the same theme.

“My house flooded and I cleaned it out right away.  Do I need to worry about mold?”
“How can I prevent mold after a flood in my building?”
The best course of action that you can take following a flood is to remove the water from your home or building immediately, specifically within 24-48 hours if possible.  If the basement flooded and you had items stored inside cardboard boxes, you will want to remove everything from the boxes, clean, disinfect, and dry everything thoroughly, and store them in new, clean, dry containers.   Clean and dry items stored inside furniture or cabinets, too.  Remove and wash all linens, bedding, clothing, and floor mats.  Carpeting affected by water intrusion should be removed.  A thorough cleaning, disinfecting, and drying process is absolutely crucial in minimizing the opportunity for mold growth on every affected surface within your home or building.  Take advantage of warm dry days by opening up doors and windows to increase air flow.  Cheap box fans are helpful too.  These are just a few tips to help you prevent mold growth after a flood. 

 “Should I have my home tested for mold after a flood?”
Of course a mold test would help give you, your family members, or any other occupants of the building peace of mind following any water event such as a flood.  But when is a mold test actually needed or appropriate? 
  1. If following cleanup, there is no visible mold growth on any surfaces but you smell a musty odor, that could be an indication that mold may be forming in areas that are unseen, such as behind sheetrock.  This would be cause for a mold test.  A mold test would also provide details as to what species of mold are growing and if at elevated levels in the indoor air environment, indicating the possibility or absence of mold growth in non-visible areas.
  2. Following cleanup, if you begin to notice mold or mildew growth on building materials in the home or building that continue to reappear after cleaning.
  3. A large area of visible mold growth, meaning more than 10 sq. ft. in any contiguous area would prompt you to call in a professional.

“I don’t see any mold but I smell a musty odor.  How do I know if I have mold growing in my home or building?”
As stated above, a musty odor is generally a clue that mold may be forming in areas that you cannot see, such as behind sheetrock.  If a musty odor persists, it’s probably a good idea to contact a certified mold inspector to help determine the cause of the moldy odor and locate the potential source, so that proper cleaning techniques may be applied before this turns into an even bigger problem.  Tackled straight away, mold cleanup is always less expensive than when it is ignored for significant periods of time and left to grow.

“Will bleach kill mold growth? / Will bleach prevent mold growth?”
There is a lot of conflicting information circulating about bleach and whether bleach is effective in cleaning up mold.  So, does bleach kill mold?  Yes.. sometimes.  And no .. sometimes.  There are many variables that should be considered but mainly the object that is being cleaned and the species of mold that is growing on that object.  Objects that are non-porous, like hard plastic items or glazed ceramic sinks, can usually be disinfected with a solution of bleach and water and in most cases that will prevent mold growth.  However, in situations where you are cleaning porous objects such as wood, then it is very likely that the bleach will not penetrate the mold spore roots therefore this method may not be an effective course of action.  Also, certain mold species are resistant to bleach – although the bleach may partially destroy the organism, the fungi is still able to flourish.  
From Clorox’s website:  "Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in household bleach, helps to whiten, brighten and remove dirt and stains from surfaces and fabrics. EPA-registered, sodium hypochlorite-based bleach is effective in killing 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and some types of mold."  Also found in the Cleaning & Laundry Advisor for Allergies, note that they specify using bleach to tackle mold on hard surfaces:  “Mold and mildew can be found on hard surfaces around the house. Spray the Clorox® Clean-Up® Cleaner with Bleach 4 to 6 inches from the surface until thoroughly wet, let stand for 5 minutes, and rinse or wipe clean to kill mildew. Use it to clean and disinfect bathtubs, counters, showers, sinks, refrigerators, glazed ceramic tile, and fiberglass.”
 “I am concerned about toxic mold / black mold / stachybotrys due to a flood in my home or building.”
The fact is that ALL molds have the ability to contribute towards health concerns in individuals, depending on the individual’s sensitivity to mold, age, and various health conditions.  So, what is “Toxic Mold” and how does it relate to “Toxic Black Mold”, “Black Mold”, and “Stachybotrys”?  Of the many thousands of species of mold in our environment, some have the ability to release mycotoxins throughout the indoor air environment.  Hence, the term, “Toxic Mold”. 

The terms “Black Mold”, “Toxic Black Mold”, and “Stachybotrys” all refer to a species of mold referred to as “Stachybotrys chartarum”.  Stachybotrys chartarum is black in color, slimy, and is also a notorious species of mold that has the ability to release mycotoxins into the air.  This would account for all of the different names for one single species of mold that we all know can create many ugly health related symptoms in individuals.
The above, however, does not necessarily mean that if you find mold in your home or building that happens to be black in color, that it is Stachybotrys chartarum.  The only way to definitively confirm the fungal species is through lab testing.  Whether you learn the mold in question affecting your property is confirmed to be Stachybotrys chartarum, or any other variety of mold, it still needs to be cleaned.  The methods of cleaning will be determined depending on the concentration of mold spores, the affected area, and the species of mold. 

“Can I clean up mold myself or do I really need to hire a professional?”
In this economy and the cost of living you may want to try and cut costs by cleaning mold yourself.  There are many resources around the web with guidelines for the do-it-yourselfer and in many cases you can tackle the project if you follow instructions carefully.  Do-it-yourself-mold-cleanup comes with one caveat.  Following removal of moldy building materials, and prior to rebuilding, it is critical to treat the underlying building materials with mold inhibiting products.  These products are only available to licensed professionals and therefore you may find yourself in a situation where that part of the project would need to be hired out to a professional.

I was saddened to see so many people affected by such an unfortunate incident.  My hope is that they find something positive in the rebuilding and renewal of their homes and their lives.

Pictures of the flood in NJ March 2011
source: nj.com

Wow.  This house just sold and is now flooded.
Cumberland County Courthouse Flood 2011
Route 46 was closed due to flooding
by Willowbrook Mall in Wayne NJ
Lots of people used boats and rafts to escape their flooded neighborhoods.
The irony.
A pool Supplies sign in the background of this flood picture!

-Steve Spinelli