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Mold Abatement
By Deb Stanton

This issue of our newsletter discusses possible ways to remediate mold problems without the use of toxic biocides. I have outlined some alternatives to the chlorine treatment that is most widely used today. In this article I am not discussing application methods, but only giving alternative product information. Please discuss these options with a licensed contractor or environmental professional who has experience with mold abatement; together both product and application guidelines can be agreed upon.

I have a cabinet in my own home that has a mildew problem, and until recently thought that my only option for mold eradication was to resort to using a chlorine product.  I didn't want to use chlorine for two reasons: I am a chemically sensitive person and I feel very ill when I smell chlorine, and chlorine is a very toxic chemical which when broken down adds dioxin to the environment.

John Bower the author of the classic "The Healthy House" book not only talks about mold but more importantly mold abatement. On page 345 of his book, Bower talks about using Zephiran (Benzalkonium) Chloride and says "A product called Zephiran has been recommended for sensitive individuals, but it also has a fairly strong odor."

Benzalkonium Chloride towelettes are frequently used in doctor's offices for cleaning the skin prior to an injection but the strength needed for mold remediation is apparently 17%, according to Carolyn Gorman's book "Less Toxic Alternatives". Zephiran Chloride in this strength is only available by prescription and is sold by Abrams Royal Pharmacy. Gorman says to use the Zephiran: 1 to 10 parts water.

Ted Cartwright, who frequently works with the American Environmental Health Foundation in Dallas, Texas, states that Zephiran Chloride also has a strong smell that dissipates fairly quickly. As a chemically sensitive individual, I would have to stay out of the area for at least an hour and then do a 'smell' test to see if  the odor had gassed off sufficiently for me to be able to tolerate it.

Many of the books I've looked at gave me a lot of info about mold but little help with info. about mold abatement. The excellent Environmental Building News (EBN) provided a link to an article that speaks to the issue of mold remediation. This article also links to the NYC Department of Health Web site which contains the strongest argument, for me, to avoid using biocides for mold remediation:

"All previously moldy materials should be dry and visibly free from mold. Routine inspections should be conducted to confirm the effectiveness of any remediation work. The use of gaseous, vapor-phase, or aerosolized biocides for remedial purposes is not recommended. The use of biocides in this manner can pose health concerns for people in occupied spaces of the building and for people returning to the treated space if used improperly. Furthermore, the effectiveness of these treatments is unproven and does not address the possible health concerns from the presence of the remaining non-viable mold. For additional information on the use of biocides for remedial purposes, refer to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists' document, [Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control]."

Another article is available online form the EPA Mold Resources page I didn't reference this page in this article; it is also a valuable resource.

Carolyn Gorman suggests using grapefruit seed extract, a powerful natural non-odorous viracide and bacteriacide, for mold remediation. She also recommends a solution of borax and vinegar (use 1 tsp. borax and 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice).

Annie Berthold Bond gives three different recipes for mold problems; one is to use pure white vinegar, another is a dilution with tea tree oil, and the third is grapefruit seed extract. Here is the link to this information:

I hope that this article has been helpful in providing some non-toxic product recommendations for mold abatement.

I'd like to thank Dwayne de Vries of de Vries Building Consultants for his time, the information he gave me and for the excellent article from Environmental Building News. Email Dwayne at themoldinspector@aol.com.
I also would like to thank my "canary in a coal mine" friend for the loan of the books that were invaluable to me for many of the references in the article.

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