Caution! Water Stains in Built Environments

Caution! Water Stains in Built Environments

Assessing Water StainsBuilding structures for healthcare, government, commercial and residential have changed markedly over the past few decades. Construction anomalies and defects influence the functionality of the buildings. Dampness, moisture or water intrusion can be noticed in buildings as a result of faulty or unsuitable design and construction. Deficiencies in ventilation and HVAC, crawl spaces, flat roofs, fake stucco cladding without adequate caulking, building foundation, water system, etc. can adversely impact both buildings as well as occupants. Often, water stains in and around your built environment indicates moisture/humidity/water leakage problem. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more than a quarter of U. S. buildings are water-damaged. Water stains are quite common and frequent on building materials, especially after an episode of natural activities such as rains, flooding, hurricanes, etc. or due to the activities by the occupants such as cooking, bathing, washing, etc. In any case, water damage or moisture intrusion can result in immediate and/or long term impairment of building materials and a variety of hygiene and health related issues.

Our experience reveals that microbial (both bacteria and fungi) proliferation is quite common on damp or water damaged building materials, both porous and non-porous. We have recorded a number of bacteria from water damage materials.

Some commonly reported bacteria are Arthrobacter, Bacillus, Cellulomonas, Micrococcus, Mycobacterium, Paenibacillus, Streptomyces, Stenotrophomonas, etc. Whereas, Acremonium, Aspergillus, Arthrinium, Aureobasidium, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Gliocladium, Mucor, Paecilomyces, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, Ulocladium, etc. are some common and frequently reported molds from the above situation. These organisms can be allergenic or infectious as they are capable of producing various toxins. Therefore, identification and abatement is essential for these microbial invaders in order to maintain a good indoor environment and air. They are surface and/or airborne and can penetrate deep within an occupied space.

To assess water damage and reduce occupant exposure: source identification, determination and its elimination is highly encouraged. Air, bulk swab and other environmental samples can be collected for this purpose. Analysis of the collected samples helps in understanding the nature and extent of the water stained area.

Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) 
The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) (established in 1992) at Pure Air Control Services (PACS) is an environmental lab offering complete and comprehensive indoor environmental microbiology laboratory services. They include: microbiology, aerobiology, chemistry, allergen assays and microscopy designed to meet all your indoor air needs. EDLab supports IAQ investigations by assisting with strategic sampling plan development and supplying media collection equipment while performing a wide range of environmental analyses.

For more information on EDLab at Pure Air Services, Inc. please contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay, CIAQP, FIAS, at (800) 422-7873 x 304, or visit www.edlab.org

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