Let’s Talk Mold

There are numerous resources online that provide information and guidance on how to “deal” with mold.

This is a brief synthesis.

Mold grows on organic materials in suitable conditions: relative humidity higher than 65%, oxygen and lack of air circulation, temperatures preferably in the range of 50 – 95°F. Mold decomposes the organic material (something we are usually trying to safe) and produces substances that can cause illnesses and allergic reactions.

During intervention on a mold outbreak:

  • make sure to protect yourself first: wear nitrile gloves and make sure mold does not come into contact with your skin; wash hands after removing gloves; do not eat and drink in an environment where mold is present; wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as FFP3 dust mask and goggles, up to respirators and body suits in case of large outbreaks;
  • try to identify and address the cause(s) of the mold outbreak;
  • create some air circulation, using fans;
  • use dehumidification equipment to reduce the relative humidity below 65%;
  • use HEPA vacuum to remove mold growth;
  • consult a conservator for appropriate of intervention depending on substrate/artifact.

In case of symptoms such as skin rash or asthma, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

For a list of symptoms, you can consult the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2019). Mold Allergy: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/mold-allergy

 

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

When disaster strikes, fortunately for our communities first responders and volunteers come to the rescue.
As we know from many tragic examples of great heroism and ultimate sacrifice, unfortunately first responders and volunteers are often not sufficiently protected and during an emergency put the safety of their community first, over their own health and safety.

Before responding to an emergency, think about Personal Protective Equipment that will protect you as you are generously helping your community.

The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) has created and maintains a Wiki page dedicated to PPE:
http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Personal_Protective_Equipment_(PPE)

In particular for protective gloves this page offers a table with the type of glove safe to use to handle different categories of chemicals:
http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/PPE_Chemical_Protective_Material_Selection_Guide

Regarding tight fitting air-purifying respirators, necessary in case of volatile chemicals such as organic solvents, please be aware that you have to undergo a medical check up and an annual respirator fit test to ascertain that using the respirator will not tax your heart and respiratory system and that you are trained to wearing it correctly.
A Conservator’s Guide to Respiratory Protection by Craig E. Colton offers an exhaustive explanation:

http://www.conservation-wiki.com/w/images/c/c3/H%26S_A_Conservator%27s_Guide_to_Respiratory_Protection_2016.pdf

For the masks that filter particulate and dust, make sure to choose N-95 models that filter at least 95% of the particulate. The “duck bill” model is one of the most comfortable to wear.

Thank you for your volunteering!