• Justin H. Joe

Mold Can Grow Faster Due to The Pandemic

Updated: 4 days ago

Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE



With the pandemic forcing workers out of their offices, students to abandon their classrooms and everyone to coup up inside their homes, you might think that the cold isolation would help the air quality.


But think again. Mold can come in many different forms, whether it be in a non-fashionable black, white, green or grey, or invisible to the naked eye but unfathomable to your nostrils.


Mold inspections have found that common causes are:

• Poorly ventilated buildings

• Ignoring dampness

• Tightly sealed buildings that trap excess moisture inside

• Flooded basements or other areas that haven’t dried efficiently

• Leaking pipes, windows or roofs.


Now, with building being unkempt and restricting the ventilation they are prime targets for mold infestations. With the winter coming thick and fast, the New York City Housing Authority is just one of many housing authorities that has struggled to keep up with the demand for repairs and maintenance .According to its records, the backlog during the pandemic increased dramatically seeing 375,310 work orders in March, but 474,790 in November of 2020.


According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the pandemic caused 40 of Broward County Schools district’s 233 schools, to be mold inspected, then tested for air quality and at least half of them were found to contain mold.


The Facilities Task Force Chair, Nathalie Lynch-Walsh, went on record to mention that “Indoor air quality was clearly not a concern over the summer because no one was there”.









"Mold covers a movie theater! During the Covid 19 closing of a theater, mold took over the space included seats, carpet, ceiling, and even screen" [ source : BNF Consulitng, Inc.]


How did this mold grow?

Mold can grow for a variety of different reasons. . There is no specific way for this article to inform you of exactly what was the cause of the outbreak. However, there are a few ways in which the mold can grow as a result of ill-attention or mismanagement of a property due to the pandemic forcing everyone home.


• Power being shut off

• Unknown or known water leaks

• Poor ventilation

• Systems not being flushed e.g., water


You will find that the primary cause of outbreaks is due to poor ventilation. Often, when the power is shut off, the air conditioning units go with it. In some cases, air conditioning units are faulty or are simply turned off while no-one is in the building.


With a restricted air flow, mold can grow. It grows in moist, warm conditions that without an air conditioning unit can become a serious problem. Not only is the presence of mold not very nice to look at, but sometimes it can affect the air quality so much so, that it would be unsafe to return back to the site. This is why it is super important to get a mold inspection team to check the property. Mold testing will discover the type of mold present and how harmful it can be to potential residents.


One other component that is significant in the potential increase or spark point of growing mold is water. Whether that be standing water, water in the drainage system or any potential leaks in the pipes. Simply, water gives mold spores the start they need to in order to energize and spread quickly.


According to FEMA, “Mold growths or colonies, can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. They reproduce by spores – tiny, lightweight ‘seeds’ that travel through the air.”


Any water damage can include:

• Flooding

• Sewage back-up

• Leaks

• Sink overflows

• High humidity


This type of exposure to water will cause mold to grow within the 24 to 48 hour period, and if it isn’t treated quickly to eliminate the growth, then it will continue to infect other areas of the building.


How Has the Pandemic Made It Worse?

Although there is no direct correlation between mold growth and the Covid-19 variant, the restrictions that have been put in place by various governments certainly played a part in its presence.


With the restrictions present, it has made it increasingly difficult to get workers to where they need to be in order to fix housing or building issues, let alone have the number of staff available in order to effectively acquiesce to your housing needs.


The New York Housing Authorities haven’t managed to keep up with the repairs necessary. In March 2020, the average number of days taken to complete repairs was 156 days. However, due to the pandemic’s adverse effects, November saw completion of repairs rise to 224 days.


Because of the fatal economic impact that Covid19 has had, and a reduction in the work force as a result, getting the right amount of people out to fix all the needs has become increasingly strenuous. When calls come in, it is felt as if tickets for the problem are created but it takes far too long for anything to come of it – everything seems to be deferred due to Covid19.


As stated previously, if certain water leaks or problems aren’t dealt with within the 24 to 48 hour time period, then mold can develop and continue to grow. At this point, you would need to call a mold inspection team to consolidate the problem.


These statistics are worrying for those that have noticed the problems with their homes, potentially leading to the spread of mold. Let alone the premises that have been vacated as a result of Covid19, and the potential problems that lead to the spread of mold have not been noticed.


The Problems with Mold and Covid19.

Dr. Debra Robinson, a retired physician stated that, “There’s no known direct connection between mold and COVID-19, other than both can lead to respiratory problems,”


According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are sensitive to molds can develop:


• Nasal stuffiness

• Throat irritation

• Coughing or wheezing

• Eye irritation

• Skin irritation.



It is important to get your premises checked by official Mold Testing and Mold Inspection agencies, who can efficiently assist you with any mold growth. Those who are known to have allergies to mold can even develop much more severe reactions, and those with immune system problems that fall into the vulnerable persons category, can suffer serious lung infections if they are exposed to mold.


The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, those who develop symptoms as a direct result of mold could mistake it for coronavirus symptoms and the mold would spread and further destroy the property. But secondly, those with immune system problems could be further impacted by coronavirus – the disease posing a much larger threat.


Take Away

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects mold can grow faster due to the pandemic. But The growth of mold has certainly increased as a result of the pandemic; the statistics tell no lie. With many systems being shut off simply because the area has been left isolated due to Covid19 restrictions, mold has been enabled to grow and continue to develop leading to the compromising of many building structures that can go unnoticed until the return of people to the area.


Not only that, but due to the restrictions put in place there is further delay in the fixing of household problems which can lead to the growth of mold, allowing it to spread further and harsher.


You must keep in mind that if, due to the pandemic, you’re building is left unattended, you must rigorously check it and keep flushing the system in order to prevent the growth of mold. The main things to check for are water and humidity – ensure that air ventilation systems are kept on and working; for those that aren’t it is imperative that they are fixed.


Even after you have flushed the system, it is always best to be safe than sorry. Hire a Mold Inspection company to scan the area for any potential hazardous zones and ensure that mold testing is carried out.


BNF Consulting, Inc. is a licensed mold inspection company that abides by New York State & US EPA regulations for mold inspection and testing. Does your home or business have a mold problem? Our company can provide a reliable mold inspection service to determine potential risks.

Call us today at 914-297-8335 for a free phone consultation.




about Author

Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE, is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a principal consultant of BNF Consulting, Inc. Dr. Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Ph.D. and MS degrees in nuclear engineering. Dr. Joe has provided industrial hygiene consulting as a core function with his diverse background of experience and education.




Reference


New York Housing Association, ‘Public Housing Charts’ <https://eapps.nycha.info/NychaMetrics/Charts/PublicHousingChartsTabs/?section=public_housing&tab=tab_repairs> [accessed 16 February 2021]


Scott Travis, ‘Mold Grew in Empty Schools During The Pandemic’, (October 2020) <https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-ne-broward-schools-return-mold-20201010-oyqelm4tdbgprmrx2vkgcvcg4m-story.html%3foutputType=amp> [accessed 16 February 2020]


FEMA, ‘Dealing with Mold & Mildew in your Flood Damaged Home’, FEMA Publications, pp.1-8, (Washington, 2004)


NOLO, ‘Mol: Is It Hiding In The Home You’re Buying’, <https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/mold-hiding-home-youre-buying-29744.html> [accessed 15th February 2021]


Winnie Hu and Nate Schweber, ‘Trapped at Home in the Pandemic With Mold and a Leaky Roof’, (December 2020), <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/15/nyregion/nyc-public-housing-coronavirus.html> [accessed 15th February 2021]


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