Soda blasting? Media blasting?
These ideas almost sound like a Coke and Mentos challenge, right? In this case, though, it’s not another random TikTok trend. This actually falls under a mold remediation umbrella called media or abrasive blasting.
The mold remediation industry is a bit topsy turvy at the moment. Between the general lack of scientific understanding and rampant misinformation, aspects like this remediation tool can be incredibly helpful or cause serious harm depending on the team using it. Some companies wield this tool during their protocol and have great success. Others may use it and at first, the results look great, but symptoms from mold exposure seem to persist long after they leave.
Why is that?
Like many things in life, there are caveats for use. Media blasting can absolutely be beneficial when done the right way. It saves time, requires less effort, and it’s fairly simple. Sound like a dream.
But when it’s done the wrong way? Media blasting can cause a disaster of epic proportions in a home. Unfortunately, it happens much more frequently than you may think… I’ve personally seen it far too many times in my career not to voice my concern.
WHAT IS MEDIA BLASTING
This technique is not a PR tool to help grow a company’s brand. When it comes to mold remediation, this method involves utilizing pressurized air or water and an abrasive substance to remove mold and its byproducts from a surface.¹ Kind of like pressure washing the side of a house.
There are quite a few abrasive materials that a company could use. A few of the more popular are dry-ice, sodium bicarbonate (soda blasting), and sand or grit blasting. Still sounds like a social media trend, but they actually do come with serious benefits!
Stripping the mold using this pressurization saves manpower from scrubbing and sanding every surface by hand, and it makes it much easier to clear those weirdly shaped surfaces or areas that are hard to reach. Not to mention all the time media blasting can save.
Picture those weirdly therapeutic Instagram videos that pop up every so often of someone pressure washing a back patio. This route is fast, effective, and makes your brain super happy. Now picture someone on their hands and knees scrubbing every inch of the patio and having to use a random assortment of brushes to get in the weird cracks and crevices. It takes forever, and it’s way more difficult.
Media blasting for mold remediation is similar, minus the caveats I mentioned earlier. The method can be helpful for all of those reasons above when it’s done the right way. Otherwise, it will create a bigger problem than when a company started if they don’t understand the science behind mold growth and how exposure can affect your health.
MOLD GROWTH AND YOUR HEALTH
Mold can settle into any home. These fungi reproduce by creating tiny, microscopic spores that float on the wind current wherever that may lead.² With tens of thousands of species identified so far, these spores are pretty much everywhere; even inside of your home.³ They float right in through an open door or window. These spores aren’t a problem unless they find what they need to settle in: oxygen, food, temperature (40-90 degrees Fahrenheit), and moisture.⁴
That’s a pretty small list!
Most of those necessities are readily available in a home. Everything except moisture, that is. For the most part, homes stay fairly dry. However, all it takes is a slightly wet windowsill that’s damp for 24-48 hours. That’s all the time it takes for mold to settle in and begin colonizing.
Once growth begins, it pumps out more spores that float in the air and can settle onto any surface. If they find another moisture area, you’re no longer looking at one mold problem. Now you’re looking at multiple issues. Some species of mold can also produce microscopic toxins, called mycotoxins, that they also release into the air.⁵ Unfortunately, these toxins can negatively impact our health.
The multiple aspects of mold growth in a home heavily impact indoor air quality. All of those particles continue to swirl through the air, completely invisible, and land on any surface they come in contact with. The main point of concern here is that exposure to mold coupled with its toxic byproducts can seriously impact the health of anyone in the home.⁶ From chronic fatigue to coughing and digestive issues, these contaminate can wreak havoc on an immune system.
Keep in mind as well, it’s not just older homes this can happen to. We’re seeing a serious uptick in new homes with mold already present before owners even move in. Anyone can experience mold exposure which is why remediation is so important.
These symptoms won’t alleviate until the environmental factor triggering the reaction is removed.
MEDIA BLASTING: A TOOL OR A DIASTER
We know how mold works. Invisible particles floating everywhere and maximizing on any opportunity they can to make a home.
Now, picture taking a jet of abrasive material-filled air and blasting a mold colony apart. At first, the results look great. The surface being worked on no longer looks gunky and discolored from mold. What’s floating through the air now, though?
Those particles got blasted, well, everywhere. Into every crack, crevice, and corner of that room. They also road the air current into rooms throughout the rest of the home.
Think about blowing air at a dandelion puff. Those little seeds end up shooting everywhere!
Then you have to hope that those unleashed particles and spores don’t come into contact with damp, habitable spots inside the home. Otherwise, you’re looking at a much bigger problem.
Unfortunately, crossing our fingers probably won’t work in this situation. Chances are that media blasting probably just contaminated a huge portion of the rest of the home and might make you sicker because the exposure is now everywhere.
Not exactly the results we were looking for…
The issue is that not every company knows how to properly wield this tool. In the right hands, it can be a great way to treat mold from difficult surfaces. When used by a team that doesn’t know how to media blast properly, and who doesn’t prioritize your health, it can be disastrous. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for if a company suggests using this technique.
One of the main pillars of mold remediation is removing contamination from a home. Otherwise, exposure will continue and symptoms will persist. To utilize media blasting effectively, a team needs to control where that blasted material ends up by employing a series of engineering protocols. That’s why it’s so important to vet the company that you end up working with.
This company should understand how the material can travel throughout the house and create an effective containment area to control that spread. Take the time to go over their plan to contain contamination so that it doesn’t infect other areas.
A few questions to ask are: What’s stopping the mold particles from getting hurled into cracks in the baseboard or micro spaces in electrical outlets? How are they going to make sure the contamination isn’t floating into other rooms or straight into the HVAC?
By combining proper containment and employing methods to create negative air, they can use this blasting tool to effectively treat the existing mold. It doesn’t stop there though!
Make sure to ask about cleanup as well. How are they going to make sure all of the blown-up contamination is taken away? If it doesn’t involve thorough HEPA vacuuming and clean-up following proper mold removal protocols, it’s probably not an option you want to go with. A company needs to understand that you can’t just remove it from the surface and leave it remaining in the environment. It’s a multistep process that involves completely removing the contamination.
CREATING AWARENESS AND PUSHING FOR CHANGE
When your health and the health of your family are on the line, it’s that much more important to build awareness and understanding of mold and mold exposure. From construction to remediation, we need to consider how mold growth occurs and how it affects our bodies. That way, we can make educated decisions on how to prevent and remove the fungus from our homes.
Intertwining this idea into techniques like media blasting is a perfect example of why this is so important! A home can come out on the other side mold-free or it can be a war zone with mold spores splattered everywhere. It all depends on what the priorities are. Hint, hint, you should be the priority! So if your construction company or remediation team wants to use media blasting for mold removal, make sure that they’re qualified, they know how to use this method properly, and their priority is maintaining a healthy indoor environment.
- CDC. (2011, April 26). Abrasive blasting. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/blasting/default.html.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 11). Basic facts about mold and dampness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 17, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm.
- Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Mold. EPA. Retrieved August 17, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/mold.
- Lstiburek, J., Brennan, T., & Yost, N. (2002, January 15). Rr-0208: What you need to know about mold. Building Science Corporation. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/reports/rr-0208-what-you-need-to-know-about-mold/view.
- Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program, & Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program, & Health Science Section, Mold Basics for Primary Care Clinicians (2009). Hartford, CT; Connecticut Department of Public Health. , H. S. S., Mold Basics for Primary Care Clinicians 1–10 (2009). Hartford, CT; Connecticut Department of Public Health.
- WHO. (2018, May 9). Mycotoxins. World Health Organization. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sh
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