A product based on a technology originally developed at Sandia National Laboratories is now available on the shelves of hardware stores across the country.
The product is Mold Control 500, distributed by Scott's Liquid Gold of Denver and now available in Home Depot, Wal-Mart, True Value, Ace Hardware, and other home improvement stores. For around $30 a box, Scott's Liquid Gold Mold Control 500 treats mildew- and mold-contaminated surface areas in the home, according to the package.
MC 500 is based on Sandia's decontamination formulation (a.k.a. decon foam), developed for emergency cleanup of biological and chemical warfare agents following a terrorist attack. It is best known for its role in helping remediate anthrax-contaminated buildings in Washington, D.C., and New York in 2001.
Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.
“This is pretty exciting,” says Sandia researcher Mark Tucker, who leads the Sandia team that has developed, improved, and tested the Sandia formulation over the last 10 years. “Mold remediation wasn't what we set out to do, but the formulation is effective at killing most microorganisms, so it is good to find uses beyond our original intent — especially uses that may improve public health.”
The formulation kills fungi such as molds in much the same way it kills anthrax, says Tucker. Mold growths form films over their surfaces that, like the shells of anthrax spores, are difficult to penetrate. The formulation's surfactants poke holes in the film, and its mild oxidizing components kill the fungal organisms. The formulation, when used as a foam, expands to fill space and thus gets into corners and other hard-to-reach places, and it sticks to walls and ceilings, giving the chemistry time to do its work.
Scott's Liquid Gold has an arrangement with Modec, Inc., of Denver to sell Mold Control 500 in retail markets. Modec is one of two companies holding Sandia licenses to market and distribute products based on the Sandia formulation.
“Mold control is an up and coming issue,” says Modec President Brian Kalamanka. “We felt there was an excellent niche for this.”
Jeff Hinkle, Scott's Liquid Gold senior vice president for marketing, says its recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval allowed shipping to retail outlets to begin in the fall. Stores began stocking MC 500 in November, and the product is expected to reach thousands more stores this month, he says.
Development of the Sandia formulation began in 1997, funded initially by the U.S. Department of Energy's Chemical and Biological National Security Program. It has earned two patents, and several more are pending.
In addition to helping clean up contaminated buildings following a series of mailings of anthrax powder to recipients in Washington, D.C., New York, and Florida in 2001, the Sandia foam also was staged in the Middle East in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has played a role there in helping clean up hazardous chemical sites. Sandia's two licensees, Modec Inc. and Intelagard Inc., have sold thousands of gallons of the formulation to municipal and state governments, the first responder community, and the U.S. military, among other users.
Tests at Sandia and Kansas State University in 2004 demonstrated the formulation's effectiveness for killing the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), suggesting its use also might blunt the spread of other viruses such as the Norwalk (cruise ship) virus, avian influenza (bird flu), and the common flu.
The formulation now is being discussed as a potential solution to at least a dozen problems, among them hospital sanitization, meth lab cleanup, mold remediation in commercial buildings, and cleaning out agricultural pesticide sprayers in an environmentally benign way.