Mold

TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOLD

© 2010, Shambaugh’s Cleaning & Water Restoration, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Published by:

Shambaugh’s Cleaning & Water Restoration

3285 Sherman Rd.

Mansfield, OH 44903

 

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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

© 2010, Shambaugh Cleaning & Water Restoration

Dear Friend,

Some types of Mold, even in small quantities, can be deadly.

In the 1930s, mold was identified as causing deaths of farm animals in Russia and other countries. Mold was found growing on wet grain used for animal feeds. Peasants ate large quantities of rotten food grains and cereals that were heavily overgrown with the Stachybotrys mold and many human deaths occurred.

In the 1970s, building construction techniques changed in response to the changing economic realities including the energy crisis. As a result, homes and buildings became more airtight. Also, cheaper materials such as drywall came into common use. The newer building materials reduced the drying potential of the structures making moisture problems more prevalent. This combination contributed to increased mold growth inside buildings.

We wrote this guide to help you better understand Mold. If you discover Mold in your dwelling we hope this information helps you make a decision that best suits the health and safety of you and your family.

If you have any questions you’re invited to call us at 419-529-6422 We’ve dedicated our business to educating clients and friends. We’ll be happy to help.

Cordially,

Jeremy Shambaugh

President

A few years ago, few people had ever heard of "Toxic Mold." But with enhances in technology this era has been deemed the “Communication Era." Therefore, you should expect that every time you hear the news some version of gloom and doom is making headlines. You have the freedom to chose how to react the headlines however we would like to expose a few facts to you:

 

MOLD FACTS

· At the time of this writing there have been $100 million lawsuits and of $18 million mold verdicts.

· People moving out of their homes and leaving behind all their worldly possessions behind.

· People have discovered mold colonies in their lungs.

· In Sacramento, three major apartment complexes have had mold outbreaks.

· There are many more examples of mold problems in the US, do a Google search for “mold in the news”

The most common type of toxic mold is called Stachybotrys chartarum.

[The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (nieh) website release, “Mold and Mildew Awareness/Mold Awareness and Inspection]

 

Health Issues and Symptoms

Molds are very common in nature and are to some extent always present in both indoor and outdoor air. Humans have a natural tolerance to molds and most individuals will not suffer adverse health effects from exposure to background levels of mold spores. Mold growth indoors can cause indoor levels to increase to elevated levels, a condition called mold amplification. Inhalation of a large number of mold spores can overwhelm the body’s natural defenses causing adverse health effects.

Allergic responses are the most common health problems associated with exposure to elevated levels of mold spores. These reactions may be similar to those of hay fever or exposure to high levels of pollen, such as headaches, sinus problems, congestion, sore throats or coughing. These effects may be seasonal in nature. Many people experience allergic responses to molds in the fall when outdoor levels of molds are typically high.

Molds can also produce mycotoxins, which are chemicals associated with growth, digestion and self-defense. Mycotoxins can be toxic to other organisms. Antibiotics like penicillin are made from mycotoxins that kill bacteria. Some mycotoxins can be toxic to humans and can cause very serious health problems. Mycotoxins can enter the body via inhalation, skin absorption, or ingestion. These chemicals are found on the surface of the spores and can be hazardous even if the mold spore is dead. Different mold species produce different mycotoxins, which can cause various reactions in exposed individuals. One mold called Aspergillus versicolor produces trichothecene toxins that are believed to cause neurological problems, such as memory loss, mood changes, constant headaches and trouble concentrating.

 

Exposure to mold spores and their mycotoxins can lead to a variety of non-specific health problems such as:

  • Sinus problems
  • Respiratory problems (wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing)
  • Headaches
  • Cold and flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, fatigue)
  • Sore throats
  • Eye irritation
  • Frequent bloody noses

The types of health problems that develop depend on a variety of factors such as the length and amount of exposure and the mold growth conditions. Health symptoms may develop from chronic exposure and the mold growth conditions. Health symptoms may develop from chronic exposure at slightly elevated levels over a long period of time, or from acute term exposure at very high levels, like those that occur during mold abatement. The growth conditions of the mold, such as the organic content of the food source, temperature, and the amount of moisture present affects the production of mycotoxins, which in turn affects exposure to the toxins.

The greatest factor affecting the development of health problems is individual sensitivity. Some people are naturally more sensitive to the molds than others. When a family is living in a home with elevated levels of mold spores, often only one or two family members will suffer any health problems while the other family members experience no ill effects. Individuals that are most susceptible include children, the elderly, and the immune-compromise patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from liver problems.

Mold exposure may be especially hazardous to young infants. It is believed that the Stachybotrys mold may have caused the death of 12 infants and the hospitalization of 37 infants in the Cleveland area of Ohio. These infants were hospitalized for pulmonary hemosiderosis, or bleeding of the lungs, which caused the infants to drown in their own blood. These infants all came from homes that had suffered recent flood damage and had growth of Stachybotrys in their home. The Centers for Disease Control is currently reviewing the data and has said that the association is not conclusive.

In most cases, the mold induced health symptoms will diminish upon removal from the environment with mold. Many doctors, however, believe that people having been exposed to high levels of molds have an increased sensitivity to them so in the future it takes less exposure to molds to develop the same symptoms. In some cases, exposure to high levels of molds can lead to scarring of the lungs or the development of asthma, especially in children, which can have long-term effects.

If a person suspects that they are being or have been exposed to high levels of molds and they are concerned about health problems, they should consult a qualified physician familiar with respiratory problems. If they have had testing done and have any laboratory data, they should bring the data with them to the doctor. While there are many molds that have the potential to be hazardous, only a physician can decide if mold is causing a particular individual’s health symptoms or determine if the mold exposure may have any long-term effects.

Characteristics of Common Molds

DON’T LET THE NAMES MAKE YOU SKIP THIS PART!

 

Alternaria

Specimens of Alternaria are often found growing on carpets, textiles and horizontal surfaces such as window frames. It is commonly found in soil, seeds and plants. It is know to be a common allergen and is associated with hypersensitive pneumonia. Because of its small spore size, it is capable of being deposited in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory system. Sores in the nose, injured skin, and nail infections are prime targets and are easily irritated by Alternaria. It appears as a velvety tuft with long soft hairs and is often confused with Ulocladium as its color ranges from dark olive green to brown. Alternaria is a dry spore and is readily found in air samples as well as on tape lift samples.

 

Aspergillus

This genera is found on many different textiles and organic materials such as soil, compost, stored grain, wood and paper and its moisture requirements vary widely with some preferring dryer conditions. It is often found in water-damaged carpet. It is a dry spore and spores may be carried in the air making Aspergillus a common cause of respiratory irritation and infection. The mold may be woolly or cottony in texture and shades of green, brown or black in color. The spores are similar to Penicillium spores and sometimes indistinguishable though non-viable analysis, and as such, are often classified as Penicillium/Aspergillus.

DON’T LET THE NAMES MAKE YOU SKIP THIS PART!

 

Chaetomium

This fungus is an allergenic mold genus. Although it is not well documented it is known to cause hay fever and other common allergy symptoms and is sometimes associated with nail infections. It thrives on cellulose containing materials such as paper and plant compost. It is quite commonly found on wet sheetrock paper. It grows very quickly and may be cottony in appearance. It will range in color from white to gray, to olive green and olive brown to black. It has small brown oblong shaped spores that are easily spread by wind, insects and water splash.

 

Cladosporium

It is the most common mold found in outdoor environments. It is also found indoors on the surface of fiberglass duct liners and interior of supply ducts as well as on dead plants. It is drawn to food, straw, soil, paint, wood, textiles, and grows well on moist windowsills. Cladosporium grows at 0° C so it commonly associated with refrigerator foods. It is a common cause of hay fever, asthma and is a known allergen. It has a distinctive appearance and yields an olive brown pigmentation. The spores are dry and easily become airborne if disturbed. The mold is moderately fast growing, and may look velvety or woolly.

 

[The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (nieh) website release, “Mold and Mildew Awareness/Mold Awareness and Inspection]

 

Fusarium

This mold is found in soil, and on many plants. It requires very wet conditions to grow and is often found in humidifiers. It is know to produce trichothecene toxins, which effect the circulatory, alimentary, skin and nervous systems. On grains, it produces vomitoxin, which can affect you through ingestion and inhalation. Exposure to Fusarium can lead to hemorrhagic syndrome (symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dermatitis, and extensive internal bleeding). Fusarium is allergenic and is often associated with eye, skin and nail infections, and readily infects burn victims. Colonies of Fusarium appear in shades of pink, orange and purple, tan, yellow, and red. It is a wet spore so it does not generally appear in air samples.

 

Penicillium

This mold is commonly found in air samples as well as in soil, food, grains, paint, compost piles, wallpaper and interior fiberglass duct insulation. It is often found in water-damaged carpets. It can produce mycotoxins, which are allergenic and infect the skin. This soft mold is most commonly found in shades of blue, green and white, and may be velvety, woolly or cottony. Worldwide it is one of the most commonly found fungal genera and is accompanies by a heavy must odor. Identification to the species level can be difficult and the spores are very similar to Aspergillus

 

Stachybotrys

Is found in building materials with high cellulose content. It is found indoors and grows well in damp straw, wicker and other wood or paper products. It is not known to compete well with other molds, but if there is a high level and constant availability to water for an extended period of time it may become the dominant mold. It is not very common outdoors and is usually not found in outdoor air samples. It has not, until recently, been extensively studied, but is believed to have caused bleeding in the lungs of several children in Cleveland, Ohio. Exposure to Stachybotrys can be particularly hazardous and is reported to produce flu-like symptoms including sore throat, diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases it is reported to cause hair loss and dermatitis. Stachybotrys appears distinctively from other molds and is a dark gray to black color, sometimes with green, and is shiny when wet. It is a wet spore and does not generally become airborne unless it is disturbed.

 

Ulocladium

This mold is found on gypsum board, tapestries, wood and other organic materials. It is a potential allergen and produces symptoms such as hay fever and asthma. It is a dry spore and is detected by air samples as well as tape samples. Ulocladium has an appearance similar to Alternaria but tends to appear more brownish whereas Alternaria more often appears as a dark olive green color. Colonies grow rapidly and have a texture similar to velvet.

 

Mold Inspection

An investigation for mold growth begins with an inspection for visible mold growth. If there is no visible mold immediately noticeable, an inspection for signs of water damage is completed and areas with possible moisture sources are inspected. In general, mold requires a source of moisture to grow.

An obvious source of moisture is the bathroom. Mold growth in bathtubs, showers, and toilets is common and can usually be taken care of through regular housekeeping and maintenance. Similarly, light mold growth is often found on windowsills near the glass, where water condenses. This too can often be taken care of through regular housekeeping, and is usually not a problem unless the mold covers a large surface area or is allowed to grow unchecked such that it becomes windowsills is often a species of Cladosporium, which grows very quickly and is very common outdoors. This mold is usually not hazardous to healthy individuals unless it is present at high levels indoors. If mold growth around windows becomes a problem or a nuisance, installation of double paned windows or a ceiling fan may help to reduce condensation on the glass surface, there by limiting mold growth.

Mold growth over a large area on the windowsill or on sheet rock next to or below the windowsill is a more serious problem, as these surfaces are more likely to support the more hazardous molds, like Stachybotrys. Growth under or next to a windowsill may be the result of a construction defect or a flashing problem allowing water intrusion around the window. If water is allowed to intrude into a wall space, the paper backing on the sheet rock (a food source for molds) and the dark, stagnant air spaces create a perfect environment for mold growth to occur. If mold growth is visible on sheet rock inside a room, there may be a larger colony of mold growing on the other side of the sheet rock inside the wall space. If mold growth is suspected inside a wall space, drilling a small hole through the wall can collect an in-wall air sample.

 

Common Sources of Moisture

Some of the common sources of moisture;

  • If mold growth is found on a wall it may be the result of a roof or pipe leak (Sinks, Dishwashers, Water Heaters, Ice Makers, Washing Machines)
  • If it is on an exterior wall then there may be water intrusion from outside or there may not be enough insulation so that condensation is occurring
  • The moisture source may not always be from a structural or design problem with the building
  • Moisture Vapor through slab foundations (See pages 12-13)
  • Poor air circulation in crawl spaces
  • It may be due to human activity inside, like steam from showers or cooking, a spilled fish tank, wet towels or laundry, plants.
  • Poorly maintained HVAC systems
  • Improper grading of the yard
  • Flower beds next to exterior walls
  • Outside sprinklers spraying against the house
  • Cracked stucco
  • Humid environments, such as OHIO Summers are mold havens!

Moisture can also intrude into a home through exterior walls as the result of:

  • Improper grading of the yard
  • Flower beds next to exterior walls
  • Outside sprinklers spraying against the house
  • Cracked stucco
  • Clogged weep screeds
  • Missing or torn moisture paper
  • Or a combination of many of these problems

 

Areas associated with these moisture sources should be inspected for signs of mold growth or water damage. These signs include:

  • Cracked or bubbling paint
  • Staining or discoloration
  • Damp or soft walls or surfaces
  • Buckling or warped flooring of baseboards
  • Musty odors

Moisture from slab foundations can be a problem that leads to mold growth under flooring. Some moisture vapor emission from slab foundations is normal and unavoidable and the flooring industry standard for acceptable moisture emission is 3lbs of water per 1,000 square feet per day.

Sometimes the construction of the slab, the soil conditions under the slab, or the amount of time that there was allowed to cure before the house was built can lead to increased amounts of moisture vapor emitted through the foundation. This is not an obvious source of moisture and it often goes undetected for many years.

The excess moisture vapor can be widespread, mold growth in carpeting or under tile of linoleum. The mold growth is often not visible, even if the underside of the flooring is inspected, but it does lead to highly elevated levels of airborne molds.

Typically excess moisture is only detected when it starts to cause discoloration of bubbling under linoleum. Sometimes, the signs of excess moisture vapor can be observed by white deposits, or dust, on the bare cement when carpeting is pulled back. These are minerals that precipitate out of the water vapor. Any dark sections of concrete are also signs of moisture. Any discoloration resembling mold growth on the edges of the bottom of the carpet tack strips can also indicate slab moisture problems.

[The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (nieh) website release, “Mold and Mildew Awareness/Mold Awareness and Inspection]

 

Mold Sampling & Analysis

There are three basic methods of mold sampling: air sampling, surface sampling, and dust sampling.

Air Sampling

Air sampling involves drawing a known volume of air over a slide or petri dish with a growth medium. Air sampling can be one of the most effective ways to sample for the presence of mold because it provides quantitative data that can be used to evaluate exposure. It is a measure of the number of mold spores present in the air and an indication of the level of mold spores that is being inhaled in to the lungs. Air sample results are given as either a colony forming units of spores per cubic meter. Air sampling can often detect hidden mold problems, such as growth in carpeting, HVAC systems or inside wall spaces. Air sampling will generally report more species of molds than surface sampling. Surface samples often report between one and four species of molds on each sample, depending on the type of mold growth. Air sample results will detect as many as 30 different types of molds. Whereas a surface sample may miss some species of molds growing over a large surface, these molds will usually show up as elevated in an air sample, as any visible mold growth will usually release spores into the air. Air samples can also be collected from inside wall spaces without any destruction to the wall surfaces.

 

Surface Sampling

Surface sampling can be used to determine what kind of mold growth, if any, is growing on a surface. Surface sampling is relatively simple and inexpensive and is effective in identifying the species or genus of visible mold growth. Surface sampling will determine the relative density of each of the mold species present on the surface rated of 1+ to 4+ with 4+ denoting the highest number of mold spores. This data can often be misleading without information on the sampling location and the surface area covered by the mold growth. A square foot area on a wall with 2+ levels of a mold species is much more serious than a dime size area with a 4+ level. One of the disadvantages of surface sampling is that it is a check of one particular area. Often if mold growth covers a large surface area, several different types of molds are present and different species are predominant in different areas. It may be necessary to collect multiple samples from several locations to identify all the molds present, especially if trying to determine if Stachybotrys is present. Surface sampling also does not provide any information on exposure to airborne spores.


Dust Sampling

Dust sampling is a relatively new sampling technique that is believed to be a way to evaluate long-term levels of airborne mold spores. Airborne mold spores settle and become a natural part of dust.

Dust sampling involves the collection of dust using a modified vacuum to vacuum a section of carpet or from the air intake filter for the HVAC system. The dust is weighed at the laboratory and then plated onto a growth medium to culture the mold.

This technique is still being evaluated for its effectiveness in determining long-term airborne mold levels. One problem with this technique is that there is no way to correspondingly measure the outdoor mold levels to use for comparison. Another drawback is that the samples can only be analyzed using viable analysis methods, which is discussed in the next section.

In general, sampling using a combination of different sampling methods is the best way to investigate a potential mold problem inside a building.


Mold Removal

The first step in mold removal is to find and eliminate the source of mold. The mold-impacted materials including flooring, sheet rock, insulation, and any other materials with visible mold must be removed and disposed of. It is always safer to remove all the infected material than to try to treat and risk the mold returning, especially if mold is growing on porous materials like sheet rock or wood. For substantial mold growth, this may require removing interior walls and/or siding to expose the framing as shown in the photo.

Any surface that is not easily removed, like wood framing, may remain provided it is not severely impacted with mold growth, is structurally sound, and is thoroughly treated to kill the mold and remove the dead spores. In many cases this may require a 10% chlorine solution with several applications. (Ordinary household bleach is usually a 0.5% chlorine solution) Chlorine at this strength is very caustic to the skin and procedures hazardous fumes and should be used only by a certified and experienced hazardous materials abatement team.

The removal work depends on the types of molds present. Stachybotrys can be especially difficult to eradicate and sometimes require more extensive treatments. With other molds, once the source is removed and the surfaces treated, it is acceptable to still have background levels of spores in the indoor air since these molds are very common outdoors and indoors.

Stachybotrys is not normally found outside and should not be present in indoor air samples at all. The spores are also sticky so they will stick to furniture and can become dormant, but germinate later if conditions are favorable. Thus, when conducting mold abatement with Stachybotrys, it is necessary to fully remove all of the airborne spores as well as the physical growth from the building. This requires additional air filtering and air exchanges during abatement.

When conducting abatement it is necessary to limit the amount of spores that become airborne and prevent cross contamination of spores to clean rooms. This involves sealing off affected areas with plastic, sealing off and/or limiting use of the HVAC system, and using vacuums and air filtering devices with HEPA filters.

Abatement zones should be kept under a negative pressure with engineered controls. Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used and all personnel should go through decontamination. After the abatement is completed, it is also a good idea to have the HVAC system fully cleaned.

Mold abatement can be extremely hazardous if proper precautions are not taken. Mold spores are found on the surface of mold and become airborne when disturbed. During abatement or cleanup activities mold levels will increase from 10 to 10,000 background levels. It is very important that PPE be worn when doing any kind of mold cleanup. At the very minimum, gloves, goggles, and a dust mask should be worn. Personnel trained in the proper handling of hazardous materials should complete mold abatement of large areas of mold growth. For these jobs, level C PPE is required which includes gloves, full coveralls, and a full-face respirator.

It is very important that all moisture intrusion issues be resolved after the abatement is completed. The mold will return if all moisture sources are not eliminated!

Confirmation testing should also be completed after the abatement work is completed to verify the success of the abatement work. Samples should include viable surface samples of treated surfaces and air samples in all treated areas. If mold growth is reported from any viable surface samples, additional treatment is necessary. If airborne levels are higher than background levels for any mold species, additional treatment of the surfaces and/or air may be necessary.

[The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (nieh) website release, “Mold and Mildew Awareness/Mold Awareness and Inspection]

FIVE Common Misconceptions About Mold

1. This isn't mold, its just mildew. Or this mold isn't the toxic mold. - Mold and mildew are the same thing. Mildew is often the term used for mold growth on clothing or fabric.

2. If the mold is not Stachybotrys, it is safe to clean it myself. - When doing any kind of mold abatement, it is necessary to take steps to limit exposure, no matter what type of mold it is. This includes wearing gloves, coveralls, and respiratory protection. Mold levels can increase up to 10 to 100,000 times background levels during mold clean up resulting in acute exposure. For large areas of mold it is recommended that individuals properly trained in the handling of hazardous materials complete the clean up. It is also important to ensure that all infected materials are properly treated or removed so the mold does not return.

3. If you have Stachybotrys in your home you have to get rid of all your personal belongings. - When Stachybotrys is present there is a risk of cross contamination of spores to clean areas because the Stachybotrys spores are sticky and may stick to the surfaces of furniture and other belongings. If Stachybotrys contamination is extensive in a home it may be safer and more cost effective to throw away the personal belongings rather than treat them and risk bringing the mold spores into a new residence. If Stachybotrys is growing on wall or other surfaces in a home, it can release spores into the air that will settle on the surface of furniture and other belongings. As long as there is no moisture on those surfaces the spores will not form active growth. Since the spores are primarily just on the surface of the furniture, they can be treated and removed.

4. I want to make sure that my house is free of mold. - No house is completely free of mold. Molds are very common outside, so some mold spores will always be present in the air indoors as well. We are exposed to the outdoor or background levels of molds every time we go outside, and in most cases will not experience any adverse reactions, with the exception of hay fever or allergy like symptoms in some sensitive individuals when outdoor levels are high. Mold growth inside a building is not normal, though. If mold is growing on a surface inside a home, it will create indoor levels of spores that are higher than what the body is normally used to, which can overwhelm our natural defenses to mold spores and cause adverse reactions. When a home is tested for mold, it is checked to make sure that the levels of molds indoors is comparative to the background levels, and that mold is not actively growing inside.

5. I cleaned the mold with bleach, so I have fixed the problem. - Bleach is not always effective at killing mold, especially if the mold is present on a porous or fibrous material, like wood or sheet rock. If mold growth is significant, it is better to remove the impacted material, rather than treat it. For some surfaces that are harder to remove, like wood framing in homes, it may be necessary to complete multiple treatments with a stronger chlorine solution than is found in bleach. Cleaning the mold also does not fix the underlying moisture problem that is allowing the mold to grow. Mold should not grow without a moisture source, so if mold is growing on a wall, there may be a hidden leak somewhere or there may be a problem with water intrusion from outside. If mold is growing on sheet rock, there are may be a larger, hidden problem inside the wall space, which is not accessible without removing the sheet rock


TEN Things You Should Know About Mold

1. Exposure to elevated levels of molds can cause serious health problems, such as respiratory problems and sinus problems, cold and flu-like symptoms, headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and memory loss. Those most susceptible include young children, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and other sensitive individuals.

2. There are many molds that have the potential to cause health problems including Alternaria, Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys. (Just because you can't pronounce it doesn't mean it can't harm you.)

3. Mold spores can cause health problems even if the spores are dead.

4. Mold requires an organic food source, such as cloth, sheet rock, or wood, and a moisture source to grow. Mold can begin to grow if any organic material that remains wet for more than 48 hours. The way to control mold growth indoors is to control moisture indoors.

Mold spores are very common outdoors and there is no practical way to eliminate all mold spores indoors

6. Molds can grow undetected inside wall spaces, under carpet, and inside HVAC systems.

7. Mold growth can often be the visible sign of a structural defect that allows moisture to intrude into a building.

8. When doing mold abatement, it is first necessary to find and eliminate the moisture source. If the moisture problem is not resolved, the mold growth will return.

9. Cleanup of large areas of mold growth can cause airborne levels of spores to increase up to 10,000 times that of background levels resulting in acute exposure to those doing the cleanup if personal protective equipment is not worn.

10. The best way to abate mold growth indoors is to remove the impacted materials. Cleaning the surface of a material with mold growth may not always kill the mold, especially if mold is growing on porous materials like sheet rock or wood.


Frequently Asked Questions About Mold

Q. What are molds?

With more than 100,000 species in the world, it is no wonder molds can be found everywhere. Neither animal nor plant, molds are microscopic organisms that produce enzymes to digest organic matter and spores to reproduce. These organisms are part of the fungi kingdom, a realm shared with mushrooms, yeast, and mildews. In nature, mold plays a key role in the decomposition of leaves, wood, and other plant debris. Without mold, we would find ourselves wading neck-deep in dead plant matter. And we wouldn't have great foods and medicines, such as cheese and penicillin. However, problems arise when mold starts digesting organic materials we don't want them to, like our homes.

 

Q. How do molds grow in my home?

Once mold spores settle in your home, they need moisture to begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on. There are molds that can grow on wood, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, paints, carpet, sheet rock, and insulation. When excess moisture or water builds up in your home from say, a leaky roof, high humidity, or flooding, conditions are often ideal for molds. Longstanding moisture or high humidity conditions and mold growth go together. Realistically, there is no way to rid all mold and mold spores from your home; the way to control mold growth is to control moisture.

 

Q. How can I be exposed to mold?

When molds are disturbed, their spores may be released into the air. You then can be exposed to the spores through the air you breathe. Also, if you directly handle moldy materials, you can be exposed to mold and mold spores through contact with your skin. Eating moldy foods or hand-to-mouth contact after handling moldy materials is yet another way you may be exposed.

 

Q. How can molds affect my health?

Generally, the majority of common molds are not a concern to someone who is healthy. However if you have allergies or asthma, you may be sensitive to molds. You may experience skin rash, running nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and aggravation of asthma. Also if you have an immune suppression or underlying lung disease, you may be at increased risk for infections from molds.

When necessary, some resourceful molds produce toxins in defense against other molds and bacteria called mycotoxins. Depending on exposure level, these mycotoxins may cause toxic effects in people, also. Fatigue, nausea, headaches, and respiratory and eye irritation are some symptoms that may be experienced from exposure to mycotoxins. If you or your family members have health problems that you suspect are caused by exposure to mold, you should consult with your physician.

 

Q. How do I know if I have a mold problem?

You may have seen white thread-like growths or clusters of small black specks along your damp bathroom or basement walls, or smelled a "musty" odor. Seeing and smelling mold is a good indication that you have a mold problem. However, you cannot always rely upon your senses to locate molds. Hidden mold can be growing behind wall coverings or ceiling tiles.

Common places to find mold are in areas where water has damaged building materials and furnishings perhaps from flooding or plumping leaks. Mold can also be found growing along walls where warm moist air condenses on cooler wall surfaces, such as inside cold exterior walls, behind dressers, headboards, and in closets where articles are stored against walls. Rooms with both high water usage and humidity, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements are often havens for mold. If you notice mold or know of water-damaged areas in your home, it is time to take action to control its growth.

 

Q. What about cleanup?

The time you are most likely to stir up spores and be exposed is the very time you are trying to clean up your mold problem. That's when you need to be the most careful. First, try to determine the extent of the mold infestation. If the area is small and well defined, clean up can be done by you, as long as you are free of any health symptoms or allergies. However, if the mold problem is extensive, such as between the walls or under the floors, you should leave clean up to a professional.

 

Q. How can I control mold growth in my home?

Fix any moisture problems in your home:

  • Stop all water leaks first. Repair leaking roofs and plumbing fixtures. Move water away from concrete slabs and basement walls.
  • Increase air circulation within your home, especially along the inside of exterior walls, and ventilate with fresh air from outside. Provide warm air to all areas of the home. Move large objects away from the inside of exterior wall just a few inches to provide good air circulation.
  • Install and use exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  • Ventilate and insulate attic and crawl spaces. Cover earth floors in crawl spaces with heavy plastic.
  • Clean and dry water damaged carpets, clothing, bedding, and upholstered furniture within 24 to 48 hours, or consider removing and replacing damaged furnishings.
  • Vacuum and clean your home regularly.

 

[The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (nieh) website release, “Mold and Mildew Awareness/Mold Awareness and Inspection]

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