Mold is a fungus you find both outdoors and indoors. While nobody knows the exact amount of fungi species, estimates from the Centers and Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show it can be as high as 300,000 different species or more.
Molds tend to grow more in areas that are damp, warm and humid, spreading reproducing and making spores. Even in harsh environmental conditions, mold spores are able to survive. These include dry conditions which normally don’t support mold growth. Usually, mold isn’t a huge problem, until it starts to grow indoors.
Common Indoor Molds
There’s always mold growing somewhere on many surfaces and in the air.
Health Dangers of Mold
In the home environment, mold can pose a serious health threat as it produces irritants, allergens and sometimes potentially toxic substances. It may also cause asthma and other respiratory problems in allergic and susceptible populations. Because of this, eliminating existing mold and preventing new growth is a critical part of keeping up a good-quality home environment.
Every day, people risk mold exposure. Most in-home exposures occur when occupants inhale mold fragments (household dust components) and spores. They’re also exposed when mold-contaminated materials come in contact with their skin.
Not all people are affected by moderate amounts of mold exposure. But, some people can have allergic reactions to mold exposure.
Mold contamination exposure in an in-home environment can cause:
- Runny, itchy or stuffy nose
- Sore or itchy throat
- A cough
- Water or itchy eyes
- Serious allergic responses like asthma or rhinitis
Even though the health effects of mycotoxins exposure in the house aren’t studied thoroughly, there are negative health effects observed in animal studies and occupational settings. Health effects do vary depending on the type of mycotoxin and the exposure nature.
Some adverse effects include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Eye irritation
- Respiratory problems
- Birth defects
- Lung inflammation
Common Areas Mold Grows
Mold can get into your house through open windows, doorways, air conditioning and heating systems and vents. Outdoor air molds also attach to things like your:
You can then carry them inside your home.
Mold grows in areas where there’s a lot of moisture like leaks in windows, pipes, roofs or areas there’s been flooding. It can also grow on cardboard, paper products, wood products and ceiling tiles as well as in paints, dust, carpet, wallpaper, upholstery, drywall, insulation and fabric.
You may be able to see the mold growing, but sometimes it grows behind materials, so it isn’t immediately visable. If you can see it, it has a black, grey or greenish appearance. Because mold produces gasses known as microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC), it can have a distinct odor, which is musty.
Mold Cleanup and Remediation
Along with taking preventative measures, you should conduct visual inspections periodically to detect mold early before potential problems arise. Visual inspection is the most reliable way of identifying a potential mold issue.
You may control the growth of mold in your home by:
- Fixing leaky windows, roofs and pipes promptly
- Controlling humidity levels
- Ventilating laundry, shower and cooking areas
- Thoroughly drying and cleaning after flooding
If you notice mold growing in your house, you’ll want to fix the moisture problem and clean the mold up. You can remove the growth of mold from the hard surfaces in your home by using commercial products, water and soap or a bleach solution of a cup of bleach in a gallon of water.
Reducing and preventing mold growth requires a moisture control strategy. Keep water from leaking into your home if possible before water infiltration and flooding occurs. If you do get water into your home, remove any wet or damp building furnishings and materials, clean and dry within 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
If you notice mold growth, visually survey the material types and area size affected. You may use a moisture meter to determine the levels of moisture in building materials like:
Assess any moisture content after water damage as well. While mold sampling isn’t really necessary, it can help give you guidance to mold remediation activities.
If you have materials you can’t fully clean or dry, you need to remove them in ways that don’t expose you to spores. Use blowers, fans or dehumidifiers to dry, but remember, the more the air is humid, the less effective blowers are. In many cases, it’s cheaper to simply eliminate and replace the building materials rather than cleaning and drying mold-contaminated materials.
If your problem with mold is persistent, you may want to consider hiring a mold remediation professional. They’ll come into your home and inspect it thoroughly to figure out how bad your mold infestation is and let you know whether or not you can handle the problem yourself or are better off letting them do it.
If you’re experiencing health effects from a suspected or confirmed in-home mold toxicity, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible.