Molds are simple, microscopic organisms whose purpose in the ecosystem
is to break down dead materials. Molds can be found on plants,
dry leaves, and on just about every other organic material.
molds are useful, such as those used to make antibiotics and
cheese. Some molds are known to be highly toxic when ingested,
such as the types that invade grains and peanuts. Most of
the mold found indoors comes from outdoors.
Molds reproduce by very tiny particles called spores.
The spores float in on the air currents and find a suitable
spot to grow. Spores are very light and can travel on
air currents. If mold spores land on a suitable surface,
they will begin to grow.
Molds need three things to thrive- moisture, food and
a surface to grow on. Molds can be seen throughout the
house, and can be found in most bathrooms.
Mold growth can often be seen in the form of discoloration, and
can appear in many colors-white, orange, pink, blue, green, black
or brown. When molds are present in large quantities (called
colonies) they can cause health problems in some people.
Who does mold affect?
Mold spores can cause adverse reactions, much like
pollen from plants. Mold spores cause health problems
when they become airborne and are inhaled in large quantities.
Everyone is exposed to mold in some concentration in the outdoor
air. Indoor exposure to molds is not healthy for anyone.
In particular, people with allergies, existing respiratory
conditions or suppressed immune systems are especially susceptible
to health problems from mold exposure.
Additionally, infants and children, pregnant women and the
elderly can be sensitive to the effects of mold exposure. Some
molds are more hazardous than others. For some people, a small
number of mold spores can cause health problems. For others,
it may take many more.
What are Symptoms of mold exposure?
There are many symptoms of mold exposure. The extent
of symptoms depends on the sensitivity of the exposed
Allergic reactions are the most common and typically include:
respiratory problems such as wheezing and difficulty breathing;
nasal and sinus congestion; burning, watery, reddened eyes
or blurry vision; sore throat; dry cough; nose and throat irritation;
shortness of breath; and skin irritation.
Other less common effects are: nervous system problems
(headaches, memory loss, moodiness); aches and pains;
If you have any of these symptoms, and they are reduced or
completely gone when you leave the suspect area, chances are
you have been exposed to some sort of allergen, quite possibly
How can I tell if I have mold in my home?
Some mold problems are obvious - you can see it growing.
Others are not so obvious. If you can see mold, or if
there is a musty odor in your home, you probably have
a mold problem.
Areas that are wet, or have been wet due to flooding, leaky plumbing,
leaky roofing, or areas that are humid (such as bathrooms and
laundry rooms) are most likely to have mold growth.
Look for previous water damage.
Visible mold growth may be found underneath wallpaper
and baseboards, behind walls, or may be evident by discolored
plaster or drywall.
If you don't have any observable mold, but are experiencing symptoms
likely to be mold-induced, the mold could be growing in areas
you can't see, such as the ducts of a heating/cooling system.
In this case, the only way to know if you have mold spores is
Many home inspectors or Industrial Hygienists can conduct
air sampling to detect the presence of these spores in
If you have obvious mold, you can conduct a swab test that can
be analyzed to determine the molds that are present. Testing
is the only way to determine if you have a mold problem and what
type it is.
Take a copy of the laboratory report along with you when you
visit your doctor or allergist. This will aid in determining
a method of treatment.
If I have mold in my home,
what should I do?
The first course of action is to determine why the
mold is growing. Investigate any areas that are moist,
and repair the source of the moisture.
There could be a roof or plumbing leak, or groundwater leaking
into your basement. Your air conditioning drip pan could have
mold growing in it. Your air duct system could be contaminated
with mold. If you see mold in your laundry room, chances are
that your dryer is not properly vented to the outside.
Clothes dryers generate humidity and should never be
vented inside the house. Mold will grow on any surface
that provides moisture and food.
Substances that are porous and can trap molds, such as paper,
rags, wallboard and wood, should be thrown out. After you have
made all the repairs, it is time to clean.
the following pointers:
- Mix a household cleaner without ammonia with hot
water and scrub affected areas before sanitizing with
the bleach solution that is 10% bleach and 90% water.
- Wear gloves when handling moldy materials. If you
are sensitive to mold, you may wish to wear a particulate-removing
respirator or facemask. Also wear protective clothing
that is easily cleaned or may be discarded.
- Hard, non-porous materials can be cleaned with a
solution of bleach and water, 10% bleach to 90% water.
Use a sponge or cloth to wipe the area clean. Never
mix bleach with other cleaning products; it can produce
a toxic gas! It is important to clean thoroughly. If
you leave some mold behind, the spores will be easily
released back into the air when the material dries out.
- Remove porous materials such as ceiling tiles, carpeting
and sheet rock (drywall) and dispose of them. They are
nearly impossible to clean and will surely produce more
spores when dry.
- If mold is the result of flooding, remove all drywall
to at least 12 inches above the high water mark. Visually
inspect the interior of the walls to ensure that you
removed all contaminated drywall.
- Allow the area to dry for 2-3 days after cleaning
and sanitizing with the bleach solution.
- Use a stiff brush to remove mold from block walls
or uneven surfaces.
- Have family members or bystanders leave the area
while cleaning or abatement is being done.
How can I keep mold from damaging my home?
Repair water damage as soon as it is noticed.
- Watch for signs of moisture, such as condensation
on windows, cracking of walls, loosening of drywall
tape, warped wood or musty odors.
- Install bathroom fans that vent humidity to the outside.
- Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
- Clean any moldy surfaces as soon as they are noticed.
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