What is mold?
Molds are living organisms that grow and thrive in damp places both outside and inside the home. Molds play a beneficial role outside the home by breaking down organic matter. However, molds inside buildings can eat away at the building, causing cosmetic and structural damage to the home by discoloring walls and floors and rotting wood supports. It also makes the home smell damp and musty. There are hundreds of different kinds of mold.
Mold can grow anywhere it has adequate moisture, water, oxygen, and an organic source. They reproduce by creating tiny spores. Mold spores become a problem when they land on a damp spot and begin growing and can grow without sunlight. The most common place to find mold is in walls, ceilings, carpets, furniture, a
nd concrete. Mold also needs cellulose to grow. Cellulose is plant matter and is found in wood, drywall, many fabrics, and even in household dust. Mold is often found in areas that have been flooded, areas with leaky pipes, or areas with high relative humidity like bathrooms and damp basements.
Who is at risk?
Mold is a serious a trigger for those with asthma and allergies. People with weakened immune systems, such as children, the elderly, and those recovering from surgery, may be more vulnerable to health effects from molds.
What are the health impacts of mold in the home?
Symptoms of mold in the home are often the same as other upper respiratory issues. These symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, cough or postnasal drip, itchy nose, eyes or throat and watery eyes. Mold can be responsible for triggering asthma attacks in children and adults, possibly sending them to the hospital for treatment. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can change seasonally, usually when the weather is damp or the humidity rises.
The Institute of Medicine found in 2004 there was evidence to link exposure to mold to:
- Upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheeze in otherwise healthy people
- Asthma symptoms in people with asthma
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune condition
- Limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children
When mold becomes a problem in the home, what can I do?
Step 1: Eliminate The Source
The first step in fixing a mold problem is eliminating the source of the moisture. If the moisture is coming from faulty building materials like pipes, walls, and the roof, the problem should be fixed by a licensed professional to ensure it does not come back.
If the moisture problem does not appear to be caused by any leaks or structural issues, the problem is most likely due to moisture in the air and condensation. This can be addressed with ventilation or dehumidification. Have a professional assess your home’s ventilation to make sure it is working correctly. To address humidity, use a dehumidifier to remove the moisture from the air. High moisture areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room should have fans that can move moist air to the outside. Humidity levels above 60% are considered high-risk for mold.
Step 2: Remove Existing Mold
Once the moisture problem has been addressed, the existing mold can be removed. The EPA suggests that if the area is less than 10 square feet, it is a job you can do yourself. Click here to download a helpful pamphlet on mold cleanup from the EPA.
Hard, non-porous surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water and dried immediately. Any porous or absorbent surface that is affected by mold should be removed and replaced, such as moldy drywall or furniture.
A professional who has extensive experience and references should deal with areas larger than 10 square feet.
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