Dealing with mold problems in your home can be confusing and complex. Some mold problems may be hidden and not easily identifiable. We have compiled several frequently asked questions regarding mold. For additional help or a consultation contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Molds are fungi and are ubiquitous in the environment. There are more than 100,000 species. Molds’ role in the environment is to break down plant and animal matter. They thrive in moist and warm conditions, but need organic material such as cellulose to grow. Molds reproduce by releasing spores, which can spread through air, water, or on animals. Spores are not visible to the naked eye.
Certain species of mold thrive in indoor environments when moisture is present. These molds include:
The key to preventing mold growth is to identify and control moisture intrusion and water problems. Mold spores are everywhere, including your home, and they can grow on any surface that has sufficient moisture. Its important to be aware of any leaks or water staining or possible sources of moisture.
You can usually see or smell a mold problem. Mold can appear as slightly fuzzy, discolored, or slimy patches that increase in size as they grow. Most molds produce musty odors that are the first indication of a problem. Mold can grow anywhere there is adequate moisture or a water problem. The best way to find mold is to look for signs of mold growth, water staining, warping, or to follow your nose to the source of the odor. It may be necessary to look behind and underneath surfaces, such as carpets, wallpaper, cabinets, and walls.
*PLEASE READ AND FOLLOW ALL LABEL INSTRUCTIONS FOR ANY CLEANING PRODUCTS
High moisture areas like bathrooms need extra attention to prevent excessive moisture and water problems from causing mold growth.
Mold testing is not essential, nor is it required by any regulatory agency. There is no state or federal standard for mold in homes. Mold sampling and testing can be more expensive than simply cleaning and repairing the water problems that allow mold to grow. Knowing the kinds of mold present does not change this advice. Molds can be found anywhere, and mold levels vary widely, depending upon location, weather, and time of day. If you see any mold growth, you should take steps to fix the water problem and remove and clean the mold as soon as possible.
Hiring an experienced certified mold professional to conduct a mold investigation to determine the extent of contamination can be helpful especially if you are not certain how the significant the mold problem is. ECOthink Group conducts mold inspections throughout Connecticut and has helped many homeowners characterize mold contamination and propose solutions that work.
As a tenant you are expected to keep your dwelling clean and give attention to high moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens. You should clean small amounts of mold or staining as described above. If mold growth is persistent or you identify any water leaks or damage you should ask your landlord/superintendent to inspect and repair the problem(s). If the landlord is not taking care of the problem, you can ask your local building department or code enforcement official to inspect your home for water damage or leaks.
The term “toxic mold” is misnomer. All molds could be potential harmful depending on a number of factors including the dose, location, whether the person is immuno-compromised. Molds may produce and release substances called mycotoxins into the environment. Some of these substances can be potentially harmful. One mold, Stachybotrys, is frequently singled out. Although it was initially thought to be related to cases of a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis among infants, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated, “In a further review of our first investigation, CDC reviewers and an external panel of experts determined that there was insufficient evidence of any association between exposure to S. atra or other toxic fungi and idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants.” Current guidance of federal and professional organizations is that mold growth should be controlled in an appropriate manner, regardless of the type of mold.
Exposure to mold can cause health effects in some people. Mold spores are always found in the air we breathe, but extensive mold contamination may cause health problems. Breathing mold can cause allergic and respiratory symptoms. It is hard to say how much mold will cause health problems as some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Always discuss your health concerns with your doctor, because the symptoms of mold exposure could be caused by other exposures and illnesses.
People who may be more susceptible to health problems from mold exposure include:
Allergy and irritation are the most common symptoms of mold exposure. Less common effects of mold exposure include infections and illness. Serious infections from molds are relatively rare and occur mainly in people with severely suppressed immune systems. Illness has been reported from workplace exposures to mold. Although symptoms can vary, the most common symptoms seen in people exposed to mold indoors include:
Keep humidity levels as low as you can—no higher than 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. Bear in mind that humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in the moisture in the air and the air temperature, so you will need to check the humidity levels more than once a day.
You should first consult a family or general health care provider who will decide whether you need referral to a specialist. Such specialists might include an allergist who treats patients with mold allergies or an infectious disease physician who treats mold infections. If an infection is in the lungs, a pulmonary physician might be recommended. Patients who have been exposed to molds in their workplace may be referred to an occupational physician.