Mold Inspections (Coming Soon)
Molds are fungi that produce microscopic cells called spores. Mold spores are present everywhere both outdoors and indoors and spread easily through the air. The most common “problem” mold in indoor environments is Stachybotrys atra (also called S. chartarum). It is a black mold that grows on wet materials containing cellulose. Stachybotrys is one of several molds that produce potent mycotoxins (toxic substances).
How Does Mold Affect Health?
Most people have few difficulties when exposed to mold spores, but it is estimated that about 10 percent of the population is severely allergic to mold. Symptoms include respiratory problems, nasal and sinus congestion, watery eyes, sore throat, coughing and skin irritations. Mold also can trigger asthma attacks. In some cases reactions are fatal. Children (especially infants), elderly persons, pregnant women, people with respiratory problems, and those whose immune systems are impaired are at higher risk from mold exposure. Even persons who have no ill effects at first may develop an allergy to mold after continued exposure. Therefore, everyone should avoid exposure to mold spores.
How Do You Know If You Have Mold?
To grow, mold needs a food source, moisture, and mild to warm temperatures. When mold spores in the air find the right conditions they begin to grow. The food source can be any organic material such as dust, books, papers, animal dander, soap scum, wood, particle board, paint, wallpaper, carpet and upholstery. When such materials stay damp (especially in dark areas with poor air circulation) mold will grow. Flooding, pipe leaks, leaky roofs, moisture in walls, high indoor humidity, condensation, and poor heating/air-conditioning system design and operation can create the damp environment mold needs to grow.
If you can smell a musty odor or see mold, you have a mold problem. If you suspect you have a mold problem, you should thoroughly examine your home. It is important to know where to look. Look for mold wherever there may be water damage—behind and under cabinets, around plumbing fixtures and appliances, under carpet, inside walls, behind baseboards and in attics. Moisture can seep through concrete walls and floors and cause mold growth on or in walls, carpeting and materials stored in a basement. Mold also can grow behind furniture (particularly if it is against an outside wall) and in closets with outside walls.
The safest course is to get a Professional Independent Mold Assessment of your home from a certified mold inspector, prior to performing any mold cleanup and remediation.
How Do You Control Mold Growth?
Studies have found that mold contamination can be greatly reduced if a home is kept dry and clean, and efforts are made to reduce the level of mold spores entering the home.
Controlling moisture. To control mold for good, you must solve any moisture problems in your home. Because there are mold spores everywhere, and mold grows on any wet, organic surface, the only way to prevent mold growth is to keep things dry.
- Keep the relative humidity as low as possible, within a range of 30 to 50 percent.
- Clean and dry damp areas such as plumbing and floors under sinks, around washing machines, and around toilets and faucets. Dry condensate on window frames. Clean and dry refrigerator and freezer drip pans and door gaskets. Wipe up spills immediately. Keep the refrigerator clean and free of mold.
- Fix plumbing and roof leaks immediately, and inspect these areas routinely. Dry water-damaged areas within 24 hours. If flooding is extensive, obtain the help of a trained, certified restoration specialist. Wet drywall, insulation and carpet must be removed.
- Have your heating/air-conditioning system serviced annually. Make sure the technician checks for standing moisture and contamination and cleans the coils. He should also clean the ductwork and drain pan, and replace them when necessary.
- Make sure water drains away from the house, not under the slab or crawl space. The crawl space of a home on a pier-and-beam foundation should have cross ventilation to help keep the area dry. Check for plumbing leaks in the crawl space and repair any you find.
Cleaning. Regular cleaning and disinfecting can help prevent mold problems.
- Use a disinfectant on floors and countertops.
- After cleaning moisture-prone surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms, spray them with an alcohol-based spray or disinfectant.
- Dry tub, shower and shower curtains after each use, or apply a product that prevents mildew growth. If shower curtains and liners become mildewed, replace them.
- Clean and disinfect garbage and trash cans at least weekly, and use disposable liners.
- Have carpets and upholstery professionally steam cleaned periodically. Vacuum often using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtered exhaust and double-wall dust collection bags. A central vacuum cleaner system is best because it exhausts pollutants outside the home.
- Launder area rugs frequently.
- Vacuum upholstery and mattresses at least twice a month.
- Vacuum blinds and curtains often.
- Clean behind stoves and refrigerators regularly.
Reducing mold spores in the home. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the number of mold spores that enter your home.
- Place mats at each doorway to prevent moldcontaminated soil and debris from being tracked inside.
- Inspect building materials for mold before bringing them into the home. Lumber, drywall and other materials are often stored improperly and can harbor mold.
- Replace carpet with hard surface flooring.
- Replace upholstered furniture with leather or vinyl furniture.
- Use foam or rubber mattresses, or encase mattresses in plastic coverings that can be cleaned and disinfected.
- Eliminate houseplants and indoor pets. Soil contains mold spores, and pets track in mold. Pets’ food and water trays also can harbor mold.
- Have the heating/air-conditioning ductwork inspected and sealed, especially if it is located in the crawl space under the house. A leaky system can pull mold spores into the house.
- Cover the soil in the crawl space, and make sure condensate and other water drains away from the house. For heating/air-conditioning systems located in attics or closets, check to make sure condensate drip pans drain into the plumbing system and that the emergency These moldy pictures and frames have been removed for drain is open and operating.
Source: Mold An Indoor Air Pollutant, Author, Janie L. Harris. Extension Housing and Environment Specialist The Texas A&M University System