What is Mold?
Molds are fungi. Their tiny particles are present everywhere – in indoor and outdoor air. Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere there is moisture. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Indoors they can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements or showers. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more.
What Types of Mold are Most Commonly Found Indoors?
Household molds come in a rainbow of colors, including red, pink, green, blue-green, brown and black. The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, and Mucor. The only toxic molds found in homes are two species of black mold, Stachybotrys and Memnoniella. Of the two, Stachybotrys is the most common.
How does Mold Get into My House?
Molds produce microscopic cells called “spores” which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions. Mold spores may enter your house through open doorways, windows, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to people and animals, making clothing, shoes, bags, and pet’s convenient vehicles for carrying mold indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, they will grow.
Where Does Mold Grow?
Mold will grow in places where leakage may have occurred such as in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery, commonly support mold growth.
How Can I Tell if There’s Mold in My Home?
Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green, fluorescent). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of furnishings or building materials (walls, ceilings, or anything made of wood or paper). Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage (water leaks, standing water, water stains, and condensation problems).
Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, pictures or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.
Check around air handling units (air conditioners, furnaces) for stagnant water. Keep these units serviced with regular cleaning of ducts and air filters.
Search areas with noticeable mold odors. Mildew has been described as pungent, or “aromatic.” If you can see mold, or if there is an earthy or musty odor, you can assume you have a mold problem.
How Can I Be Exposed to Mold?
When moldy material becomes damaged or disturbed, spores can be released into the air. Exposure can occur if people inhale the spores, directly handle moldy materials, or accidentally ingest it.
What are the Health Risks?
For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma), and the elderly are at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold. Allergic reactions are the most common health problem from mold exposure.
How Can I Help Prevent Mold?
Water is the key. Without it, molds can’t get started, much less spread. The easiest way to prevent the mold from gaining a foothold is to control dampness. When water is left to sit for even 24 hours, common molds can take hold. Mold growth can be slowed by keeping humidity levels below 40% and ventilating showers and cooking areas. Other ways to slow mold growth are:
- Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.
- Clean bathrooms with mold killing products.
- Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
- Remove or replace previously soaked carpets and upholstery.
How Can I Rid My Home (Office, Workplace) of Mold?
Most important is fixing whatever it is that is causing the damp conditions. Small areas can be cleaned with bleach and water. Larger areas, 2 sq. ft. or more, should be removed by a professional in mold remediati