A Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home.
Why does mold grow?
Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.
Should I be concerned about mold in my home?
Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.
Some types of mold can produce chemical compounds (called mycotoxins) although they do not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some circumstances, the toxins produced by indoor mold may cause health problems. However, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold is present.
Certain people should be particularly careful of mold. People such as:
- Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma
- Persons having weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, organ transplant recipients)
- Those with special health concerns. In this case you should consult a medical professional if you feel your health is affected by indoor mold.
Can mold make me and my family sick?
Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it. The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person.
What symptoms might I see?
The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as:
- nasal and sinus congestion
- wheeze/breathing difficulties
- sore throat
- skin and eye irritation
- upper respiratory infections (including sinus)
Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. For more detailed information consult a health professional. You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.
How do I tell if I have a mold problem?
The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.
- Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.
- Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
- Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, and condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
- Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, 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.
How do I get rid of mold?
It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.
Three things to remember are:
- The key to controlling mold is to control the moisture in your home.
- You should clean up mold promptly and fix the water problem.
- If you have water damage it is important to clean this up within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
In the next issue we discuss the importance of your air ducts and whether you should have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?"
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Some of our material came from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health
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Joseph Talbot, ASA
Remax Clearview Inc. brokerage
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