All molds reproduce by making spores. Mold spores are microscopic and only become visible when individual spores accumulate. According to the United States EPA, these microscopic particles continuously move through indoor and outdoor air. When mold spores find moisture indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds gradually destroy whatever they are growing on.
What is MOLD? Molds are forms of fungi that are found everywhere, both indoors and outdoors, all year round. Outdoors, molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. Another common term for mold is mildew. There are thousands of species of molds and they can be in any color, including white, orange, green, brown, or black. Often mold can be detected by a musty odor. Most fungi, including molds, produce microscopic cells called spores that spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions. All of us are exposed to fungal spores daily in the air we breathe, both outside and inside.
How does mold get into a house or building? Most, if not all, of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. It seems likely to grow and become a problem only where there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. All molds need moisture to grow. Common sources of indoor moisture that can cause mold problems include flooding, roof and plumbing leaks, damp basements or crawlspaces, or anywhere moist air condenses on cold surfaces. Bathroom showers and steam from cooking may also create problems if not well ventilated.
How can I prevent mold growth? Controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth. Keeping susceptible areas in the home clean and dry is very important. Ventilate or use exhaust fans (to the outdoors) to remove moisture where it accumulates: bathrooms; kitchens; laundry areas. Be sure your clothes dryer vents to the outside of the house (but not into your crawlspace). Repair any water leaks promptly, and either dry out and clean or replace any water-damaged materials. Materials that stay wet for longer than 48 to 72 hours are susceptible to producing mold growth. Lowering the humidity in the home also helps prevent condensation problems. To lower humidity during humid weather, air conditioners and dehumidifiers may be used. Proper exterior wall and attic insulation helps prevent condensation inside the home during cold weather that could promote mold growth.
What is BLACK MOLD? The news media often refer to “black mold” or “toxic black mold”. It has usually been associated with the mold Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of greenish-black mold commonly associated with heavy water damage. It has been inconclusively associated with severe health effects in some people. While there are only a few molds that are truly black, many can appear black. Not all mold that appears to be black is Stachybotrys.
Why should we be concerned about mold? Small amounts of mold growth in workplaces or homes (such as mildew on a shower curtain) are not a major concern, but no mold should be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When molds are present in large quantities, they may cause nuisance odors and health problems for some people. Mold will damage building materials, finishes and home furnishings. Some molds will also cause structural damage to wood.
How do molds affect people? Some people will have no reaction at all when exposed to molds. However, allergic reactions (similar to common pollen or animal allergies), are the most common health effects for individuals sensitive to molds. Flu-like symptoms and skin rashes may occur. Molds may also aggravate asthma. Fungal infections from building-associated molds may occur in people with serious immune disease, but this is very rare. Most symptoms are temporary and can be eliminated by correcting the mold problem in the home.
Who is affected by exposure to mold? For those who are affected by mold exposure, there can be a wide variation in how they react. People who may be affected more severely and quickly than others include:
- Infants and children
- Elderly people
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with respiratory conditions, or allergies and asthma
- Persons with weakened immune systems (For example: People with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, organ or bone marrow transplant recipients, those with auto-immune diseases.)
- Those with special health concerns should consult their doctor if they are concerned about mold exposure. The symptoms that may seem to occur from mold exposure can also be due to other causes, such as bacterial or viral infections, or other allergies.
What should I do if I see or smell mold in my home? The most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and fix the moisture sources that caused the mold growth. For small mold problems, use detergent and water (NOT bleach!) to wash mold off hard surfaces, then dry the area completely. Porous or absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles, drywall and carpeting) that become moldy should be completely removed and replaced. If you do not see mold growth, but notice a musty odor, mold may be growing behind water-damaged materials, such as walls, carpeting or wallpaper. Persons cleaning mold should wear gloves, eye protection and a respirator to protect against breathing in airborne spores. If you have health concerns, you should consult your doctor before attempting any mold cleanup yourself.
Should I test my home for mold? Your first step should be to inspect your home for any evidence of water damage and any visible mold growth. Testing for mold is expensive, and you should have a clear reason for doing so. However, the resulting lab report from air samplings and/or tape liftings will determine the spread of contaminants, establish the scope of work, and create a baseline. Disaster Recovery now collects samples (air samples, tape lifts, etc.) for mold testing, which are sent to an independent testing lab in Seattle, Washington.
Who do I call to deal with extensive mold growth? It is important to correct large mold problems as soon as possible by first fixing the source of the moisture problem, then constructing containment barriers in the affected areas, removing the contaminated materials, cleaning the surfaces, and finally drying the area. Before our company, Disaster Recovery, proceeds with any mold remediation project, we will require that you obtain an inspection, air samples and/or tape lifts, and a lab report. This is for your protection, and ours. You will know if you truly have a problem, and we will know which mold species, if any, we are going to be dealing with. At the conclusion of the mold remediation project, Disaster Recovery will take another set of samples to document that the areas have been successfully remediated. A word of caution: Should you decide to hire another mold remediation company, be sure that you choose one that has extensive training in this area. There is a wrong way and a right way to safely remove mold. If done improperly, mold contamination could be spread throughout the entire building, putting the current occupants, and any future occupants, at risk.
- Do not hire anyone who claims they can kill mold with ozone, flowers, bleach, sand blasting, or antimicrobial paint. These methods will NOT work.
- Do not hire anyone who cannot thoroughly answer your questions, or who makes you feel uneasy.
How can I control mold growth in my home? Fix any and all moisture problems in your home: Stop all water leaks first. Repair leaking roofs and plumbing fixtures. Ventilate and insulate attic and crawlspaces. Increase air circulation within your home, especially along the inside of exterior walls, and ventilate with fresh air from outside. Provide warm air to all areas of the home. Move large objects away from the inside of exterior walls just a few inches to provide good air circulation. Install and use exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. Vent your clothes dryer to the outside. Vacuum and clean your home regularly. Clean and dry water-damaged carpets, clothing, bedding, and upholstered furniture within 48 to 72 hours, or consider removing and replacing damaged furnishings.