Mold in the Home
Health concerns related to the growth of mold in homes have been featured heavily in the news causing a lot of unneeded fear of mold. I get calls regularly from people that are scared to death that they have black, or toxic mold in there home and don't know what to do. Problems do exist for someone with a moisture problem in their home who is allergic to mold, ranging from itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing, to serious allergic reactions including asthma and other respiratory problems. Even some Home Inspectors really don't understand mold. I have seen home inspectors on forums describe mold as being like cancer that if not removed will continue to grow. Some have described it as being like rust on metal, that has to also be cut out or it will continue to devour whatever it is growing on. The fact is that if any one of the requirements for mold growth, listed below, are removed it will NOT continue to grow, the easiest being water. A mold problem is a water problem.
Here are a few basic simple facts about Mold. It is a Fungi and it needs water, oxygen, and a food source such as paper or wood to grow. It does not need light. Mold is part of our environment that turns dead mater, such as plants or trees back to soil. Mold spores (comparable to seeds for a plant) are everywhere. As mold grows it produces spores and they are what some people are allergic to. They are part of our environment, so they are commonly found in the air and in your home. Your home has plenty of food,(paper and wood) and Oxygen is always present so if water is allowed in, then mold will grow. Mold is an allergen, Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions to sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Mold can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. It is possible for mold exposure to irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people if present in high enough concentrations. And it is true, even though rare, some molds can produce mycotoxins that can be dangerous.
So is mold dangerous in your home? The simple answer is that it can be if you are allergic to it. As you search the Internet about mold there are horror stories everywhere. If you look closely at those articles what you will find many times, is those articles are written by Mold Remediation companies. One recent study of post Katrina hurricane in New Orleans which flooded thousands of homes, found that there was no discernible increase in health issues related directly to mold. One study sited the negative health issues were similar to those found in Agriculture, which backs up the fact that mold is everywhere in our environment. So should you worry about mold in your home? Yes. A mold problem is a water problem. Water problems can cause other problems, including insects and pathogens, and is directly related to an unhealthy environment. Is your home ruined if you have a mold problem? No. Dry it up, clean it up, and live in it, and enjoy it.
As more is understood about the health issues related to mold growth in interior environments, new methods for mold assessment and remediation are being put into practice. Mold assessment and mold remediation are techniques used in occupational health. Mold assessment is the process of identifying the location and extent of the mold hazard in a structure. A qualified home inspector can take air and surface samples to determine if mold is present. Mold remediation is the process of cleanup and/or removal of mold from an indoor environment. Mold remediation is usually conducted by a company with experience in construction, demolition, cleaning, airborne-particle containment-control, and the use of special equipment to protect workers and building occupants from contaminated or irritating dust and organic debris.
The first step in combating mold growth is not to allow for an environment that is conducive to its growth. Controlling moisture and assuring that standing water from leaks or floods is eliminated are the most important first steps. If mold growth has already begun, the mold should be removed, and any affected surfaces should be cleaned or repaired. According to the EPA mold can be removed by cleaning with soap and water. The Internet is full of recommendations to use Chlorine Bleach to kill mold. Bleach is no longer recommended by the EPA or OSHA. Bleach will kill mold it comes in contact with but professionals widely believe that it could actually make the problem worse. Bleach dissipates quickly so it does not penetrate the surface, killing the roots. As it dissipates it leaves behind the water that will actually contribute to mold growth. Many have noticed that after treating with Bleach the mold quickly returns. Bleach can be effective on hard surfaces such as tile. Once again the key is to clean and dry.
My goal is to have a series of articles that deal with items that may be found on the home inspection report. There will also be articles on choosing a home inspector and a realtor. This information will be based on my experience in the construction industry as well as information I research. I welcome your comments. If you have a question or would like to see an article on a particular subject please ask.