What are Molds?
Molds are microorganisms. Molds are a form of fungus which are found everywhere. They can grow on almost anything if it is moist enough. Inside your home molds grow quickly on damp surfaces like bathroom walls and trim around windows. Molds may look like furry growth, black stains, or specks of black, white, orange, green, or brown. Molds are organisms that grow indoors as well as outdoors. Outside, they’re an important part of the ecosystem. Indoors, they can be problematic.
How common is mold in buildings?
Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery. Mold, mildew, and moisture problems are especially prevalent in states with hot, humid summers. Mold also presents a problem in the winter months under just-right conditions. Our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment. In fact, in some cases, the air measurements indoors are 100 times more polluted. One of the most insidious problems that can affect your home’s indoor air quality is mold. Mold can grow on walls, clothes, books, toys, and even CDs. It can turn prized possessions into musty relics that only look fit for the garbage.
What do molds do to our bodies?
When a growth of mold appears, it can send clouds of invisible bits of mold through the air. These bits of mold can cause infections, allergies, asthma, and other breathing problems. To avoid these health problems, keep your home as mold-free as possible. Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions. there is sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.
As mold grows, spores, cells, fragments, and unstable organic compounds can enter the air. They can produce allergens, irritants, and mycotoxins. Some of these can be toxic, especially to individuals who have a sensitivity to them. Also, dampness encourages materials to break down, increasing the volume of particles, or dust, in the air. These particles can irritate the lungs, nose, and throat, especially in a person who already has a breathing problem, asthma, or a chronic lung condition.
A person with a sensitivity or allergy to any mold-related particles may react. Mold allergies can produce similar symptoms to other allergies, such as hay fever, or seasonal allergy. In these, too, airborne substances can affect the upper respiratory tract.
• a blocked or runny nose
• an itchy nose
• an itchy throat
• watery eyes
People with a mold allergy as well as asthma have a higher chance of having an asthma attack when there is mold in the environment. A higher volume of dust can increase the risk of dust mites, which can also trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
Some types of mold, such as Aspergillus, can cause a serious health problem, known as aspergillosis. Most people can breathe in the spores of this fungus without becoming sick, but people who have a weakened immune system or an existing lung disease can have a severe reaction.
Exposure to these bacteria may trigger an inflammatory response in some people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).The WHO also notes that mold and the microbial agents it produces may increase the risk of bronchial and fungal infections.
There is some evidence that it might lead to:
• hypersensitivity pneumonitis
• allergic alveolitis
• chronic rhinosinusitis
• allergic fungal sinusitis
• lower respiratory tract problems in previously healthy children
Who is most at risk for health problems associated with mold exposure?
People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections. Individuals with chronic respiratory disease (e.g., a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression are at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.
How to prevent mold in your home?
Mold spores are everywhere and are part of the world we live in. It’s impossible to get rid of mold entirely, but there are ways to make your home inhospitable to mold. This includes taking the following steps:
Fix water leaks immediately. Clean up excess water and use fans to dry the area.
Repair or replace windows that leak or sweat, as moisture may collect on the frame and sill.
Maintain low humidity in your home with air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Change filters and service air conditioners and furnaces as recommended.
Don’t carpet rooms such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, or basements.
Keep your home well ventilated. When possible, exhaust fans should vent outside. Use exhaust fans or open windows when showering or bathing.
Use cleaning products that kill mold. Wipe down tiles and allow shower curtains to dry.
Don’t leave wet towels or clothes in a pile or sitting in a laundry hamper or washing machine.
Make sure water drains away from your house.
Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
If you are dealing with a mold problem in your home, you must take steps to stop it immediately. Mold will only grow and spread; not only causing health problems in your household but also damaging your home’s foundation. If you feel that you might have a mold or airborne toxin problem, Healthy Homes has extensive experience working with an array of waterproofing services. Give us a call today and we’ll help determine which system would be best for your home and household.