MOLD AND YOUR HOME — PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE
Mold is found literally everywhere in nature, playing an essential role in the breakdown of organic matter. However, when mold grows indoors, it can damage or destroy the structure and poses serious health concerns to people living in that environment. Mold in homes needs just three key ingredients to grow:
• Food — An organic food source such as wood, cardboard, paper, etc. Even dirt on inorganic materials can support mold growth.
• Temperature — Mold loves temperatures between 68°F to 86°F — the same range we typically keep our homes.
• Water — Just a little is needed for mold to grow. Even an indoor humidity of 60% allows mold to develop. Our homes normally contain a lot of potential mold “food” and usually maintain perfect temperatures for mold growth. All that is missing is water. If a water problem is not re-mediated quickly and professionally, the inevitable result will be mold. Water damage scenarios include:
IF THE WATER FROM A FLOODING EVENT CONTAINS ANY FORM OF DIRT, MOLD WILL FEED ON THE ORGANIC MATERIAL IN THE DIRT. SO, MOLD GROWTH IS ALMOST ALWAYS A RISK AFTER A FLOOD.
THE DANGERS OF MOLD EXPOSURE
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mold exposure is a potential hazard to our health. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Allergen-sensitive people who inhale or touch mold or mold spores may suffer allergic reactions. Allergic symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash, much like the symptoms of hay fever. Those who suffer from asthma and are allergic to mold can experience asthma attacks from mold exposure. Even healthy, non-allergic people can be affected by mold exposure. Mold can irritate their eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin. Pets are also susceptible to mold exposure. They can show symptoms, such as respiratory difficulties, pulmonary hemorrhage, nose bleeds, runny nose, lethargy, and more.
MOLD PREVENTION TIPS:
There is no practical way to get rid of all mold and mold spores (the microscopic “seeds” of mold) from a home. There will always be some mold spores floating through the air and in-house dust. However, the mold spores will not grow in the absence of water. Thus, indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by preventing indoor moisture.
Here are some essential tips:
• Fix any leaks and remove water spills quickly. Mold may start to grow in just 24-48 hours of a water problem.
• If you’re remodeling, use water-resistant building materials, such as tile, stone, deep-sealed concrete, water-resistant glues, waterproof wallboard, etc. Install water-resistant floor coverings, such as vinyl or stone tile.
• Prevent water from seeping into your house from the outdoors. Clean and maintain gutters and downspouts regularly so rainwater drains away from the house. Make sure the ground around the home slopes away so that water doesn’t enter or collect around the foundation.
• Ventilate the crawl space as much as possible to allow for thorough drying. • Remove the condensation collecting on windows, walls or pipes quickly. Insulate cold surfaces, such as cold-water pipes to reduce their potential for condensation. Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.
• Keep the humidity in your home below 60% (30-50 % ideally). Reduce humidity in the air with dehumidifiers and fans, open windows or air conditioners, especially in hot weather.
• Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering.
• Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, using the dishwasher or dish washing, etc.
• Vent moisture-producing appliances, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters to the outside if possible.
• Regularly clean air conditioning drip pans and ensure the drain lines are unobstructed and flow properly.
DEALING WITH MOLD:
If mold is growing in your home, clean up the mold and fix the water problem as soon as possible. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, the mold will likely come back. The first step in cleaning up mold is to find and eliminate the water source. Then, if the area is small (less than 10 square feet) and you feel comfortable, clean the mold with a detergent solution. Thoroughly dry all materials afterward. If the mold area is larger than 10 square feet, call a professional mold remediation company. A well-trained professional can re-mediate mold completely and fix the underlying water problem that allowed mold to grow in the first place. The remediation must be done properly, using industry-standard techniques and equipment, otherwise the mold will return.