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What You Should Know About Mold

For years the existence of mold has been generally accepted as mother nature’s way of warning us of rotting wood or spoiled food!

Then, a few years ago, mold must have gotten a press agent.

All of a sudden we started hearing horror stories about toxic mold infestations accompanied by high-profile law suits. In one report a homeowner was quoted as saying her house was so contaminated by toxic stachybotrys mold that it, “cannot be cleaned” so the local fire department was going to burn it for practice.

One couple was featured on national TV giving a tour of their million dollar mansion which they had to evacuate because of mold. Other programs like 48 Hours, Primetime and even Oprah have all aired similar stories. With all of this publicity, mold has become public health enemy number one.

And suddenly, a lot of people who can’t pronounce stachybotrys, are sure they have it lurking under their kitchen sink.

What happened?

First, mold should be respected, not feared. Over the past few decades changes in building practices in response to energy concerns have resulted in “tighter” buildings. And, tighter buildings mean an increased potential for inadequate ventilation. Buildings that can’t “breathe” can’t dilute indoor pollutants - like mold - contained in the building. Due to increases in health problems associated with indoor air quality, researchers discovered that mold exposure is a potential cause of a variety of health effects, including allergic reactions.

The bottom line is that tighter buildings plus documented health concerns equals public concern. And that means more media attention. The rest is recent history.

Mold should be respected, not feared.

What is Mold?

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. They reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. These spores waft through the air continually. When they land on a damp spot, they may begin digesting whatever they landed on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation.

Health Concerns?

All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins. People can experience a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms can potentially be associated with mold exposure.

The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual’s exposure, the ages of the individual, and their existing sensitivities or allergies. Some of us don’t seem to be bothered. While just inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. The health effects mentioned above are well documented. Evidence for other health effects is less substantial and is primarily based on case reports or occupational studies.

I’ve Got Mold, What Should I Do?

First, don’t panic. Since mold requires water to grow, if you eliminate the moisture source you’ve taken a giant leap in the right direction.

Sources can include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters (or sprinklers) that direct water into or under the building, plumbing leaks, and vapor emissions from concrete slabs.

As we said earlier, some moisture problems have been linked to changes in construction practices during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. In response to environmental and energy concerns, the construction industry developed new materials and techniques. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. To be fair, it’s often not the builder’s fault. Delayed or insufficient maintenance on the part of homeowners is a major cause of moisture problems.

The key to mold control is moisture control

Top 10 Ways to Prevent Mold
1. Fix leaks as soon as possible.
2. Perform regular building/HVAC inspections and maintenance. 
3. Watch for condensation and wet spots.
4. Dry damp spots within 48 hours.
5. Keep HVAC drip pans clean and unobstructed.
6. Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside.
7. Maintain low indoor humidity, below 60% and ideally 30-50%.
8. Provide drainage and slope the ground away from foundations.
9. Prevent condensation with insulation or increased air circulation.
10. To reduce moisture, increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry), or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid). 

Courtesy of "Homesafe, Inc."

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