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What is Mold?

Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Molds produce microscopic cells called "spores" which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.

What does mold need to grow?

Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply:

  • Moisture

  • Nutrients like paper products

  • Suitable place to grow

 

Controlling excess moisture is key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth.

Should I be concerned about mold in my home?

Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.

 
Health Effects

Can mold make me and my family sick?

Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it. The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person.

What symptoms might I see?

The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as:

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Skin and eye irritation

  • Nasal and sinus congestion

  • Wheeze/breathing difficulties

  • Upper respiratory infections (including sinus)

 

Are the risks greater for some people?

There is wide variability in how different people are affected by indoor mold. However, the long term presence of indoor mold growth may eventually become unhealthy for anyone. The following types of people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:

  • Infants and children

  • Elderly people

  • Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma

  • Persons having weakened immune systems (HIV, chemotherapy, organ transplant)

 

People with these special health concerns should consult a medical professional if they feel their health is affected by indoor mold.

Are some molds more hazardous than others?

Some types of mold can produce chemical compounds (called mycotoxins) although they do not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some circumstances, the toxins produced by indoor mold may cause health problems. However, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold is present or whether it can produce toxins.

Home Investigation

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?

Investigate, don't test. The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

  • Search areas with noticeable mold odors.

  • Look for visible mold growth. May appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green. Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings.When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.

  • Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?

  • Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.

 

Should I test for mold?

We do not recommend testing for mold yourself.  We recommend you contact a certified mold remediation specialist to test for mold.  Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. 

 

What you can expect from a mold remediation project:

Below are steps that a Certified Mold Remediation Company will perform in removing mold from inside your home.

 

1. Identify and fix the moisture problem - The most important step in solving any mold problem is to properly identify and correct the moisture at the source.  Below are common indoor moisture sources:

  • Condensation build up from high indoor humidity or cold surfaces

  • Roof leaks that allow moisture into the attic and come into contact with wood or paper products 

  • Plumbing leaks from water supply lines, toilets, cracked shower tiles, overflows from sinks tubs 

  • Excessive use of the humidifier

  • Firewood with moisture stored indoors

  • Line drying laundry indoors with out ventilation

  • Improper venting of combustion appliances

  • Movement through basement walls and slab

  • Improper venting of kitchen and bath humidity

  • Failure to vent clothes dryer exhaust outdoors

  • House plants - watering them can generate large amounts of moisture

 

2. Begin Drying All Wet Materials - As soon as possible, they will begin drying any materials that are wet. For severe moisture problems, they will use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors. 

 

3. Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials - Any items that has absorbed moisture (porous materials) and which have mold growing on them, need to be removed, bagged and thrown out. Such materials may include sheet rock, insulation, plaster, carpet/carpet pad, ceiling tiles, wood products (other than solid wood), and paper products. Likewise, any such porous materials that have contacted sewage should also be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth may be saved if they are properly cleaned and kept dry.

 

4. Cleaning affected Surfaces - Any surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned. Cleaning must remove and capture the mold contamination, because dead spores and mold particles still cause health problems if they are left in place.

  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner

  • Collect excess cleaning liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge

  • Rinse area with clean water and collect excess rinse water

 

Stay vigilant to any future mold issues

Continue looking for signs of moisture problems or return of mold growth. Be particularly alert to moisture in areas of past growth. If mold returns, contact the mold remediation company ASAP, if they are a reputably company, they will warranty their work.  Regrowth may signal that the material should be removed or that moisture is not yet controlled.

 

Take Steps to Protect Yourself

Do not attempt to rub or wipe any visible mold, you could increase mold particles in the air when you disturb the area with mold.  Consider using protective equipment when near mold contaminated materials. The following equipment can help minimize exposure to mold:

  • Rubber gloves

  • Eye goggles

  • Outer clothing (long sleeves and long pants) that can be easily removed in the work area and laundered or discarded

  • Medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask (these can be found at safety equipment suppliers, hardware stores, or some other large stores that sell home repair supplies) -- at a minimum, use an N-95 or equivalent dust mask

 

Take Steps to Protect Others

Secure the ventilation and access to the affected area. The following actions can help minimize the spread of mold spores:

  • Do not touch or come in contact with visual mold.

  • Secure all ventilation in the area.

  • Secure access to the affected area.

 

How long will it take?

Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have been cleaned, disinfected and dried completely.  The Mold Remediation Company should communicate when it is safe to operate the ventilation system or to enter the affected area.