Mold in Your Home
Mold is a fungus that reproduces by creating spores which are much like seeds in plants. These spores are airborne and are literally everywhere. The spores can enter the home in various ways, by a breeze entering a window or doorway, on clothing and on common materials in the home.
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Mold can't grow without moisture; wet surfaces are ideal for growth. It may sound simple, just keep your home dry and there will be no mold. In reality there are various opportunities for mold to grow in the home. Two major culprits are leaks in pipes or an undetected leak from the roof. Condensation is another source of moisture. Condensation can occur from bathing or air cooling in the home. Condensation may be found on window panes, on pipes and in ducting or in the walls. Mold will grow on just about anything including furniture, upholstery, tile, metal and even glass.
Is Mold A Real Problem?
Once mold is established it will assume the appearance of a fuzzy spot. The colors of mold can vary including white, yellow, green, brown and black. Mold will emit a noticeable odor. If you can see or smell the mold you have a mold problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that if you detect mold in the home get rid of it.
There are over 1000 types of mold and most of them are considered non toxic. The Stachybotrys atra is the toxic mold that draws attention. Its color is black or dark green. It releases mycotoxins which can cause health issues in some individuals.
Although most common molds aren't considered toxic they can also cause health issues. Mold can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose and skin irritation. Mold can also cause asthma attacks for those with asthma.
Checking for Mold
When checking for mold precautions must be taken not to spread it further. You should conduct a visual inspection of easily accessible areas such as walls, ceilings basements, bathrooms, windows cabinetry and visible pipes. When doing a search make sure the heating or air conditioning is turned off to prevent spreading of the mold. You may want to contact a professional before ripping up carpet or tearing into walls.
Removal of the mold is the first priority especially if someone in the home is showing symptoms which may be mold related. You may or may not consider testing at this time. Testing to determine the mold type is secondary to removal, you've already discovered the mold, a test for mold is not needed. The CDC states that all varieties of mold should be treated the same when determining risk to individuals.
If the area affected by the mold is 10 square feet or more the EPA suggest the removal be handled by a professional. If the area affected is less than 10 square feet the homeowner may elect to do the removal themselves.
Professional mold remediation companies have access to cleaning and test equipment that may be unavailable otherwise. Check with the appropriate sources to verify the company is licensed and meet all certifications as required. Ask the contractor for references and do they follow recommendations in the EPA Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. These guidelines also apply to other buildings.
Guidelines for removing mold yourself are published by the EPA and your local health department:
Testing is usually done based on two scenarios. One is after mold removal to verify the mold has been eradicated. The other is the homeowner or potential homeowner may be buying or selling a home and needs to know if the home has any issues with mold.
There are two methods for testing one being contacting professionals or do-it-yourself kits. Consumer Reports tested several do-it-yourself kits and found them to be unreliable.
For absolute certainty a professional company should be contracted. As with removal companies check licensing and verify they meet all required certification for mold inspection. Ask for references, verify costs and get an accurate estimate.
There are several things that can be done to prevent mold in the home:
• Keep humidity between 30 and 50 percent use dehumidifiers if necessary.
• Run the bathroom fan or open bathroom window when showering.
• Repair water leaks around pipes as soon as possible.
• Inspect gutters and the roof regularly.
• Keep an eye out for areas where condensation may occur.
Following a few simple steps and being vigilant will greatly reduce the possibility of mold in your home.