Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth.
In a home, mold spores are always in the air. In a building there is always a continual flow of air from bottom to top (for example, exiting through the ridge vents). Thus, when moisture is introduced for a sufficient time period and level, the air borne spores will start growing, reproducing, spreading, and degrading many common household items and/or the structure.
Presently the EPA Guidelines are the standard for the industry. Most states do not have a remediation guideline. However, it is always essential to check with your state to verify whether they have specific rules regarding mold remediation. Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable, or normal quantity of mold have not been established. Mold problems must not be neglected. While mold outdoors is naturally occurring, indoor mold in a confined environment can cause adverse health effects and cause extensive damage to a property.
There are no rules on safe levels of mold. In fact, some types of mold produce endotoxins and can be carcinogenic. The Environmental Protection Agency Guidelines are one of the most prominent sources of information regarding how to perform a compliant mold remediation. Failure to address a mold problem in a structure, may result in extensive construction and rebuild issues, magnified rehab costs based on how long the progressing damage has been neglected, and adverse health consequences.
Since different people react differently to mold exposure (some react more, some less so, and the dose/response reaction can magnify with each exposure based on individual reaction), it is best to take steps to remediate a mold problem.
Mold Sensitization and Effects:
Individuals react differently to mold exposure. There is no set dose/time formula or relationship. In addition, in some individuals repeat exposure can cause an increasingly adverse reaction. It is best to avoid mold exposure or to use the proper PPE (such as the proper fit tested mold rated cartridged respirator) and to get a mold problem correctly promptly. Never let water stand without cleanup within 24-48 hours or to let high humidity levels go unchecked. Remember, the cause of the moisture intrusion must be fixed or the problem will recur.
Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers
working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
Where is Mold Found and How to Avoid It:
Molds are found in virtually every environment and can be detected, both indoors and outdoors, year round. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Outdoors they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors they can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements or showers. Sensitive individuals should avoid areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas.
Inside homes, mold growth can be slowed by keeping humidity levels between 40% and 60%, and ventilating showers and cooking areas. If there is mold growth in your home, you should clean up the mold and fix the water problem. Keep the humidity level in the house between 40% and 60%.
- Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
- Be sure the home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.
- Clean bathrooms with mold killing products.
- Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
- Remove or replace previously soaked carpets and upholstery.
Common Types of Mold:
Some of the most common types of mold are Cladosporium, Ascospores, Basidiospores, and Alternaria. Aspergillis, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Fusarium are molds commonly found in water damaged buildings. These molds require higher levels of moisture than the common indoor and outdoor molds, and they are linked to much more severe health effects.
Cladosporium does not require much moisture and can grow on a wide range of materials. It can cause sneezing, fevers, and excess mucosal production. This is the dark colored mold often found growing on the rubber edging seal on your refrigerator.
Ascospores and Basidiospores typically cause allergic reactions in people.
Alternaria mold is often found in kitchens and bathrooms around the faucets and sinks. It acts as an allergen.
Penicillium Mold is a fairly common mold type. It is commonly found in buildings with burst pipes, damaged foundation, porous foundations etc.-common with old, abandoned, or foreclosed properties. Penicillium mold grows within 48-72 hours after a water intrusion.
Aflavatoxin, a carcinogen, can be a byproduct of this mold’s growth cycle. It is also an allergen.
Aspergillus Mold is a fairly common mold type. It is commonly found in buildings with burst pipes, damaged foundation, porous foundations etc.-common with old, abandoned, or foreclosed properties. Aspergillus mold grows within 48-72 hours after a water intrusion.
Stachybotrys Mold is the mold species that has received the most publicity regarding adverse health consequences; Stachybotrys atra. This is the same mold that some doctors link to the death of infants in Cleveland, Ohio, and around the country.
Fusarium produces toxins called mycotoxins which can cause memory loss, headaches, fever, and even death. It requires high levels of moisture to grow. It is often found in the vicinity of standing water or regular water intrusions into a facility.
Stachybotyrs, Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Penicillium can cause memory loss, joint pain, headaches, fatigue, and depression. Aflavatoxin B from Aspergillus Flavus mold is one of the most potent cancer causing agents and can adversely affect pulmonary macrophage production.
Mold toxins are dangerous and can cause cancer, suppress the immune system, damage the liver, lungs, and other organs. Some toxins are mutagenic and can actually change the genetic code resulting in birth defects. Mold’s effect on human health can be worse on immune-compromised patients such as those with HIV, the elderly, terminally or seriously ill patients (cancer patients), or the very young.