Molds are living organisms and belong to the Fungus group. Fungi are part of nature’s recycling system and play a vital role in the decomposition of organic materials such as plants, leaves, wood fiber and other naturally occurring materials. Fungi reproduce by tiny spores that travel the air currents. When mold spores land on a damp or moist area, they may begin growing by eating and digesting whatever they are growing on, as they need to survive. Molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet, different materials, foods and even other organisms. Whenever excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth can and usually does occur, especially if the moisture problem remains hidden or not repaired. There isn’t any way to eliminate all mold spores in an indoor environment. However, by controlling moisture one can help control indoor mold growth.
Molds have been part of our environment since before humans first walked the planet and there are references to mold found in the Bible. Scientists estimate molds got their start more than 400 million years ago. There are more than 100,000 species of mold that exist in the world and at least 1,000 of those species are common in the United States.
- What causes Mold growth?
Mold growth occurs when moisture or high humidity is added to organic materials such as wood, paper, or different kinds of fabric. Mold, just like all living creatures, needs food and water to survive. When moisture is removed, mold can die but it does not disappear. The mold can remain inactive or dormant inside of a wall cavity, wallboard, and even flooring, but will re-activate when moisture is once again introduced. Just because mold is not actively growing it does not mean it could not make someone ill.
- Are there harmful and non-harmful molds?
There are hundreds of thousands of known molds that exist everywhere on the planet, but there are just a small number of known molds that give off potentially harmful mycotoxins. Knowledge of the health effects on humans and other animals caused by mycotoxins is still limited as research is ongoing. Some molds are commonly found in the airborne environment and do not effect most people. As with any allergies, if someone is allergic to a common type of mold, they can develop illnesses. Immune compromised individuals have a much higher risk of illness when exposed to elevated levels of mold. For more information relating to mold and health effects, consult your physician, the EPA at www.epa.gov or the CDC at www.cdc.gov.
- Does mold affect everyone the same?
No. As with any allergy or illness, mold can affect individuals differently. It is possible for a family to have mold in the house and some become sick while others are unaffected.
- Do I have toxic mold?
The word toxic is misleading, as there are some molds that give off mycotoxins, but they have not been labeled a toxic substance by the United States government. All mold growths found in a house should be treated properly and professionally regardless of their type. All affected materials should be professionally removed or cleaned.
- Is there mold in every property?
Possibly, as there is mold present in just about every structure on the planet, as it is ever present in the air. Mold spores can be found in most environments throughout the world. Mold may be present inside of the walls or even under the floor. Mold growth only occurs when elevated moisture, water leaks, or high humidity occur. It is possible that a structure does not have any mold growth, but there are still mold spores present and ready to be activated upon moisture.
- Do older properties have more chance of mold growth than newer homes?
In our experience, mold growth occurs more often in newer properties as a result of the building materials present. Drywall, or gypsum board, is very conducive to mold growth when moisture is introduced. Drywall backing is made of fibrous materials, which promotes mold growth when wet. Older home construction is less likely to have more widespread mold growth than newer homes when a similar leak occurs.
- Can my contractor remove the mold in my home?
On the average, general contractors do not take the proper care in removing mold-contaminated areas that a professional mold remediation company will take. The size of the area being removed is also important when deciding who can best handle the area of concern. Check with your contractor to make sure they have the proper insurance in case something goes wrong during treatment and/or removal. The EPA recommends areas larger than 3×3 feet be removed by professional remediation companies. For more information consult the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov.
- Is it possible to remove all molds from a property?
Mold contaminated walls or materials can always be properly removed, when using a licensed company. Follow-up mold sampling should always take place after cleanup and reconstruction to confirm mold removal was successful. Mold spores will always be present in the air, but should be at acceptable levels comparable to the outdoor samples. The source of the moisture must be repaired in order to stop future mold growth from reoccurring.
- How do I clean my clothes from a contaminated area?
If visible mold is present on or within any porous clothing items, they should be properly and safely discarded. All other clothing should either be washed in a washing machine or taken to a Laundromat.
- Can my furniture be cleaned properly?
If visible mold is found on or in porous soft furniture fabrics they should be professionally removed and safely discarded. All soft furniture can be cleaned using HEPA vacuums. However, they are not guaranteed to return to the levels before the contamination occurred. It is debatable on how clean soft porous furniture can get as spores can be embedded into the fabric. All hard furniture can be cleaned using biocides and HEPA vacuums and if visible mold is present on those items, they may be able to be cleaned. Wood furniture may be able to be refinished.
- What can I do around my house to reduce mold growth?
The following are some ways to reduce the likelihood of mold growth in a structure:
- Maintain Humidity levels below 50-60% depending on location as living near the coast or in the mountains may result in re-occurring problems.
- Use dehumidifiers if high humidity is present.
- Adequate ventilation should be in all rooms and the substructure or attic.
- Reduce clutter in closets and rooms.
- Clean bathrooms regularly and ventilate during and after showers.
- Reduce the amount of carpet and wallpaper in bathrooms and high moisture content areas.
- If there is a crawlspace under the house, have it inspected regularly, especially after the rainy season.
- Are there any federal or state sponsored mold certifications?
No, as the state and/or federal government has not established any certifications in order to perform mold inspections or sampling. There are certifications that exist, but they are not required or sponsored by the government.
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