Mold exists everywhere you go. Whilst more prevalent in warm and humid air, mold is found in all types of environments, all around the world. Even the ‘fresh’ air that we breathe contains millions of mold spores.
But what are mold spores? Mold spores are the reproductive part of mold or fungus that cause allergic reactions. Molds feed off decomposing plant and animal matter and grow by producing filament-like clusters. Mold and fungi reproduce by giving off huge numbers of mold spores into the air, similar to plants releasing pollen. When airborne mold spores settle on organic matter, new mold clusters are grown. When mold spores are inhaled, they may trigger an allergic reaction.
What are the Symptoms of mold allergies?
Mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Signs and symptoms of allergic reactions caused by mold allergy can include:
- Chronic cough
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, watery and red eyes
- Skin rashes and hives
- Sinus headaches
- Reduced lung capacity and difficulty breathing
Mold spores get into your nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs and trigger asthma. A chemical released by allergy cells in the nose and or lungs causes the symptoms. Sometimes the reaction happens right away. Sometimes a mold allergy can cause delayed symptoms, leading to nasal congestion or worsening asthma over time. Symptoms often get worse in a damp or moldy room like a basement.
How to detect toxic mold
If you have mold in your home, your nose is one of the most inexpensive devices you can use to detect it. Mold smells, and chances are, you’ll be able to detect the distinctive odor that taints the air around moldy walls, carpeting and other objects. The struggle is in understanding when mold is dangerous to your family or home.
Having professionals test for toxic mold contamination can be quite expensive. However, many labs have affordable, and even inexpensive, testing for homeowners. If you see mold on sheetrock or vent, press a piece of clear cellophane tape to the mold and lift it off. Place the tape sample in a zip-lock plastic bag so that the tape sticks to the inside of the bag. If you have more than one sample, label the bags with different locations from your home or building. Contact one of the labs for procedures to have your samples tested.
What are the areas in which mold can grow?
Mold and mildew tend to grow in warm and humid locations. And such places like tiling in your bathroom and shower curtains are obvious hotspots for mold. However, mold can also be found in:
Closets and storerooms.
- Foam pillows
- Refrigerator door gaskets
- Self-defrosting refrigerator water pans
- Refrigerator cooling coils
- Under-sink cabinets
- Room air conditioner units
- Washing machines
- Dryer vents
- Garbage cans
- Sheetrock and wallboard
How do you know if mold is making you sick?
Mold sickness gets worse with increased exposure. As such it is generally divided into three stages.
Short-term and beginning stages of mold sickness can look like a basic cold or allergy attack. This is because mold acts as an irritant in small doses. Early symptoms include sneezing, itchy skin, headache, watery and itching eyes and skin irritation.
If you are in an area that has been contaminated by mold for a long period of time, the following conditions may develop. If you begin to get these symptoms, see your doctor immediately, as they may indicate prolonged exposure to mold. Symptoms of the later stages of mold sickness include constant headaches, weight and hair loss, diarrhea, vomiting, constant fatigue, coughing up blood, chronic bronchitis and sinus infections, sexual dysfunction, short-term memory loss, skin rashes and sores.
Staying in a mold-infested environment for a long period of time can result in these symptoms; (which are often the result of not seeing a doctor in time, or choosing to remain in an area with mold, without taking steps to clean it). At this stage, mold sickness may be incurable. These symptoms include blindness, long-term memory loss, bleeding lungs, brain damage, cancer and, in rare cases, death.
What mold does for us
Mold eats dead organic matter, and is responsible for decay. Without mold we’d be living with heaps and heaps of garbage.
Penicillin saved millions of lives before other antibiotics were discovered. Without antibiotics, bacterial infections would still be deadly. Penicillin was discovered from the common household mold Penicillium.
Mold is the “bleu” in bleu cheese. It’s needed for Stilton, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola cheeses. Mold gives other cheeses, like Brie and Camembert their delectable edible rinds. In fact, many molds are used in the Asian countries to make various sauces and cakes from soya beans.
Mold improves our wine. A premium brand of sweet wine is made from grapes that have been rotten and shriveled by a mold called Botrytis.
How to remove mold safely from your home
Once mold grows in a building, mold removal is required in order to maintain the health of the occupants and also to ensure protection of the things where these molds grow. Before mold removal, the cause of the mold growth (i.e. moisture source) must be identified and corrected, otherwise mold growth would re-occur.
Depending on the level of contamination, mold removal can be expensive and requires trained technicians. Therefore, prevention of mold growth is the best strategy. But if you’ve found a small amount of surface mold (less than 1 square meter or 3 square feet) growing in your home, you can clean it yourself safely and get rid of it forever. Remember, It’s the types of mold and the amounts that you inhale that matters. If there is no visible mold growth, but you suspect you could be having a mold problem, consider testing the air in your home.
Please consult a mold remediation specialist if the mold you find is larger than 1 square meter. And do not attempt to remove areas of mold that are greater than 10 square meters.
How to remove mold from your furniture
If you find mold, many types of furniture can be cleaned with detergent and water, then dried. Soft furnishings that can be thrown in the washing machine should be treated that way.
Household items such as mattresses which cannot be put in the washing machine should probably be replaced if they become contaminated.
Facts on mold
- There are a lot of molds that look black. The type of black mold that made the news years ago, associated with a lot of ill health effects, was called Stachybotrys. However, there are many other molds that look black, and are fairly common and generally not of concern.
- A lot of people aren’t even aware that mold can be white, or orange, or blue, for instance. The color of a mold generally has to do with the spores it produces and has no bearing on whether it is dangerous or not. There are some white molds that grow on walls and other surfaces that can be just as bad as some harmful black molds.
- Mold can eat paint. Many people attempt to paint over mold only to discover that in a few months the mold has either poked its way through the paint, or the paint has started peeling off. The mold really has to be removed before painting can be done, even if you’re using “mold-resistant” paint.
- Mildew is mold. It’s a word that is used generally to refer to a few specific types of molds, but it’s still all mold.
What types of mold are there?
There are several mold types in homes. Many people define mold types by their color that is: ‘black mold‘, ‘white mold’, ‘green mold’, ‘grey mold’ or ‘brown mold’, or, even more general, ‘black mold’ versus ‘non-black mold’. Unfortunately, the color of a mold rarely tells you anything useful: there are harmful and non-harmful kinds of mold in each color group. It is difficult to impossible to determine if a mold is harmful based on how it looks like growing on a surface.
Some countries have adopted a hazard class system to place molds in different categories based on their health risks. They are broken into Hazard Classes A, B and C:
Hazard Class A
The mold types in this group are either directly hazardous to health due to risk of infection or creation of toxins. They should not be in homes or workplaces and should be removed right away if found.
Hazard Class B:
The mold types in this group can cause allergic reactions, especially over longer periods of time.
Hazard Class C:
The mold types in this group aren’t known to cause any health risks or reactions in humans. Note, however, that even molds in this category can potentially cause structural damage to things that they are growing on, and should still be gotten rid of.
Preventing and Removing Black Mold
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following to help prevent black mold in your home:
- Keep the moisture level in your home between 40 and 60 percent.
- Make sure areas of the home that generate moisture, such as laundry rooms, bathrooms and cooking areas, have adequate ventilation.
- Repair any leaky windows, roofs or pipes as soon as possible.
These simple steps can go a long way toward preventing black mold in homes, but it’s no guarantee you won’t still develop a problem. Should black mold grow regardless, you’re going to have to remove it. Removing black mold is a difficult process. Some people prefer to tackle the job themselves, but it is highly recommended that one calls in a professional to ensure the mold is properly removed and won’t return.
Should you attempt your own mold removal here are some tips:
- Carefully inspect the entire home for any signs of black mold so you can remove it all. If you leave even a little behind, it will just grow and you’ll be right back where you started.
- Seal off each room as you work to remove its mold so that mold spores cannot spread to other areas of the house. Cover doorways with large sheets of plastic and tape them in place. If you can, place a large fan near an open window so mold spores will be more likely to leave the house rather than cause further contamination.
- Fill a spray bottle with water and lightly mist all areas of mold. This softens and loosens the mold, making it easier to clean. Allow it to rest for several minutes before washing the moldy areas with soapy water
- Apply a disinfectant specifically designed to kill black mold to all areas affected by the mold. Follow the directions on the package. If you are not sure if a particular area is affected by the mold, disinfect it anyway just to be sure.
- Wood surfaces should be sprayed with a protective encapsulate to ensure that any mold that was missed doesn’t grow again or expand into the rest of the house.
Which mold is most dangerous?
The two most dangerous mold to humans are Stachybotrys and Chaetomium.
Stachybotrys is commonly referred to as “black mold” because of its appearance. Some experts believe that once Stachybotrys has infiltrated a property, it can never be fully remediated. The most common symptoms from exposure are flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, diarrhea, and headache. Stachybotrys is especially dangerous in young children. Reports of pulmonary hemorrhaging have been reported. This species of mold is particularly troublesome, as bleach is ineffective in remediation and decreasing the humidity levels in the environment, only increasing the spore release.
Chaetomium is a dangerous mold that little about which is known. This species of mold is characterized by a strong musty odor while thriving in water damaged drywall. Exposure to Chaetomium results in classic mold-related symptoms with permanent neurological damage, auto-immune disease, and permanent DNA damage being reported.
If you’re looking for more information on molds, the CDC has compiled a FAQ section here. If you are looking to test for molds or get mold removed from your home, contact National Restoration Experts.