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How Does Household Mold Affect Asthma?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
household mold

Household mold and asthma frequently develop under the same roof.  Asthma is a sensitivity in the air passages leading to the lungs. By itself, the asthmatic condition is frequently silent until some specific “trigger” is inhaled. Typically beginning with shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, an asthma attack can result in a variety of acute symptoms, including wheezing, coughing, a sensation of straining for air and excess congestion in the lungs.

It’s In The Air

Indoors, asthma may be triggered by a variety of airborne irritants: dust, pollen, lint, pet dander, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. A common asthma trigger is spores released by household mold. Airborne mold spores contain mycotoxins that are a known respiratory allergen. In outdoor air, the concentration of mold spores is usually very diluted and does not cause symptoms in humans. Inside an enclosed structure, however, levels of these toxic microscopic particulates may become elevated to an extent sufficient to trigger a reaction in individuals with a predisposition to asthma.

Finding Mold And Fixing It

Effective asthma prevention includes reducing exposure to triggers in the indoor environment. An elevated spore count is one indicator of active mold growing somewhere inside the house that may be responsible for asthma reactions in occupants. The presence of chronic moisture that promotes mold growth is another red flag.

Professional mold remediation utilizes a proven treatment sequence to eliminate contamination:

  • Air sampling to determine spore count and estimate the extent of mold growth inside the house.
  • Locating all active mold growth and testing to establish the specific type.
  • Removal of active mold and sterilizing surfaces where mold growth occurred with EPA-approved fungicides.
  • Identifying and resolving ancillary causes inside the house that promote mold growth, including prior water damage and ongoing moisture issues such as plumbing or roof leaks.
  • Controlling indoor humidity to maintain safe levels that do not support mold growth.
  • Conducting one or more follow-up air samples inside the house to ensure that remediation is effective and mold growth has not recurred.

Can Mold Dry up and Go Away on Its Own?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Any type of mold in the home is a concern and may be linked to certain physical symptoms and/or chronic illness. Mold growth generally requires specific conditions to remain active and spread contamination.  Homeowners often ask a very good question: If we simply eliminate these conditions, won’t existing mold in the home just die and go away by itself?  

What Mold Needs

Mold is a fungus that prefers a particular temperature range, a dark environment, a little bit of microscopic food (usually cellulose of some sort) and moisture.  Of these ingredients, moisture is generally considered to be the definitive trigger that promotes active fungal growth. No moisture—no mold.

Dormant vs. Active Growth

Visual evidence of existing mold growth doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, however. Moisture-deprived mold may indeed appear dried-up and lifeless. In a sense, it is: without moisture to keep it active, the mold fungus mass stops growing and becomes inert. However, while the fungal mass is dead, microscopic spores that trigger regrowth and contamination aren’t.  In dry conditions, spores go dormant until exposure to moisture recurs. Once that happens, spores rapidly activate and begin spawning mold growth again, including airborne reproductive spores that spread contamination and may cause physical reactions in susceptible persons.

What To Do About Dried-Up Mold

  • Not everything that looks like mold is mold. Sampling and testing by a qualified mold remediation specialist is required to confirm the presence of dormant or active mold as well as determine the type. Air samples are also taken to identify airborne spores and estimate the extent of active contamination.
  • Proven mold remediation techniques utilized by professionals include physically removing active or dormant growth, then sterilizing affected surfaces with EPA-approved fungicides. In cases where mold has penetrated certain building materials, these materials may be cut out and replaced to totally eliminate growth.
  • Reducing moisture is also vital to prevent recurrence of mold in the home. Plumbing leaks, roof leaks and other moisture sources must be resolved. If chronically high indoor humidity is an issue, installation of a whole-house dehumidifier is also recommended. 

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Black Mold

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
black mold

Though there are approximately 20,000 species of mold, only about five are commonly found inside structures. One of these species, Stachybotrys chartarum, is also known as “black mold.” It’s not the most common type encountered inside houses, but black mold has a reputation for triggering particularly problematic symptoms in certain people exposed to it. Here are five questions and answers about Stachybotrys chartarum to clear up some confusion surrounding it.

  • Is black mold always black?  No, it may also appear dark green or gray. Conversely, other types of more common mold that may appear black are not the Stachybotrys chartarum species.
  • Does black mold occur more frequently inside houses than other mold?  Actually, the reverse is probably true. Stachybotrys chartarum tends to require more moisture to proliferate than most other common mold types. Therefore, it is most likely to be found only in more chronically wet indoor settings.
  • Is there something about black mold that makes it especially toxic to humans?  For individuals with a sensitivity to mycotoxins contained in airborne mold spores, black mold is associated with a wider range of reported physical symptoms than other types of mold. However, the severity of reactions to black mold spores also depends upon the extent of contamination inside the home as well as the duration of exposure. Individuals who are not sensitive to mold mycotoxins may not experience symptoms from black mold exposure.
  • Is black mold contamination more difficult to remove than other types?  No, the same basic mold removal techniques are involved: First, eliminate the source of moisture that triggers active mold growth. Then, test to confirm the type of mold present on the premises. Locate all active mold growth and physically remove it. Disinfect surfaces where mold existed and remove any materials that are permanently contaminated. Follow up with later air sample testing to confirm decontamination.
  • Are physical symptoms caused by black mold permanent? For most people who experience a reaction to mold exposure of any type, including black mold, symptoms will gradually disappear when professional mold remediation techniques are utilized to remove contamination inside the house. 

4 Reasons to Avoid DIY Mold Removal

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Mold growth can occur almost anywhere under the right conditions. Dormant microscopic mold spores are ubiquitous in nature, both outdoors and indoors. In fact, you’re probably inhaling a small concentration of spores right now. So, if mold is such a common event, why not just handle it yourself?

Actually, small outbreaks of mold growth in common spots like a shower stall or underneath a kitchen sink aren’t a big deal and respond well to a DIY approach with off-the-shelf disinfectants. However, when more widespread contamination—or the conditions that inevitably trigger it—exist, professional mold remediation is usually necessary.

Here are four examples of why you shouldn’t handle mold removal yourself.  

  • Contamination is time-critical. When mold growth conditions are present, such as indoor water damage, the consequences become dire in a very short time. Mold activates and begins releasing airborne reproductive spores within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to water. Confronted by the aftermath of water damage, few homeowners are prepared to take the steps required to interrupt the sequence of contamination in that short time frame. Rapid professional intervention is vital.
  • You don’t know how much there is. Mold spreads and active growth is often not limited to a single occurrence. Every house is different. To evaluate the extent of contamination, mold remediation specialists take air samples and count the captured spores. This important calculation provides a basis for a treatment plan to deal with the specific circumstances in each home.  
  • Mold type matters. “Mold” is a generic term applied to a wide range of fungal growth. Some things that look like mold, actually aren’t. Certain types of mold growth are more likely to be toxic to some persons while other types are relatively benign. Because it’s important to know what kind of mold is present, mold remediation specialists physically sample active growth and have it laboratory-tested for positive identification.
  • It could be harmful to your health. Contacting and removing mold without protective measures could cause allergic reactions or illness in certain individuals, particularly those with specific fungus sensitivities. Leaving the job to properly equipped professionals is a safer approach. 

How to Effectively Deal With Mold Damage in Your Home

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Many of the effects of mold contamination inside a house require the services of a mold remediation specialist to resolve. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will stipulate a qualified professional with the credentials and technology to do the job. However, do-it-yourself efforts may be useful in dealing with both causes and effects of mold contamination in certain limited circumstances. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate contributing factors. Homeowners can help resolve conditions which trigger contamination in the first place and then spread mold damage. Track down and resolve chronic moisture issues such as leaky plumbing, roof leaks and excessive indoor humidity. Ventilate damp spaces like the basement and attic that tend to spawn mold. Immediately dry any areas that accidentally become wet.
  • Protect air quality. Make sure your HVAC air filter traps airborne mold spores that spread contamination. Filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of at least 11 will remove about 80% of airborne spores. In homes where mold damage is a concern the filter should be changed every month.
  • Increase circulation. Mold prospers in stagnant, dark environments, so keeping air circulation optimal also helps inhibit contamination. Regularly open doors and air out closed, unused rooms and closets. Make sure all HVAC supply and return vents in the house are open and unobstructed. Open curtains and shades to let in sunlight.
  • Tackle the small stuff. Though significant, advanced mold contamination doesn’t respond well to DIY methods, there’s no reason not to attack minor, limited outbreaks before they become major issues. Over the counter mold cleaners can be used to knock down mold growth on tile grout in damp bathrooms or kitchens, for example. Where caulking around windows or elsewhere is contaminated, it can be extracted and replaced with new caulking. If only a small area in a room—such as just one corner of a sheet of drywall—shows signs of mold, you can hire a inexpensive handyman to cut out that limited portion and replace it. Then, use mold cleaner as a preventive measure on all other surfaces in the affected room to inhibit recurrence.

When mold is present due to water damage, or if the mold contamination is significant, it’s time for a professional to be called to deal with the situation effectively.

How to Easily Remove Mold or Mildew from Tile Grout

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Moisture evaporates rapidly from the hard, slick tile surfaces in your bathroom. Not so, however, from the grout joining those tiles together. The composition of tile grout, usually grainy and porous, tends to retain moisture and bacteria. This makes it an ideal breeding ground for mildew and mold, especially in a warm, humid environment like a bathroom. That fact becomes very conspicuous when white or gray grout gradually turns ugly brown or black due to contamination.

The appearance of mildew or mold—both are types of fungus—present both aesthetic issues as well as health concerns.  Here are some ways to remove it from tile grout:

Pre-treatment:

  • Wet a large sponge with water and wash down the areas of grout affected by mold or mildew. This is necessary to remove any layer of grime such as soap scum that may shield the fungus from the cleaning process.
  • Using a small brush with stiff bristles—a retired toothbrush may work, too—scrub the grout briskly. Even though the grout lines are typically horizontal and vertical, add a circular motion to the brushing process to ensure that you get into all the tiny crevices and cracks in the grout.
  • Rinse down the grout with warm water from a sprayer, then pat the surfaces dry with a cloth.

For minor mold or mildew:

Mix equal amounts of warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the mixture directly on the grout, saturating it thoroughly.  Wait about 10 minutes for the vinegar to soak into the mold or mildew spores, then vigorously scrub the grout lines with the stiff-bristled brush again. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry.

For long-standing contamination:

After the pre-cleaning procedure, saturate the grout lines by spraying a 50/50 mixture of warm water and chlorine bleach. Let the mixture soak in for at least 15 minutes, then briskly scrub with the stiff-bristled brush. Rinse well to remove all bleach residue and then dry with a clean cloth.  

The Pros and Cons of Using Bleach to Get Rid of Mold in Your Home

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

clorine bleachChlorine bleach is often thought of as the “universal disinfectant” around the home. When germicidal properties are needed as part of routine housekeeping, most people reach for that familiar plastic jug. Handled carefully, it’s useful for surface disinfecting of common germs and microbes. However, when it comes to serious, effective toxic mold remediation, you won’t find experts in the field recommending chlorine bleach as the preferred primary option. Here are some pros and cons of using bleach to get rid of mold in the home.

Pro: Bleach is inexpensive and available almost everywhere.

Con: Bleach is not a benign substance. It is classified as a corrosive and when poured out into the environment can cause burns, eye irritation and respiratory distress. Mixed with other common cleaning substances like ammonia, bleach may react and create a toxic gas.

Pro: Bleach does a pretty good job on mold and mildew, doesn’t it?

Con: The fact is, chlorine bleach is not among the products registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an effective disinfectant to kill active growing mold.

Pro: “I poured some bleach on something that looked like mold once and it seemed to disappear.”

Con: Just like it does to socks in the washer, bleach “bleaches” color out of substances—including organic material like mold. Applying bleach may change the conspicuous dark or colored appearance of mold or mildew to a very neutral appearance, creating the illusion that it has been totally eradicated when it’s actually only been “bleached.”

Pro: Bleach can be applied easily to hard surfaces like porcelain and tile where mildew grows.

Con: Unlike mildew, most toxic mold types tend to prefer porous surfaces for growth, instead. Mold actually grows into the host material where it occurs, penetrating below the surface and establishing “roots” that continue to thrive, replicating and releasing toxic airborne spores—even if the visible surface growth is destroyed. Surface disinfection of established mold growth by application of bleach does not provide a long-term remedy.

What Causes Mildew Growth in the Bathroom and How Can It Be Prevented?

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

mildew in bathroom groutMildew is simply another type of fungus, yet differs signficantly from toxic mold growth. Mildew typically grows on top of surfaces without penetrating the material. Mildew spores prefer a location that’s frequently wet to spawn growth. Mildew is unsightly and may permanently stain surfaces, however, health issues like allergic reactions are less common than with toxic mold.

No Moisture, No Mildew

The bathroom is ground zero for mildew for one reason: moisture. Bathroom surfaces are wet more often and stay wet longer than any room under your roof. In addition to hot water sprayed from bathroom fixtures, there’s warm, foggy air forming condensation everywhere, wet footprints on the floor, soggy towels, you name it.

Reduce sources of bathroom moisture and you remove a primary link in the chain of mildew contamination. Here are some suggestions to prevent mildew in bathrooms by reducing moisture:

  • Ventilate adequately. Exhausting warm water vapor from the bathroom before it condenses is critical to mildew prevention. Opening a window won’t do it. In most cases, a powered bathroom vent fan is required for adequate ventilation. Fan air volume should accommodate the size of the bathroom: at least one CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air volume per square foot of floor space. A 7’ x 10’ bathroom would require a fan rated for at least 70 CFM. Activation should be timer-controlled to ensure the fan continues to run for at least 20 minutes after bathing is concluded.
  • Seal grout. Grout lines between bathroom tile are composed of porous cement that collects mildew spores. Grout is a primary location for mildew growth and unsightly staining. Wipe grout dry after bathing and showering. Every year or so, grout should waterproofed by applying a commercial sealant.
  • Dehumidify if necessary. To augment fan ventilation and help keep bathroom humidity below the 60% trigger point for mildew growth, consider utilizing a compact bathroom dehumidifier specifically designed for the purpose.
  • The dryer, the better. Mop the bathroom floor dry if it gets wet, hang up wet bathmats to dry, use mildew-resistant shower curtains and don’t leave damp clothes or towels in the bathroom.

Diagnosing Mold And Mildew Problems

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

mold and mildewBesides making your home smell, mold and mildew can do a lot of damage before you realize it. If you spot signs of mold, diagnosing and dealing with the problem early will protect your home and your health. Understanding the difference between mold and mildew is a good place to start.

Know What You’re Dealing with

Around 12 genera of fungi commonly grow in homes. Both mold and mildew are fungi, but mildew is a type of mold. The most obvious difference between mold and mildew is appearance. Mold is thick and fuzzy, and grows in a variety of colors on many different materials. Mildew grows in a thin, powdery layer and is typically grey, white or light yellow. True mildew is usually found on plants, so what’s growing in your house is most likely mold.

The health effects of household mold varies. Alternaria, the dark brown mold often found in showers, and Aspergillus, the orange, brown and white molds that grow in walls, can both trigger allergies, but are largely harmless in small amounts. On the other hand, Stachybotrys, the dark green or black mold known simply as “black mold” is so toxic it can cause severe health problems in otherwise healthy people. This mold typically grows on cellulose materials, such as wood, fiberboard, and wallpaper.

Assess the Damage

Before you start cleaning any mold you find, inspect your home to determine how far it’s spread. Pay special attention to the corners of ceilings, surfaces behind and under furniture or under rugs, and the undersides of shelves. The location of the mold can also help you determine the type you’re dealing with. For small areas of most types of mold growth, wearing gloves, a hair cover, and an N-95 respirator mask is enough to protect you while you clean. If the mold covers more than around 10 sq. ft. or you suspect your home has black mold, contact a mold remediation specialist.

 

 

3 Common Mold Cleanup Methods

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

mold cleanupWhile the location and type of mold growth varies inside houses, mold cleanup methods are generally consistent. After taking air samples and tracking down and testing active mold growth, the location, type of mold and extent of contamination are verified. This provides mold remediation professionals with a starting point to eliminate mold and restore a healthy indoor environment. Here are three common methods that will be utilized.

  • Eliminate the moisture first. As long as recurrent moisture is present, active mold will resist cleanup efforts. Therefore, the source of water that triggered mold growth must be identified and permanently eliminated and affected areas of the house dried to industry standards. In addition to the primary water source, steps must be taken to control secondary effects such as high indoor humidity and dampness that also support mold growth.
  • Mold removal and surface treatment. All active mold must be removed from the house. On smooth hard surfaces, mold growth may be wiped away and EPA-approved fungicides used to sterilize the surface. On porous materials such as wooden building materials and drywall, long-term mold growth may penetrate below the surface. Effective treatment requires physically cutting out the affected segment and replacing with new material. Contaminated carpeting may be spot-treated with fungicides in very limited areas. Widespread contamination usually involves the padding beneath, as well, and requires removal and disposal of both carpet and padding, then decontamination of the floor before installing new carpet.
  • Cleaning up the air. Microscopic airborne mold spores circulate in the air and settle on surfaces throughout the home. Residual spores can trigger a recurrence of mold growth after cleanup. Therefore, the house should be thoroughly vacuumed with HEPA-filtered equipment capable of retaining spores to prevent airborne spread. Also, filters in the HVAC system should be discarded and high-quality replacements installed. In cases of high levels of airborne spore concentration, HVAC coils and ductwork may require decontamination.