Return to the Blog Home Page

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. 

Moist Home? Your Health May Be At Risk…

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Excessive moisture can turn your home into an unhealthy—not to mention uncomfortable—living environment. Chronic indoor dampness may simply result from high levels of water vapor in the air or from persistent sources of moisture that aren’t properly identified and resolved. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that indoor humidity should ideally stay below 50% most of the time and never exceed 60%.  When indoor dampness frequently rises above that level, the risk of certain health issues likewise increases.  

Some of the health-related consequences of a damp house include

  • Mold and mildew. Fungus including toxic mold and mildew require moist conditions to activate and spread. Airborne spores released by growing mold fed by high indoor moisture levels may trigger allergies and even serious illness when inhaled by occupants.  
  • Dust mites. Tiny dust mites thrive in moist indoor environments where humidity reaches 60%. Easily stirred up into the air by human activity, these insects are a frequent cause of nagging allergic responses.
  • Pests and vermin. Many unwanted and unhealthy creatures are attracted to chronically damp conditions inside a house including disease-carrying rodents, mosquitoes and parasitic worms.  

To get a handle on dampness, consider these frequent contributors to unwanted indoor moisture:

  • In locales where outdoor relative humidity frequently exceeds 50%, excess humidity may infiltrate the house through structural cracks and gaps.
  • Rooms that produce high water vapor such as the kitchen and bathroom require exhaust fans to remove damp air.
  • A professional roof inspection of the exterior of the roof as well as inside the attic can identify hidden leaks that cause chronic moisture.
  • Ongoing leaks in plumbing lines routed through areas such as the crawl space or basement can create a continuous source of dampness.  
  • In locales with a high natural water table, rising groundwater can keep the crawl space chronically wet or push water into the basement through foundation cracks.
  • Air conditioner issues such as short-cycling, low airflow or insufficient refrigerant charge may inhibit proper extraction of water vapor from the air.

Why a Damp Home Needs Immediate Action

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Chronic dampness inside a house seldom gets better by itself. Almost always, the status quo steadily worsens as secondary factors that accompany damp conditions escalate damage. Moreover, as time passes, the prospects for a quick, uncomplicated solution become increasingly unlikely.  The time frame to identify causes of dampness and intervene is now, as soon as possible after the first signs are noted. Here are some reasons why a damp home requires a prompt response.  

  • Mold growth. In a damp indoor environment, mold growth is a ticking time bomb. Once exposure to moisture exceeds 48 hours, dormant mold spores contacted by wet conditions are triggered into active growth mold. Growing mold inside a home begins releasing millions of airborne reproductive spores,  spreading contamination throughout the house and becoming a source of allergic reactions and chronic illness for the residents. Professional mold remediation should be a priority when substantial dampness from any source persists beyond a few days.  In a home with chronic, long-term dampness, mold contamination is presumptive.
  • Moisture keeps moving. Dampness tends to spread in an enclosed environment, extending far beyond its original point of origin. This happens in two ways. As time passes, moisture continuously migrates through tiny cracks and openings into previously dry areas, enlarging the zone of damage and contamination. Also, a damp indoor environment is a humid environment. High levels of water vapor in the air spread throughout the house, causing condensation on building materials and other surfaces.
  • Structural deterioration.  Bare wooden building materials exposed to continuous dampness rots and loses structural integrity. Because most structural components in the house are enclosed inside walls or in seldom-visited locations like the attic or crawl space, this deterioration continues out of sight and unbeknownst to homeowners.  
  • Insurance matters. If dampness is due to conditions such as an ongoing plumbing leak in the crawl space or a leaky roof, to ensure your homeowner’s policy provides coverage you need to report the condition without delay. Many homeowner’s policies enforce time limits to report claims.  Simply “living with” continuous dampness without filing a claim may jeopardize coverage and compensation.

Why Summer Can Mean More Indoor Mold and What to do About It

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

indoor moldMold doesn’t take a summer vacation. In fact, it’s the time of year that provides ideal conditions to trigger dormant mold spores into active mode. Daily summer high temperatures in more than half the U.S. are within the mold-preferred range of 77 to 86 degrees, Fahrenheit. In about 40 states, relative humidity readings exceed 60%, the EPA-recommended upper limit to inhibit mold, for at least some portion of a typical day during June, July and August.

You can’t do much about the outdoor climate that nurtures mold. However, it’s possible to control the indoor environment to reduce the likelihood that mold will gain a foothold and contaminate your house. Here are some season-specific suggestions to prevent mold growth during a long, hot summer.

Your HVAC System Is Your Friend

A fully-functional, efficient HVAC system not only keeps you comfortable all summer, it’s a vital ally to inhibit indoor mold growth.

  • Hot weather outdoors tends to push indoor temps up, too. Set your A/C thermostat to maintain temperatures in the low- to mid-70s to suppress mold growth. Keep indoor conditions consistently cool, even if you leave home for a few days.
  • Water vapor extracted by the A/C evaporator coil reduces indoor humidity that feeds mold. Make sure the air conditioner is operating up to specs by getting manufacturer-recommended annual preventive maintenance to support optimum humidity extraction.
  • Mold prefers stagnant conditions. Maximize cool HVAC airflow throughout the house by changing the system air filter every month all summer long. A fresh, high-quality pleated filter also helps reduce the airborne mold spore count.

Eliminate Other Moisture Sources

  • Indoor humidity equals the outdoor relative humidity plus the amount of extra water vapor added by activities such as cooking and bathing. Vent humid rooms such as the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room with powered vent fans that exhaust moist air outdoors.
  • Keep up with home maintenance. Leakage into the attic during summer storms provides a perfect environment for mold growth. Make sure the roof is professionally inspected for leaks every three years. Also have any plumbing leaks or seepage repaired promptly.

Natural Ways To Prevent Mold In The Bathroom

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

bathroom moldDoes your home include a space suitable for conducting scientific mold experiments? As it turns out, most residential bathrooms provide the perfect controlled environment for mold contamination: high humidity, chronically moist surfaces, warm temperatures, limited air circulation and little natural sunlight. Airborne mold spores circulate everywhere, outdoors and indoors. Without positive intervention, the ideal conditions present in a typical bathroom will trigger dormant spores into active mode that spawns mold growth.

Here are some natural methods that interrupt the cycle of bathroom mold contamination:

Fresh Air Treatment

Bathroom humidity from showering or bathing rises well above the 50% level that triggers active mold growth. Ample air circulation lowers humidity as well as rapidly drying surfaces where mold-friendly condensation forms. Open a bathroom window to let in fresh air and sunlight. If a ventilation fan is installed, ideally it should be timer-actuated. This allows the fan to continue running for several minutes after bathroom use in order to completely remove residual humidity and moisture. Fully extend the wet shower curtain—a mold magnet—to quick-dry in circulating air.

The Vinegar Approach

Mold is acid-averse. Common vinegar is a natural, non-toxic source of acid you probably already have in your home. Vinegar is known to kill over 80 percent of mold species when topically applied. Spray it full-strength on any suspect spots of mold (or its second cousin, mildew) on bathroom surfaces or infecting grout between tiles. For mold prevention, routine vinegar application about once a week to bathroom surfaces helps keeps the environment acidic and mold-resistant.

Vodka. Yes, Vodka

Naturally-occurring ethanol in fermented alcoholic beverages is known to be particularly toxic to mold and mildew. A readily available source of purified ethanol is vodka. Budget-priced brands of 80 proof vodka—containing 40% ethanol and 60% water—are cost-efficient for spot-treating incipient mold contamination. Pour it (straight) into a spray bottle and spritz it directly on signs of developing mold or mildew. Wait about 10 minutes, then wipe away the residue with a wet sponge or cloth.

5 Tips For Mold Prevention In The Winter

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

mold preventionIs mold prevention in the winter easier than in summer? Only marginally, it turns out. Seasonal outdoor conditions have little effect on mold growth inside the enclosed environment of a home. Airborne spores that spawn mold may infiltrate the house at any time of year. What’s more, active mold growth can survive at temperatures far lower than typically maintained inside an occupied house during winter. Still, controlling certain factors specific to the cold season can at least reduce the odds of household mold contamination. Here are five ideas for mold prevention in the winter:

  • Humidify sparingly. Winter air is often dry and irritating to certain individuals. To alleviate these symptoms, humidifiers are commonly utilized to add water vapor to indoor air. Many portable humidifiers do not allow specific relative humidity settings, however, and rooms may become over-humidified. Moisture is a primary trigger for active mold growth. Maintain indoor humidity levels at 60% or below to discourage mold.
  • Run ceiling fans in the “reverse” (clockwise) mode for winter. A ceiling fan rotating clockwise pulls warm air upwards and pushes it across the ceiling and down walls and windows. This air circulation dries out condensation on these surfaces, particularly overnight, eliminating another source of mold-triggering moisture.
  • Upgrade your insulation. Some houses have minimal or no insulation inside exterior walls. Condensation forms on and inside cold, uninsulated walls in contact with warm, moist indoor air. To prevent mold growth, wall insulation should meet current Department Of Energy recommendations for type and amount.
  • Check the attic. While your roof shingles may shed summer rain effectively, the slow, stationary seepage from melting snow on the roof is another matter. Roof leakage due to snow melt or ice dams on the roof is a common cause of mold growth in the attic.
  • Dry wet areas. Many parts of the house—windows, mirrors, plumbing pipes— tend to be chronically damp in winter due to ongoing condensation. Quickly removing moisture with a towel prevents these areas from becoming potential focus points for mold growth.

The mold remediation experts at Rytech have more tips for mold prevention in the winter.

Preventing Mildew In The Kitchen – 3 Quick Tips!

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

kitchen mildewPreventing mildew in the kitchen is usually easier than mildew removal once it’s already established. Like most fungi, mildew spreads by releasing microscopic airborne spores. Unlike more toxic molds, however, mildew tends to grow out in the open and doesn’t penetrate materials where it grows. However, its dark, mottled appearance is very unsightly and, if mildew removal is not prompt, it may permanently stain some surfaces. Here are three ideas for preventing kitchen mildew:

  1. Add a ventilation fan. Kitchens provide a key ingredient that mildew needs to activate and grow: moisture. Cooking on the stove and in the oven adds large amounts of water vapor to the air which condenses on surfaces and triggers mildew. To control water vapor and prevent mildew, kitchens generally require a ventilation fan that removes almost twice as much air volume in cubic feet per minute as a bathroom exhaust fan. Make sure the air volume of the kitchen ventilation fan or range hood vent is properly sized to the square footage of the room and vents all the way to the exterior of the house.
  2. Don’t spread the spores. Wet kitchen surfaces provides moisture that promotes mildew. Areas around the perimeter of the sink that are chronically damp due to splashes or a drippy faucet form an ongoing breeding ground for mildew and mold. Sponges should be thoroughly wrung out and then stored in a spot where they will air-dry rapidly, preferably exposed to sunlight. Because used sponges may harbor live mildew spores, sponges should be discarded frequently and replaced. A disinfectant wipe is often preferable to a sponge for wiping down hard countertops.
  3. Remove kitchen carpets or floor mats. Mildew spores accumulate in the fibers of carpeting or small rug mats. These objects also absorb moisture from the air that activates dormant spores, forming a ground zero environment for mildew growth. A hard-surface kitchen floor can be more effectively kept mildew-free than fibrous carpets or mats.

For more on effective ways to prevent mildew as well as professional services for mildew removal, contact Rytech, Inc.

What is the IICRC and How Will it Protect You?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Anyone can claim to be a qualified water damage recovery contractor. Some of those who do, unfortunately, have no credentials whatsoever to prove it. The IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) is the governing body for the water damage recovery and mold remediation industry. Restoring your home’s value and reclaiming precious possessions from damaging water inundation, safeguarding your indoor environment from toxic contamination — these are not endeavors for the amateur or inexperienced part-timer. IICRC certification proves the water damage specialist you hire is a qualified, trained professional who is fully informed on standardized procedures and equipped with the necessary technology to do the job.

iicrcWater damage recovery and mold remediation contractors who have invested the time and commitment to earn IICRC certification are proud to display it. Here are some other ways that hiring an IICRC-certified contractor protects you:

  • Access to the most up-to-date methods and technology. The IICRC conducts research to update the science and practice of water damage recovery, keeping member contractors fully current on the latest state-of-the-art practices.
  • Proven standardized procedures. The IICRC formulates and publishes the standards of practice for the recovery industry. This ensures you get service that conforms with consistent, proven techniques utilized throughout the industry — not makeshift methods or cut corners.
  • Trained, qualified specialists. The IICRC trains, tests and certifies water damage and mold remediation technicians. Basic skills, as well as areas of advanced specialization, are included in the curriculum. To maintain certification, technicians must update their knowledge with continuing educations such as annual seminars and training.
  • Consistent business practices. The IICRC promotes a high standard of organized and efficient business procedures that protect the consumer. These include requirements for contractors to be fully bonded and insured, standards for issuing accurate estimates and a procedure for resolving any issues that may arise after the project.

Rytech, Inc. is proud to be an IICRC-certified provider of water damage and mold remediation services. Let us know if we can help.

What it Means to Make Your Home “Rytech Dry”

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Where restoration after water damage is concerned, there’s “dry,” then there’s “Rytech Dry.”  Rytech dry means more than simply extracting pools of standing water. It extends deep into the structure to mitigate all the unseen contributors to water damage, as well as the potential for after-the-fact issues like mold contamination. Here are some crucial elements of the “Rytech Dry” concept:

  • flood restorationFirst, get to the source. Water often travels far from its source inside a house. Whenever and wherever water damage happens, the immediate concern is tracking the flow of water to its origin and stopping the flow.
  • Identify and extract. Clean water that originated from a ruptured supply line or overflowing fixture can be a straightforward extraction procedure. However, equally common scenarios like sewage back-flow, water entering the house from outdoor flooding and other unknown sources are more complicated. These issues present a toxic biohazard and impose decontamination procedures in addition to extraction to ensure the highest standard of damage recovery.
  • Advanced technology.  Discovering everywhere the house is wet is vital. Specialized moisture-detection technology reveals all water-affected areas, including unseen zones like the interior of wall voids and beneath flooring.
  • Cutting-edge hardware. High-volume pumps quickly move standing water outdoors. Powerful extractors suck clean water out of carpets without removing them. Industrial dehumidifiers knock down high levels of water vapor that typically permeate the entire house after flooding.
  • Staying ahead of mold. Without proactive, preventive treatment after water inundation, active mold contamination of a house is frequently a matter of “when,” not “if.” Quickly removing residual moisture from hidden areas where mold flourishes, disinfecting affected areas and testing the premises for the presence of airborne spores — now and in follow-up visits — maintains an upper hand on mold contamination.
  • Test and verify results. Knowing when the house is fully dry is also critical. Determining dryness isn’t guesswork or a gut feeling — it’s a matter of scientific testing and verifying the that the house meets pre-determined industry target levels throughout the structure and in the air.

For more about what makes a water-damaged home “Rytech Dry,” contact the professionals at Rytech, Inc.