We’ve all discovered it before. A patch of strange discoloration covering an old stuffed animal, lurking in a corner of the basement, creeping up a wall in a closet. The appearance of mold can be unsettling and even embarrassing. But, the more you understand about mold and the health concerns that can accompany it, the better you can protect your family.
What is mold?
Mold is a non-scientific term for many types of fungus that thrive in warm, wet environments. There are lots of different kinds of mold with many different forms, colors, textures, and even smells.
Certain molds are fuzzy or velvety, while others have a rough feel to them. They can be various colors including white, black, yellow, blue, or green. Sometimes they just look like a dark stain.
Actively growing mold presents concerns for both your home and its inhabitants. While the mold grows, it damages the material it’s growing on (compromising the structural integrity) and also releases spores which can lead to a number of health issues.
How does mold get into your home?
You come into contact with mold spores everywhere you go…. Both indoors and outdoors. The spores are so tiny that you can carry them from place to place without even realizing it.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent the spores from spreading. Every time you open a door or window, you are potentially allowing mold spores in.
When the spores land on a warm, damp place… they start to grow into mold.
Even the cleanest homes can become infested with mold. That’s because mold is resilient and can grow on almost any surface… even glass and plastic!
What are the most common types of mold found in homes?
Alternaria: Alternaria grow in long, chain-like structures, eventually growing into thick black, green or gray colonies. It’s predominantly an outdoor family of molds, but if it finds its way inside, it can colonize on tiles, drywall, plywood and even paint and polyurethane.
Aspergillus: Aspergillus begins white, then becomes green, brown, black or yellow as it grows, depending on species.The Aspergillus mold family consists of almost 200 species that often grows indoors, on dust, powdery food items, and building materials, such as drywall.
Cladosporium: Cladosporium grow in olive-green to brown or black colonies. It’s a very common mold that can be found in either cool or warm areas. It tends to appear on fabrics and wood surfaces.
Penicillium: Penicillium often has a blue or green appearance. This mold is one of the most common causes of fruit and vegetable spoilage. Penicillium mold can also be found on water damaged materials.
Stachybotrys: Also known as black mold, Stachybotrys is often considered to be the most dangerous type of mold. It can appear on indoor ventilation systems and is often associated with sick building syndrome, a condition in which workers in particular buildings suffer from frequent headaches or respiratory ailments.
What are the most common health issues associated with mold?
The most common symptoms of mold exposure are stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin, and even infections of the skin or mucous membranes. People with compromised immune systems are generally more at risk for further complications from mold exposure.
Recent studies have also suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children.
Beyond these proven symptoms, there has also been anecdotal evidence that some molds, particularly Stachybotrys, have been linked to acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, and lethargy. Further studies are needed to determine if there is indeed a connection between mold and these more serious conditions.
How can you keep your home mold-free?
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to keep mold from growing inside your home..
Keep humidity levels between 30-50% all day long.
Air conditioners or dehumidifiers work well for that, but remember that humidity levels change throughout the day and will need to be monitored.
Be sure your home has enough ventilation.
Make sure there are exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas to keep air vented outside your home.
Fix any leaks in your homes walls, roof, or plumbing.
Promptly fixing leaks will help keep moisture from spreading. Dark, warm crevices are ideal homes for mold.
Don’t use carpets in bathrooms or basements.
Bathrooms and basements are, by nature, more humid than the rest of your home. Eliminating carpet and fabrics helps prevent mold from taking hold.
If you do find mold, remove it immediately and clean the area thoroughly.
Once mold starts to grow in carpet, insulation, ceiling tiles, drywall, or wallboard, the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement. Scrub cleanable surfaces (such as wood, tile, stone) with soapy water and a bristle brush and make sure to dry surfaces quickly and thoroughly after cleaning.
Purchase an air purifier.
While an air purifier can’t remove mold from a surface once it begins to grow, an air purifier can remove spores before they take hold and potentially impair your family’s health. A high quality air purifier with a True HEPA filter will eliminate 99.95% of indoor pollutants, including mold spores, ensuring that your family is breathing the healthiest air possible.