The following questions are most commonly asked by mold removal and mold inspection consumers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Mold grows best in warm, damp, and humid conditions and spreads and reproduces by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, even dry conditions that do not support normal mold growth.
What are some of the kinds of indoor mold?
Two ingredients are needed for mold or mildew to grow. These include oxygen and moisture. With these two prevalent ingredients being available nearly everywhere, it should be no surprise that mold grows abundantly in many places. Mold spores are in the air and attach to moisture. Then if conditions are right, and high levels of moisture remain, the mold will grow.
In homes and offices, common places for mold to grow are kitchens and bathrooms where even a small drip can create an environment for mold to thrive. Leaks or condensation in HVAC systems or on ductwork can create mold problems along with any moisture that gets in the walls, ceilings or under floors.
Since we are exposed to mold and mildew nearly every day, small doses do not generally pose a problem. However, mold impacts people differently. Children, the elderly, asthma sufferers, and those with allergies are more susceptible to having reactions to the presence of mold. This can show itself in the form of respiratory issues that often resemble flu-like symptoms.
According to the CDC: Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint.
Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.
Some people are sensitive to mold or mildew. For these people, exposure to mold or mildew can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions like fever and shortness of breath.
Mold Allergy symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies such as dry skin, congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and itching. Outdoor mold can cause allergy symptoms in summer and fall (in some climates, the symptoms may be year-round). Indoor mold can cause allergy symptoms year-round.
Mold Symptoms and Mold Allergies: Should You Call a Doctor?
If you think you have mold symptoms or mold allergies, you should first consult a family or general health care provider who will decide whether you need to be referred to a specialist. Mold specialists might include an allergist who treats patients with mold allergies or an infectious disease physician who treats mold symptoms such as mold infections. If an infection is in the lungs, a pulmonary physician might be recommended. Patients who have been exposed to mold in their workplace may be referred to an occupational physician to diagnose their mold symptoms. While it is important to treat mold symptoms, it is equally imperative to identify and address the cause of your mold allergies.
Consider These Facts:
- In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor mold or mildew exposure with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people.
- The IOM also found suggestive evidence linking indoor mold or mildew exposure to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.
- In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional research in the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould that addresses the causes and risks of poor indoor air quality.
- Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold or mildew exposure to the development of asthma in some children.
Mold is found in virtually every environment and can be detected indoors and outdoors, year-round. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Outdoors it can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors, mold can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements or showers.
Most often, however, it is found in the following places:
- Wallpaper and drywall
- Ductwork and ceiling tiles
- Carpet, drapes and furniture
- Attics, basements and crawlspaces
- Books and magazines (anything made of paper or organic material)
Sensitive individuals should avoid areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas. Inside homes, mold growth can be slowed by controlling humidity levels and ventilating showers and cooking areas.
- Keep humidity levels as low as you can—no higher than 50% — all day long. Using an air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the levels low, however, bear in mind that humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in moisture levels and air temperature.
- Run a dehumidifier in enclosed spaces such as basements.
- Be sure the home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.
- Clean bathrooms with mold or mildew killing products.
- Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
- Remove or replace previously soaked carpets and upholstery.
Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold or mildew growing in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for mold or mildew. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with mold or mildew. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold or mildew, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold or mildew and mold or mildew is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold or mildew is present, you should arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold or mildew can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold or mildew have not been established.
Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable or normal quantity of mold have not been established. If you do decide to pay for environmental sampling for mold, before the work starts, you should ask the consultants who will do the work about criteria for interpreting the test results. They should tell you in advance what they will do, or what recommendations they will make, based on the sampling results. The results of samples taken in your unique situation cannot be interpreted without a physical inspection of the contaminated area or without considering the factors that led to the mold growth.
If you feel your property owner, landlord, or builder has not been responsive to concerns you’ve expressed regarding mold or mildew exposure, you can contact your local board of health or housing authority. Applicable codes, insurance, inspection, legal, and similar issues about mold generally fall under state and local (not federal) jurisdiction. You can also contact your county or state health department about mold issues in your area to learn about what mold assessment and remediation services they may offer. You can find information on your state’s Indoor Air Quality program at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/indoor_air.htm.
If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in the building where you work, you should first consult your health care provider to determine the appropriate action to take to protect your health. Notify your employer and, if applicable, your union representative about your concern so that your employer can take action to clean up and prevent mold growth. To find out more about mold, remediation of mold or mildew, or workplace safety and health guidelines and regulations, you may also want to contact your local city, county, or state health department.
You should also read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidelines, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, at http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html.
If you believe your children are ill because of exposure to mold or mildew in their school, first consult their health care provider to determine the appropriate medical action to take. Contact the school’s administration to express your concern and to ask that they remove the mold or mildew and prevent future mold or mildew growth. If needed, you could also contact the local school board.
CDC is not a regulatory agency and does not have enforcement authority in local matters. Your local health department may also have information on mold, and you may want to get in touch with your state Indoor Air Quality office. Information on this office is available at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/indoor_air.htm.
You can also read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, at http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html.
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