Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mold - Frequently Asked Questions

Why does mold form and what makes it grow?

Mold likes dark and humid spaces and most often develops as a result of standing water and high levels of moisture. Whether the water damage comes from a leaking pipe or a stormy night it often leads to mildew, which can be very smelly and unattractive. Most importantly, mold grows fast and can replicate at staggering rates. Standing water can start producing dangerous mold in as little as 48 hours.

What should I do if I discover mold?

If you discover mold, the best thing to do is call a professional. The professional will be able to locate the source of the mold problem and using proper equipment and tools remediate the mold. If the mold problem is very minor and you decide to clean it up on your own, make sure to wear goggles, gloves and some form of breathing protection. Seal off the mold infected area from the rest of the property and immediately dispose of all mold infected materials. Finally clean, clean and clean again and check back again to make sure that mold has not returned.

What are some of the misconceptions about mold?

One misconception about mold is that it can be removed with high heat, dry air and sunlight. Although these solutions may make sense considering they are the opposites of what actually causes mold, they are not powerful enough to completely get rid of the mold. The proper sure-free way to clean up mold is to use strong detergents. Mold remediation should be done by professionals using proper equipment and safety measures.

Does bleach kill mold?

Contrary to what you have probably heard, bleach cannot kill mold. It can be used to remove mold, but it will only work successfully on hard surfaces. Bleach not only fails to kill mold, but can actually enable it to grow faster as it is primarily composed of water.

How can I keep my property mold free?

There are several steps you can take to ensure that your property stays mold free. First, you must make sure there are no water problems. Open windows and doors for good air flow and, if needed, use a fan in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Attics and crawl spaces should be properly insulated and ventilated. Another key step is to vacuum your property regularly to remove mold spores. Finally, check windows for condensation and wipe away any water droplets you find.

How are people exposed to mold?

People are usually exposed to mold by breathing in spores or other tiny fragments of it. Exposure can also occur through skin contact or by swallowing it.

Can mold make me sick? What makes a person more susceptible to becoming sick from mold?

Yes, mold can make you sick and will pose health risks especially to people who are at high risk for sickness and allergic reactions. This includes infants and children, the elderly, people with respiratory infections and asthma and people with weakened immune systems due to other medical conditions. Other factors include a genetic predisposition to allergies, people working in an occupation that consistently exposes them to mold, people living in a house with a wet basement or high humidity and people living in newer houses.

Why are people who live in a newer home at high risk for mold exposure and sickness?

Newer homes are built extra air-tight to promote energy efficiency, which means that indoor moisture can easily become trapped inside and prevent proper ventilation. Damp areas are particularly vulnerable to mold growth such as kitchens, basements and bathrooms.

What health problems can be traced to mold?

Mold can cause the following health problems:


  • Allergies and asthma attacks
  • Infections
  • Irritations of mucous membranes in eyes and respiratory system
  • Decreased attention, disorientation and dizziness
  • Suppression of immune system
  • Higher susceptibility to cancer
  • Headaches, tremors and nausea
  • Infertility


What should I do if I think I am sick from mold exposure?
Go to your primary care physician who will determine whether you need to see a specialist for the problem. The specialists your PCP may refer you to include allergists or infectious disease physicians.

What are the treatments for people who are sick due to mold?

Treatment may include the use of antihistamines, decongestants and/or nasal sprays. Asthma attacks due to mold may be treated with inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators (seek the advice of a physician).

How can mold problems be prevented?

One key step for prevention of mold is immediate clean-up after water damage. Paying close attention to damp areas such as basements or places of pipe leaks is also extremely important. The use of a dehumidifier is a good idea in any part of your property that smells damp or musty. Humidity should be kept below 50 percent.

Here are some additional ways to prevent mold growth:


  • Use the ventilation fan for an additional 30 minutes following a shower or bath.
  • Clean bathroom and basement walls regularly with a bleach solution.
  • Clean gutters often to promote ground water drainage away from the property.
  • Sleep with your windows closed at night so that damp air does not enter.
  • Wear a mask when raking leaves or mowing the grass.


What other places have a high risk for mold exposure?


There are several places outside your home or place of business that can foster mold growth. These places include antique shops, greenhouses, saunas, farms, mills, construction areas and flower shops to name a few.

Where should I check for mold?

When dealing with mold, there are several places on a property that are extra susceptible to mold growth. Here are some key places to check when you suspect that mold is present.


  • Bathrooms and kitchens
  • Carpeting
  • Pipes, faucets and ductwork
  • Basements
  • Attics
  • Window sills
  • Garage
  • Walls

Are there any uses for mold?


Although everything so far has focused on the negative side of mold, there are actually uses for it. Here are some ways that mold is important to the environment:

The mold penicillium is used to make the antibiotic penicillin. Other types of mold are used to make cholesterol lowering medications.
Mold is used to make foods such as cheese, sausages and soy sauce.
Some compounds and enzymes are formed by mold such as citric acid, gluconic acid and riboflavin.

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