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HomeSafe Logo       What you should know about mold

For years the existence of mold has been generally accepted as mother nature's way of warning us of rotting wood or spoiled food!

Then, a few years ago, mold must have gotten a press agent. Mold

All of a sudden we started hearing horror stories about toxic mold infestations accompanied by high-profile law suits.  In one report a homeowner was quoted as saying her house was so contaminated by toxic stachybotrys mold that it, "cannot be cleaned" so the local fire department was going to burn it for practice. 

One couple was featured on national TV giving a tour of their million dollar mansion which they had to evacuate because of mold.  Other programs like 48 Hours, Primetime, 20/20 and Oprah have all aired similar stories. 

With all of this publicity, mold has suddenly become public health enemy number one. And, a lot of people who can't pronounce stachybotrys, (stack-ee-bott-truss) are sure they have it lurking under their kitchen sink. 

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Mold should be respected, not feared.
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What happened? 

First, mold should be respected, not feared.  Over the past few decades changes in building practices in response to energy concerns have resulted in "tighter" buildings.  And, tighter buildings mean an increased potential for inadequate ventilation.  Buildings that can't "breathe" can't dilute indoor pollutants - like mold - contained in the building.  Due to increases in health problems associated with indoor air quality, researchers discovered that mold exposure is a potential cause of a variety of health effects, including allergic reactions. 

The bottom line is that tighter buildings plus documented health concerns equals public concern.  And that means more media attention.  The rest is recent history.

What is Mold?
Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. They reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. These spores waft through the air continually.  When they land on a damp spot, they may begin digesting whatever they landed on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. 

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All molds can cause unhealthy reactions.
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Health Concerns?
Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins. People can experience a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms can potentially be associated with mold exposure. All molds have the potential to cause health effects.

The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual's exposure, the age of the individual, and their existing sensitivities or allergies. Some of us don't seem to be bothered.  While just inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Research on mold and health effects is ongoing.  The health effects mentioned above are well documented.  Evidence for other health effects is less substantial and is primarily based on case reports or occupational studies.

I've Got Mold, What Should I Do?
First, don't panic.  Since mold requires water to grow, if you eliminate the moisture source you've taken a giant leap in the right direction.

Sources can include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters (or sprinklers) that direct water into or under the building, plumbing leaks, and vapor emissions from concrete slabs.

As we said earlier, some moisture problems have been linked to changes in construction practices during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.  In response to environmental and energy concerns, the construction industry developed new materials and techniques.  Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. To be fair, it's often not the builder's fault. Delayed or insufficient maintenance on the part of homeowners is a major cause of moisture problems. 

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Mold is a normal part of our environment.
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How does mold grow in indoor environments?
Molds are a type of fungus and fungal spores are a normal part of our environment, both indoors and out. While fungal growth outdoors helps break down dead organic materials, fungal growth indoors is not considered a natural occurrence and should be avoided. In order for fungi to grow indoors, there must be fungal spores, a favorable substrate (food), moisture and time enough to grow. Without one of these four factors mold growth will not occur. When mold growth is not present the missing "ingredient" is typically water; however, it is important to remember that non-viable fungal spores can still cause an allergic response for some individuals.

What are common sources of moisture in homes?
Moisture can be introduced to a structure by liquid water or water vapor. A few common sources of liquid water intrusion are structural and plumbing leaks, ground water seeping up through the foundation, standing surface water from improper drainage on the property and landscape sprinklers that may be spraying directly onto the structure. Water vapor can increase the humidity inside the home and in turn create moisture indoors. Water vapor can be generated from activities such as cooking, bathing, watering plants, breathing and washing.

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The key to mold control is moisture control.
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How can your help control moisture in your home?
Homeowners can control moisture in their homes and therefore help prevent mold growth with some of the following measures provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    - When water leaks or spills occur indoors they should be dried immediately. By acting quickly you remove the time component from the necessary growth factors and spores do not have a chance to flourish on the moist substrates.

    - Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.

    - Make sure the ground slopes away from the home so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.

    - Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.

    - Keep indoor humidity low.

    - If condensation or moisture is collecting on windows, walls or pipes, dry the wet surface quickly and reduce the moisture/water source. Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.

How can you reduce indoor humidity and condensation?
To reduce humidity indoors, vent moisture-producing appliances, such as clothes dryers and stoves, to the outside when possible. Run bathroom fans or open windows when showing and also run exhaust fans or open windows when cooking, washing dishes or running the dishwasher. The use of air conditioners when needed may help as well. To reduce condensation indoors, practice the actions for reducing humidity, increase ventilation and cover cold surfaces with insulation.

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To avoid mold remove growth factors.
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Why is moisture control so important?
The best way to avoid mold growth indoors is to remove as many growth factors as possible. Though we may never be able to completely remove fungal spores from our environment, by taking away the moisture we can prevent mold growth from occurring. Prevention is a much more beneficial task than ignoring a small leak that may cause thousands of dollars of mold damage to a home. The average American spends 75% to 90% of their time indoors, why not make your home a safe and healthy place to be?

    Top 10 Ways to Prevent Mold

    1. Fix leaks as soon as possible.
    2. Perform regular building/HVAC inspections and maintenance. 
    3. Watch for condensation and wet spots. 
    4. Dry damp spots within 48 hours.
    5. Keep HVAC drip pans clean and unobstructed. 
    6. Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside.
    7. Maintain low indoor humidity, below 60% and ideally 30-50%. 
    8. Provide drainage and slope the ground away from foundations.
    9. Prevent condensation with insulation or increased air circulation. 
    10. To reduce moisture, increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry), or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid). 

(Reference: A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. EPA Publication #402-K-02-003.)

 


To find out more, contact us today:
HomeSafe Environmental Inc.
24664 Redlands Blvd.
Loma Linda,CA  92354

Ph (909) 796-7565 
Fax (909) 796-2155 


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