Whether on bread, expired food in your fridge, or hidden in your walls, finding mold is never a positive.
Moisture and mold go together. Mold spores grow indoors and outdoors and require excessive moisture to do so. They enter homes through air conditioners, fabrics, heating systems, open doorways and windows, and ventilation systems, typically collecting in areas that have experienced flooding or leaking.
Some infestations occur inside walls or behind appliances or cabinets, but most are seen and smelled. Mold grows particularly well in damp carpet, ceiling tiles, drywall, dust, fabric, insulation, upholstery, and wallpaper. If a leak or flood occurs, remove all cellulose-based items and dry the area out immediately.
The Potential Health Risks
Mold is unsightly, but also a potential health risk. It impacts people in varying degrees depending on their genetics, having a more severe effect on those with allergies, immune suppression, lung disease, and other such conditions. Those with immune suppression could be more susceptible to fungal infections, and certain strains have been inconclusively linked to infants’ acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss in adults.
There is always a little bit of mold everywhere, but it needs the right conditions to thrive and create potentially hazardous living situations. Many people have heard the term “toxic mold,” but the risks involved in exposure occur with all types — not just toxigenic varieties. A 2004 Institute of Medicine study and a 2009 World Health Organization report noted that exposure could cause:
- Asthma attacks in asthmatics
- Childhood development of asthma, particularly for those genetically susceptible to development
- Coughing or wheezing
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in those susceptible to it
- Red or itchy eyes or skin
- Respiratory allergy attacks
- Respiratory illness in children
- Upper respiratory tract issues
If you or your family members experience any of the above, or if you have concerns about exposure following a finding of mold spores, contact your physician to discuss the most appropriate next steps.
Mold-Related Structural Issues
Finding mold in a home can leave many homeowners wondering what caused it, how long it’s been there, and what they can do to fix it. Some concerns are justified, as mold left untreated can rot away walls, insulation, flooring, and other supports that then put your home at risk of collapse or damage. Wood and other cellulose materials begin to disintegrate the longer they’re damp, meaning you could end up with a structurally unsound home over time.
Treat mold immediately if you spot it forming in your home. If the damage seems outside your scope of expertise, or if you would feel better having a specialist remediate it, call one as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.
DIY Tips for Treating and Preventing Mold
Surface-level mold issues can typically be cleaned up with commercial cleaning products, soap, or a bleach solution. For those looking to clean up small mold outbreaks on their own, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Always wear protective gloves and eyewear.
- Bleach should never be mixed with other household cleaners, as the resultant fumes can become toxic and cause loss of consciousness or even death.
- Dry the area thoroughly before trying to bleach.
- Find the moisture source and fix it to avoid recurrence.
- Follow the instructions listed on the bleach bottle and adhere to manufacturer warnings.
- Leave windows open to create good air flow.
- Throw away any wet cellulose- or fabric-based items to deter spore growth.
- Use one cup of bleach or less in one gallon of water when making your cleaning solution.
Prevent mold by being proactive. Regularly check your home for leaks, floods, mold smells, and water buildup to reduce the chance of unchecked growth. Keep humidity levels low, use air conditioning during warmer months, and ensure you have good ventilation.
Also, add mold inhibitors when painting rooms, use anti-mold products when cleaning, remove or replace overly damp items, and keep carpet out of rooms that see a lot of moisture, like entryways and bathrooms.
When to Call a Specialist to Remediate
If you see a large outbreak or smell mold in your home, call a specialist immediately. The potential health and structural issues involved can be extremely damaging, and it’s important to get them taken care of as quickly as possible. If you believe you have become ill from exposure to a mold infestation, it’s best to call your physician immediately and let him or her decide what’s best for your overall health.