Mold

What is Mold?
Mold is a living organism that decomposes organic materials in nature. It is a microscopic organism that is found both indoors and outdoors. Mold produces tiny lightweight spore that are released into the air naturally or by ordinary activities within the home.  Mold can be spotted by it's discoloration of household surfaces, including but not limited to white, orange, brown, green or black. Not all mold will be visible. In some situations mold growth can only be identified as a musty odor.

How Does Mold Grow?
For mold to grow, it needs a food source and moisture. A food source can be anything, but is most commonly a cellulose material. This would include wood, paper, and dirt. Mold also needs moisture to flourish.  Flooding, small roof or plumbing leaks and  environments with high humidity will all contribute to rapid mold growth. Anything above 50% relative humidity is ideal for mold growth, but mold may grow at lower humidity levels. When mold begins growing in an area, it produces spores that can float through the air, land on new surfaces, and start new mold colonies, therefore spreading the mold growth.

Where Mold Grows
As stated earlier, mold needs a food source and moisture to grow. When these conditions are met, mold can grow anywhere.  There are some areas more susceptible than others. Bathrooms, crawl spaces and basements are areas prone to mold growth because of the high humidity and often poor ventilation in these areas. Mold can also grow undetected in wall cavities, under carpets, above ceilings, and in heating or ventilation ducts. Mold growth should be suspected wherever there are visible water stains, moist surfaces, standing water, or discolored surfaces. Even old mold growth in now dry areas can pose health effects. 

Health Effects of Mold Exposure
There are many physical symptoms that may result from short term or long term exposure to mold. These symptoms will vary from person to person. Medical studies have shown mold to be one of the most elusive yet important causes of allergic symptoms. Typically allergenic mold exposure will produce sinus, cold and asthmatic-like symptoms, whereas mycotoxin mold exposure will typically result in similar symptoms with the addition of headaches, flu like symptoms, suppressed immune system, and even cancer.  It is very important to remember that mold exposure will effect everyone differently.  It is important to test the mold and then determine the safest way to remove it.  
 
Mold Prevention in the Home
Proper humidity levels are critical in preventing mold growth. Ventilation of the entire house, but especially basements, crawl spaces, closets, or other enclosed areas prone to moisture buildup is critical. When cooking or bathing, always use an exhaust fan to vent warm, moist air, which ideal for mold growth, to the outdoors.  Mold also thrives in dark places, such as attics, basements, inside walls, and behind refrigerators. Drip pans for appliances should be inspected weekly, cleaned and disinfected with chlorine.

What if I Have Mold Growth in My Home?
It is important to have mold tested to determine its type and toxicity.  After professional testing, a safe and effective abatement can be suggested, or a reference can be made to an industrial hygienist. Some mold types are extremely dangerous and simply touching them can release millions of spores that can be inhaled; thus posing a serious health risk.  Professional assessment of the mold type and the exposed areas should be made in order to determine how to remove the mold safely and completely. 

Types of Mold
Allergenic: 
These types of molds are not normally dangerous in low concentrations. They can, however, cause asthmatic reactions or allergenic reactions such as runny nose or difficulty breathing. This type of mold can be removed with gloves and a particulate removing respirator.
Mycotoxic:  These types of molds can cause serious health effects in humans and animals. Health effects range from short term irritation to immunosuppression. Long term or severe exposure may cause cancer or death. Even dead spores are still allergenic and toxigenic.  Do not under any circumstances attempt to remove these molds yourself. Simply disturbing these molds will release spores into the atmosphere.
Pathogenic: These molds can cause serious health effects in people with suppressed immune systems.  Disturbing these molds will release it's spores into the atmosphere, therefore it is suggested you do not attempt to remove this mold yourself.
Hyphae & Hyphal: Refers to fragments of mold that are not identifiable to a certain species. The can be responsible for allergic reactions in some people. These may also indicate a current or previous mold growth