Our homes collect moisture. There are many reasons for this and it is a great idea to SEND that dampness outside. With moisture comes disease causing mold.
Molds are simple, microscopic organisms present virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Molds, including all mushrooms and yeast, are fungi and are needed to break down dead material and recycle nutrients in the environment. In order for molds to grow and reproduce they need organic materials as a food source; including leaves, wood, paper and insulation. Add heat and humidity above 50% and you have happy mold that proliferates rapidly.
Because molds grow by digesting organic material, what molds ingest is eventually destroyed. Molds release innumerable lightweight spores, that in most instances eventually become airborne and travel to other destinations. These destinations then can become mold infested and sometimes toxic.
Negative Health Effects of Mold
Molds produce negative health effects through inflammation, allergy or infection. Allergic reactions, including fever, are common after mold exposure. Symptoms of those exposed to toxic molds that issue mycotoxins both individually or in combination are:
- Immune system suppression
- Respiratory problems including asthma and infections
- Eye irritation with burning, watery or reddened eyes
- Cough dry and hacking
- Nose or throat irritation or both
- Skin rashes or irritation
- Memory impairment
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Body aches and pain (Chronic Fatigue)
- Food intolerances and allergies
- Mood swings
- Nasal and sinus congestion
What Molds are Hazarduous?
The most common molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus and Alternaria. Stachybotrys (pronounced “stacky-bow-triss”) chartarum, known as “black mold,” is not uncommon and certainly not rare. Stachybotrys may produce compounds that have toxic properties known as mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are produced depending on what the mold is growing on, conditions such as temperature, pH and humidity. Mycotoxins can appear in both living and dead mold spores.
While Stachybotrys is growing, a wet slime layer overlays the spores, preventing them from becoming airborne. When the mold dies and dries, air currents or handling can cause spores to become airborne. Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold that 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, flooding or a combination of the above. Constant moisture is required for growth.
How Do We Know If Toxic Mold Is Present?
If you can see or smell mold inside your home, office or school, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture and to safely clean up and remove the mold. You may also suspect mold contamination if mold-allergic individuals express mold health problem symptoms, even if mold is not visible. Be aware mold infestation may be hiding underneath or behind water-damaged surfaces or behind walls and ceilings.
Reliable air sampling for mold is expensive and requires specialized expertise and equipment not available to the general public. A call to your local health authorities will bring referrals to an area mold specialist who can determine toxicity. However, all molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal. Be safe, not sorry!
Who Is Most At Risk From Toxic Mold Exposure?
For some people, a small amount of mold spores can create health problems, particularly asthma and respiratory ailments, while others can tolerate an extremely high amount of spores prior to ill effects. Those most susceptible to mold health problems are individuals with existing respiratory conditions.
Persons with weakened and suppressed immune systems, particularly those in treatments such as chemotherapy and the elderly, are at higher risk. Infants and young children likewise are more susceptible to serious health problems from mycotoxin exposure. Anyone with health problems believed due to mold infestation and exposure should seek professional medical assistance immediately.
If you suspect you are ill due to exposure to mold in a building, you should probably vacate the home or building, at minimum until the cause and presence of mold is evaluated and removed, if necessary, by professionals.
Evaluation and Clean Up Procedures For Mold.
Establish the location, cause and extent of mold presence. Identify and eliminate sources of moisture. Clean and dry the moldy areas while containing the affected areas. Bag and dispose of all material that may have moldy residues. For areas of high contamination, or in excess of 10 sq. ft., professional services are recommended. Air ducts may be contaminated.
If removing mold yourself, wear gloves and mask protection. To decontaminate non-porous materials, use non-ammonia soap or detergent in hot water and scrub the entire area. Rinse cleaned items in water and dry thoroughly. Using bleach straight from the bottle is less effective than a diluted solution of 10% household bleach. Be sure there is adequate ventilation. Use a high quality dust mask and place contaminated materials in bags for disposal.
Once mold starts to grow in insulation or wallboard, the only way to deal with the problem is by removal or replacement. In areas where flooding has occurred, prompt cleaning of walls and other flood-damaged items with the diluted 10% chlorine bleach is necessary as a first step to prevent mold growth. Never mix bleach with ammonia as toxic fumes result.
How long have we been aware of the danger of mold infestations in our homes? Read Leviticus 14:33-40 in the Bible, believed to have been written about 3,400 years ago from 1450-1400 BC, and learn that God spoke directly to Moses and Aaron about “greenish” mold in the home. “God spoke to Moses and Aaron…[On discovery of fungus in a house] the priest is to order the house vacated until he can come to examine the fungus… When the priest comes and examines the house, if the fungus on the walls of the house has greenish or rusty swelling that appears to go deeper than the surface of the wall, the priest is to walk out the door and shut the house up for seven days.
On the seventh day he is to come back and conduct another examination; if the fungus has spread in the walls of the house, he is to order that the stones affected by the fungus be torn out and thrown in a garbage dump outside the city. He is to make sure the entire inside of the house is scraped and the plaster that is removed be taken away to the garbage dump outside the city. Then he is to replace the stones and replaster the house.
If the fungus breaks out again in the house,…if it has spread, it is a malignant fungus… the house is unclean. The house has to be demolished – its stones, wood and plaster are to be removed to the garbage dump outside the city….Anyone who sleeps or eats in the house must wash his clothes….These are the procedures to be followed for every kind of serious …mildew or fungus on clothing or in a house… .” (from “The Bible in Contemporary Language The Message,” 2002)
If God, Moses and Aaron thought fungus was a serious health problem 3,400 years ago, perhaps we too should be concerned in our not-so-different contemporary world.
Recommendations for Mold Prevention and Mitigation
- Stop any sources of leaks or flooding.
- Weatherize the building so that excessive amounts of humid air will not enter.
- Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months to keep the indoor relative humidity level below 50%.
- Use Exaust Fans in kitchens, utility rooms and bathrooms to remove excess heat and humidity.
- Keep the air pressure in the lowest rooms equal to, or slightly greater than, the pressure of water vapor in the soil.
- Use mold inhibitors that can be added to paints.
- To remove mold and mold food from non-porous surfaces, use soap.
- Remove carpets and other porous materials that have become infested with mold.
- Avoid carpeting bathrooms or utility rooms.
- Do not let water stand in air conditioning or refrigerator drip pans.
Mold is a form of fungus that can invade the body to create many health problems. While Stachybotrys is most often mentioned as the most dangerous of mycotoxin producing molds, in fact there are more than 50 other health damaging molds. While the mold exposure is frequently from skin or airborne exposure to mold spores, be aware internal fungus problems often arise from excessive sugar consumption and antibiotic overuse.
Fungal poisons known as mycoto ins can present serious health challenges and often require initial treatment by a medical professional with antifungal prescription medications.
Additional Sources of Information:
- Fungus Frenzy Creates Dilemma for Homeowners, Others
- Mold and Human Illness
- Does Mold Remediation and Air Duct Cleaning Help?
- Information about ASHRAE’s work on mold and moisture
- Air Tech International
- From Healthandenergy.com
A person can open a window for a few hours in the day. FreshAirX offers a better solution.
Imagine being able to get rid of moisture and keep some of your valuable heat inside?