Types of Molds
If you are buying a new home, one of the most important aspects your inspection should cover is mold. Mold – both visible and invisible – can be very detrimental to your family’s health. Unfortunately, many home environments encourage molds. Even modern home design can in some cases contribute to the growth of molds if the home is built too tightly (not properly ventilated). New homes can also suffer from molds due to moisture created by evaporation from concrete and lumber.
Molds can appear and feel powdery or cottony, and be green, gray, brown, black, white, or a combination of these colors. Molds growing on textiles are called mildew (technically the same). Some molds produce extremely potent toxins called mycotoxins that can cause serious health effects. This includes certain of the dangerous “toxic black molds”. These molds are not to be confused with many black molds that are common in homes – particularly in bathrooms and basements. If in doubt, get expert advice.
In order to grow, molds need moisture, suitable temperature, and organic materials for food. They grow on just about anything including paper products, ceiling tiles, wood products, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, and fabric. They produce spores (seeds), which carried through the air, can form new colonies wherever they land.
Controlling moisture is very important if you are to successfully battle molds. Basements and crawlspaces are prime areas for mold since concrete is actually porous. Water seeps in through the pores in concrete, in the form of invisible water vapor. Capillary action in the concrete also contributes to moisture. In fact, the average basement can let in more moisture than your bathroom and kitchen combined. Signs of seepage include white powdery deposits on the foundation wall.
Musty odors in basements are often caused by hidden molds living on organic matter. These emit water, carbon dioxide, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like alcohols and aldehydes. When inhaled, these chemicals irritate respiratory passages. You cannot deal with these musty smells with air fresheners. You need to treat them at the source.
If you have a wet basement, dealing with the causes of the moisture will ensure that molds don’t get a chance to grow. It’s also important to control other mold hot spots by regularly cleaning your fridge (and drip tray), humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air-conditioning condensing units.
Be very careful if you tackle molds since they release particles and mold spores when disturbed. Wear a mask or respirator, gloves, goggles, and coveralls. If the mold growth exceeds 10 sq. ft., calling in a mold remediation professional is recommended. Damaged sheetrock or paneling, and moldy porous items like carpets, clothing, and upholstered furniture may have to be discarded.
As far as household cleaning solutions, chlorine bleach should be avoided or used with caution. It is highly caustic to skin and the fumes are a lung and eye irritant. In addition, it is not very effective as it lacks penetration and its effects don’t last. Better remedies for household use are available for dealing with surface moulds.
Negative Health Effects
The documented health problems associated with mold exposure include allergy, infection, irritation and toxicity. Mold spores can trigger or aggravate asthma, particularly, in children. The incidence of allergies and asthma has doubled in the last decade, which has been linked to the increase in airborne molds in modern “energy efficient” homes.
While it may be difficult to eliminate molds completely, reducing the concentration of molds in your home will have a positive effect on reducing the incidence of infection and allergic reactions your family experiences. Again, if you are unsure what kind of mold you are dealing with, get it inspected by a professional.