By now, you have probably heard that mold can be a health hazard. This is especially true for infants, the elderly, and those suffering from chronic disease or autoimmune conditions.
Mold is common in nature. The average person is frequently exposed to a variety of mold spores. Outdoor mold spore concentrations are typically non-threatening. Indoor mold, on the other hand, can be hazardous.
According to the CDC, in 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a study. The study revealed sufficient evidence linking indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, including coughing and wheezing, in otherwise healthy people. The study also linked indoor mold exposure with respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children. Other recent studies suggest a potential link of early mold exposure to asthma in some children. For those already suffering from allergies, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or immune-mediated condition, mold exposure can have a debilitating impact.
What is Toxic or Black Mold?
Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on 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, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth.
There are thousands of identified mold species, and it is estimated that several hundred are yet to be identified. Certain mold species are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifical mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic or poisonous.
It is near impossible to identify mold species without scientific laboratory testing confidently. According to the CDC, “All molds should be treated the same concerning potential health risks and removal.”
Here is a link to a document offered by the World Health Organization. The document is very informative, highly technical, and does an excellent job of describing how indoor mold evolves.
How You Can Minimize Mold in Your Home
Keep humidity levels as low as you can—no higher than 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. Keep in mind; moisture concentrations change throughout the day, so be sure to assess humidity levels at various time intervals.
- Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
- Be sure the home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- Use mold inhibitors which can be added to paints.
- Clean bathroom with mold-killing products.
- Do not carpet bathrooms.
- Remove and replace the flooded carpet.
Attic Mold – What you should look for
Attic mold is a common problem here in the Midwest. Many Chicago and Suburban homes have had attic mold issues. Some of the first signs of attic mold include a mildew odor or black staining of your roof sheathing. (see photo)
Common Causes of Attic Mold
- Dryer Exhausting into Attic Space (rather than outdoors)
- Bathroom Exhaust Fan exhausting into Attic Space (rather than outdoors)
- Insufficient attic insulation (explained in the WHO document – linked above)
- Insufficient attic ventilation (explained in the WHO document – linked above)
- Moisture, Moisture, Moisture…
Discovering mold in your home can be scary. And, of course, you will want to eliminate the threat quickly. There are several DIY mold removal methods out there, but more often than not, they are temporary at best. The safest way to protect your family and keep your home healthy is by contacting a certified mold professional. We work with the best in the business. Working together, we help you address the causes of mold and provide several ways to minimize mold in the future.
Mold & Real Estate Transactions
Keep in mind that most home inspectors will identify existing mold and report it to prospective buyers if you are selling your home. Getting ahead of any mold problem before this stage can make or break a sale.