A Guide to Identifying Harmful Mold in Your Home

A Guide to Identifying Harmful Mold in Your Home

Mold comes in thousands of varieties around the world. Many species can live on your property because the spores and mycelium of fungi are found almost everywhere, including indoors. Molds invade damp places such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and other unheated or poorly-ventilated areas. Molds can also grow in attics, crawl spaces, or unfinished areas of a house. The appearance of mold may be an indication that there is a problem with your home’s ventilation system. It might also indicate high levels of humidity and moisture, which could lead to significant water damage to walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and other property inside your home.

What Causes Harmful Mold in the Home?

The key to controlling indoor mold growth is preventing water problems that feed the fungus. Mold begins to grow after the spores land on a wet or damp surface. Molds will not spread to all areas of your home; mold growth depends on the humidity in your house. As a result, you may find some types of mold in certain rooms, while other rooms are mold-free.

How Does Mold Thrive and Grow?

Dampness is needed for mold to thrive and grow: Mold thrives where there is high moisture and humidity such as water damage with flooding or leaking pipes, condensation from steamy showers, small leaks in plumbing systems that often go unnoticed until it’s too late, excessive indoor humidifiers or air conditioning units, unvented gas stoves with humidifiers attached, etc. (You may want to have a plumber check your furnace and any other gas appliances for leaks. They may be contributing to the humidity problem that is creating toxic mold inside your home.)

Use Proper Ventilation in the Home

Recent research from the EPA indicates that even well-ventilated homes with sufficient indoor air circulation may have high levels of indoor mycotoxins (toxic mold spores). This could be a result of outdoor airborne spore contamination; or, it could also indicate inadequate filtering by the central AC/heating system in those homes. Proper ventilation can’t block all mycotoxins: Ventilation fans rely on suction to remove unwanted particles from within a building, but they cannot filter out smaller particulate matter (1 micron or less) due to their size. A HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum can trap these airborne particles. It is essential that you use a HEPA air purifier or filtered vacuum for cleaning since non-HEPA vacuums will spread the spores from the mold all over your home and risk recontamination.

Get to the Source of the Water and Moisture

To prevent mold growth from recurring in the same areas, you must identify and fix water problems or moisture sources. For example: If cigarette smoking damages the finish on wood furnishings, it’s important to repaint or refinish them to prevent dampness and mold from forming behind the sofa cushions (the typical area where hidden mold forms). Also, consider having a carpet professional repair buckled areas of your carpeting; this will reduce any future dampness or rainwater seepage beneath your carpet.

Remove All Contaminated Materials

You may want to have a professional inspection to find out if your building materials have been affected by mold growth. In the meantime, you should remove or cover any items that are moldy or contaminated with mycotoxins (mold can easily spread from one object to another). Wear protective clothing and gear when removing moldy objects in order to prevent breathing mold spores. Wear a respirator mask for respiratory protection! If there is peeling paint anywhere in walls, ceilings, woodwork, etc., it will need to be removed and disposed of properly. It’s not enough just to paint over existing paint; painting doesn’t protect against future moisture damage that could create further mold growth. 

Preventing mold is the best way to prevent health problems. If you suspect that mold is growing in your home, consult an indoor air quality professional who can test the levels of fungi and other microbes in your home. If dangerous levels are found, you should replace the contaminated materials or repair them (depending on severity).

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