Have you ever wondered what causes mold? Or… Does it have any effect on my health? Here we answer some of the most common mold FAQ’s we’ve received over the years.
What Causes Mold?
In order to begin growing, mold requires three things: spores, moisture and an organic food. All fungi produce spores in order to reproduce, and since fungi (molds, yeasts) have been around for millions of years, there are always mold spores floating around in the air, indoor and outdoor, regardless of efforts to be rid of them. Mold spores can never be removed in their entirety from any area, and since they’re microscopic, they can travel anywhere with very little support from their environment. Like dust, mold spores are all around us. With this in mind, your best chance of prohibiting mold growth is through the control of moisture.
Where can Mold grow?
Fungi can grow on anything that’s living or was once living. When mold spores (microscopic “eggs”) find a source of moisture they absorb as much of it as they can, swell to many times their original size, and begin to sprout hyphae (root structures). The hyphae begin to dissolve organic based material around them to feed the spore in its growth into mold, and literally eat the surface it begins to grow on. Given enough moisture and time, mold can eat away at a house until it’s no longer structurally sound. Mold can grow in nearly any environment. Some molds can withstand extreme heat and cold, and though most molds grow best in humid climate, some molds, known as dry rot, can grow well in low humidity. Mold can even grow inside human beings and animals.
What can I do to prevent Mold?
A home free of mold growth and excess mold spores takes simple, basic maintenance. Areas like bathrooms, showers, kitchens, etc. where moisture accumulates need to be well ventilated and cleaned on a regular basis so that mold has no chance to begin growing. The entire house should have adequate ventilation so that air cannot become stagnate and humidity cannot condensate. Every house should have a dehumidifier, and in many cases, a full house dehumidifier should help to keep humidity down to a decent level in even some of the most humid places in the country. Roof leaks, water pipe leaks, sewage backups, etc. should be repaired, cleaned up and dried entirely within 24 hours before mold has a chance to begin growing.
Never paint, put up wall paper, install insulation, drywall or cover up mold problems in any way. Mold needs to be addressed by stopping the moisture source. The existing mold then needs to be treated completely with a fungicide until mold testing can be performed without finding viable mold or mold spores. Bleach should not be used to kill mold, as it cannot reach the roots of mold, and it’s not really an effective killer of surface mold. Click here to read the bleach myth.
Why test for Mold?
Mold testing is an important beginning and ending step to cleaning up mold. In many cases it’s important to know what type of mold one has just to know if it’s safe to remain living or working in the house or building. Some heavier mold infestations can be severe allergy problems for residents even if the mold’s growing inside are not toxigenic. Health wise, it’s always in one’s favor to know just what species of fungi they’re dealing with. This applies to pretty much everybody; one doesn’t have to live in an unhealthy environment!
When actually performing mold remediation (mold killing, cleaning, and prevention), mold testing takes on several other levels of importance. Swab tests can tell what type of mold one has, even let one know if mold spores have landed on certain surfaces where they haven’t started to grow yet; on the other hand, air testing can give one the facts about how many mold spores are contaminating the air, and what rooms or other areas are contaminated. Testing can allow one to understand the full scope of an infestation, and thus shed light upon the possible cost of a full scale remediation project, if it’s needed.
Mold testing is essential; there’s no point in cleaning one section of a building and stopping when mold spores may contaminate the air of another room. A moldy smell should suggest that physical mold growth is present somewhere in the building, and should thus be located in order to be killed and cleaned. Mold testing can help to locate the source of the moisture problem or the mold growth.
How do I test for Mold?
The simplest and most cost effective method for mold testing, which incidentally is one of the main methods used by all certified mold inspectors, involves a pretreated Petri dish, a vile of potato dextrose agar, and a sterile swab (EZ Mold Test Kit). This method is the best for home owners as well because they can take their own samples, thus the laboratory performing the analysis doesn’t have to take their own culture from the test in order to identify the mold. This greatly speeds up the process of an analysis. In cases where bacteria or other microorganisms have contaminated the sample a new culture may be helpful, but mold can still be identified separately from other microscopic particles and organisms.
Three ways to Test for Mold with the EZ Mold Test Kit:
The first and most obvious test would be a swab test. Pour the potato dextrose agar into the bottom piece of the Petri dish, then place the lid back on and sit the dish on a flat surface to dry for an hour. Once the agar has dried, take the dish to the area to be tested. Use the swab, roll or rub the tip of it over the moldy surface a few times. Microscopic spores will adhere to the tip. Gently roll the tip upon the hardened agar surface inside the dish. Apply to as many places in the dish as desired in order to get several cultures started. Then close the lid, tape it shut on the edges with scotch or electrical tape. Then sit the dish aside for 24-48 hours. Mold will start growing within a couple of days, and then it can be decided whether analysis by a lab would be necessary.
Pour the potato dextrose into the Petri dish and then replace the lid. Sit the dish aside on a flat surface to dry for an hour. Once itis dried, remove the lid and place the dish with the hardened agar on a flat surface in the room to be tested. Mold spores in the air will settle in the dish. Leave the dish there for an hour or two. After this, replace the lid and seal the lid to the bottom with scotch or electrical tape. Give the dish 24-48 hours to start growing something. If there really were excessive mold spores in the air, mold will definitely begin to grow within two to three days. If mold begins to grow, one might opt to send the dish to a lab for analysis.
Pour the potato dextrose agar into the Petri dish. Replace the lid and sit the dish on a flat surface to dry for an hour. Once the solution is hardened, take the dish to one of the vents in the building. Remove the lid and tape the dish to the grill, open side facing into the vent. Then turn the ventilation system on for ten to fifteen minutes. If mold or mold spores are in the ventilation system, they will collect in the dish. After fifteen minutes turn the system off and then replace the lid on the dish. Tape the top lid to the bottom with scotch or electrical tape and then sit it aside for 24-48 hours. If the system was contaminated, mold will begin to grow in the dish within a few days. At this point one may decide whether to send the dish to a lab for analysis.
Why is Mold such a big problem?
Mold is and has been a concern of some proportion for as long as people have been around to suffer from its allergenic and toxigenic effects. Mold is only one type of an estimated 100,000 different species of fungi across the planet. Fungal fossils have been discovered that are more than 300 million years old, so mold has been around for a long, long time. The Old Testament makes references to mold, and other works have documented human interaction with mold since the dawn of recorded history.
It’s theorized, due to obvious symbiotic relationships between fungi, protests and plant roots, that ancient forests could never have begun to grow if fungi did not exist. However impossible life might be without mold and other fungi, its existence still poses problems on a daily basis for millions of people worldwide. Mold digests nutrients before they absorb them in as chemicals, so mold literally eats the surfaces they grow on. Given enough moisture and enough time mold can eat away and utterly destroy any organic material, or products made from organic material: i.e. wood, paper, drywall, etc.
In the past homes were built larger, more spacious, better ventilated, and at greater distant from other structures. But with the recent overcrowding in many newer, fast growing cities, demand for housing has become greatly unbalanced with some of the better and safer construction protocol. A large portion of today’s homes are built extremely compact, poorly ventilated, and are squeezed into subdivisions side by side with no room between them for truly efficient drainage. In areas plagued with excessive rain or high humidity, this kind of construction could lead to literal mold breeding grounds.
This fact shouldn’t suggest that construction protocol is necessarily flawed, but the combination of all of these things inevitably leads in the general direction of mold growth. As long as the demand for housing continues to outweigh sensible building procedures, home buyers and owners need to have an understanding of moisture issues, indoor air quality, and mold infestation.
Lately the evidence of global warming seems universally solid. If temperatures do continue to climb, raising sea temperature and humidity about the country and the world, then mold issues are, without doubt, going to become an even larger problem. It isn’t just the possible heat and moisture we might worry about, but the advent of larger and more destructive hurricanes as sea temperatures rise, increases in rain and flooding, and the fact that any mold contamination is going to be exponentially harder to eliminate under these conditions.
What are the health effects of Mold?
All Molds Have the Potential to be:
Am I suffering from the effects of mold exposure?
All molds should be treated as potential threats to health because a large percentage of them are known to be allergenic and infectious. Black molds like Stachybotrys, Penicillium, Aspergillus and others have the ability to produce mycotoxins that can lead to a variety of serious health problems with death being the result in some cases. If you think you have a mold problem, there are high odds that you do have a mold problem.
Early symptoms of mold exposure include:
- Runny nose
- Chest congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry and itchy eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of will
- Cold or flu-like symptoms
- Chest pain
Mold’s Allergenic Potential
Symptoms of allergies to mold are coughing, wheezing, stuffy or runny nose, headaches, sore throat, fatigue, and dizziness, even reduction of the acuteness of the senses and lack of will. These symptoms will logically be more prominent in people who’re already allergic to mold, but new allergies can be developed after only one exposure, and long term exposure will only make these symptoms worse. Mold can grow upon dust, which can create Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS), and can cause severe cold or flu-like symptoms. Mold also produces things called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which create most of the damp, musty or moldy smells related to mold growth.
Mold’s Infective Potential
There are estimated to be more than a million species of fungi in the world and of them only a few thousand are commonly found in the living environments of human beings. Of that thousand or so many have been reported to have caused infections in humans, animals and plants. Certain genera, like Aspergillus for example, have many species known to cause infections, allergies and produce toxins that can make people sick. Aspergillosis is the main infectious disease caused by Aspergillus, but the disease can come in many forms, ranging from lesser, allergy style illnesses, to fatal diseases characterized by actual mold growth (called a fungal ball) in the lungs or other organs, where it produces toxins, eats away at the organ’s lining, and eventually leads to necrosis, and death if untreated. There are many types of aspergillosis, and they’re only the effects of one genera of mold. Invasive Aspergillosis can kill people with compromised immune systems. Other diseases caused by known pathogenic molds are: Blastomycosis, Candidiasis, Coccidioidomycosis, Cryptococcosis, Histoplasmosis, Paracoccidiomycosis, Sporotrichosis, and Zygomycosis. Like Aspergillosis, many of these diseases come in more than one form, and they can all infect nearly any part of the body.
Mold’s Potential Toxicity
There are many species of mold known to produce toxins, which, when ingested (the majority of cases have resulted from actual ingestion, but when mold spores are contaminating the air, it greatly raises the possibility of this) can lead to some potentially fatal diseases. The species of fungi known as Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) has for centuries now been known to cause a disease called ergotism, which can initiate gangrene in limbs, and even lead to death. Ergot commonly infects wheat and rye, and is in turn ingested by people who eat it. The mold, Stachybotrys Chartarum can produce toxins that reduce white blood cell count, cause hemorrhaging and even death! Other molds that can produce toxins are: Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium graminearum, Memnoniella, and some 200 or so others. Not all mycotoxins produced by molds are actually bad, but there are enough of them being produced these days inside homes for one to be concerned.
If you have any reason to believe you have a mold problem, whether it’s due to a moldy odor, signs of moisture problems, or you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, call our toll free number today and set up an appointment. You don’t have to live in a moldy environment.
What is the Ozone Myth?
Ozone is NOT an Option
Ozone occurs naturally in the stratosphere, and protects us from harmful UV rays, but down here at ground level it is destructive and dangerous, and though there are allowable concentrations of ozone (levels considered “safe”), ozone generators can easily exceed those concentrations depending upon surrounding conditions, room sizes or other chemicals present.
In spite of the claims that companies who sell ozone generators will make, they’re not trained mold remediators and there’s no getting around the fact that ozone just isn’t effective in killing mold unless used in very excessive concentrations, and even then there are too many inconsistencies in ozone’s abilities; its use is, in regards to most situations, counterproductive.
Ten reasons why NOT to use Ozone
- NO certified, professional mold remediators regard Ozone as effective, and NONE of them use it!
- The EPA regards ozone as ineffective for killing mold and mold spores at levels which do not exceed public health standards.
- Ozone’s reaction with other present compounds can actually INCREASE the levels of harmful organic pollutants in the air.
- Ozone does not actually remove harmful particles from the air, odor causing ones or otherwise: things like dust, pollen, mold spores, tobacco smoke, radon and carbon monoxide can NOT be eliminated!
- Even low levels of ozone can affect people negatively. It can cause coughing, chest pains, throat irritation, and congestion; its effects could be much, much worse on people with asthma, bronchitis or emphysema. Ozone can scar the lungs and reduce lung function.
- Ozone isn’t known to have any long lasting fungicidal properties.
- Ozone must touch mold to kill it, and there’s no proof it can penetrate into the deep and tiny roots of mold.
- Plastics, rubber, electrical wire coatings, fabrics and hundreds of other things can be destroyed by ozone. (You can see the effect on a rubber band that’s been left outside; turning stiff and dry, it becomes useless and easy to tear apart.)
- There’s no way of telling for sure just what byproducts could be produced when ozone reacts with other chemicals that could be in the air or compounds present in the room. Some of them can be just as or more harmful than ozone itself.
- Ozone is a dangerous pollutant, NOT a cleanser or purifier.
Ozone occurs in hot sunny weather, and sometimes you can smell it in the air after it rains. There’s bound to be some debate at whether the outdoor levels of ozone will heighten along with global warming, but it will definitely be more difficult to maintain “safe” levels of ozone from a generator depending upon atmospheric conditions in the area, and in any case, these calculations would take time.
Manufacturer instructions for ozone generators are not based upon the principles and standards set by the EPA, the IICRC, NAMP or any organization dedicated to the purifying of air or the killing of mold or mold spores. These organizations are the backbone of safe and productive practices in cleaning and restoring contaminated areas, and none of them endorse ozone as a mold killing agent.
What Is Mold Remediation Safety?
The first Principle of Mold Remediation according to the IICRC regards Safety and Health. The full range of effects that mold exposure can have on humanity is unknown, and isn’t something that can ever really be understood in its entirety. A person with allergies to mold can be far more…
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