Frequently Asked Questions
Allergen and Mold Inspections
- What is mold, and should I be scared?
- Why is mold growing in my home/building?
- How can I prevent Mold growth?
- Can Mold be toxic?
- What is Black Mold?
- Why are we concerned about Mold?
- How do Molds affect people?
- Who is affected by exposure to Mold?
- What should I do if I see or smell Mold in my house/building?
- Should I test my building/house for Mold?
- Who do I call to deal with extensive Mold growth in a building?
- Can I remediate the problem myself?
Ultraviolet Air Purification
What is ultraviolet light?
Indoor Dust Testing
- What triggers allergic reactions?
- How do I control dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold?
- Can my doctor use this information to help with my allergies?
What is Mold, and should I be scared?
Most likely, everyone has experienced indoor mold in our world, from bread and cheese mold to mold growing in that forgotten jar at the rear of our refrigerator. It is a common occurrence and not something to become overly alarmed about. What we need instead of fear is caution; living in the knowledge that molds can be dangerous in the right concentration and combination. We all know of the Ballard House in Texas and the Ed McMahon stories where the houses made the inhabitants sick. Michael Jordan currently has a suit in progress for mold in his Illinois mansion. With a bit of knowledge, we can protect ourselves and be ever cautious of moisture on nutrient sources, i.e., almost any material in the modern building (wood, metal, fuel, concrete, drywall, carpet, anything carbon-based).
Why is Mold growing in my home/building?
It is important to stress that mold spores are everywhere, on all surfaces. When the factors are right, they will grow and form colonies. Add moisture and nutrients and mold will increase. Different types of mold will grow in a variety of conditions. Most likely, there is a moisture source in your building that needs to be remedied. Sometimes the building structure was wet during construction. Moisture intrusion (from swamp coolers) may push the building envelope over the 60% mark. Mold spores will grow and propagate (multiply) on a variety of surfaces when moisture requirements are met. Common sources of indoor moisture that can cause mold problems include flooding, roof and plumbing leaks, damp basement or crawl spaces, or anywhere moist air condenses on cold surfaces.
How can I prevent Mold growth?
Controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth. Keeping susceptible areas in the home clean and dry is very important. Ventilate or use exhaust fans (to the outdoors) to remove moisture where it accumulates: bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas. Be sure the clothes dryer vents to outside the house. Repair water leaks promptly, and either dry out and clean or replace any water-damaged materials. Materials that stay wet for longer than 48 hours are likely to produce mold growth. Lowering the humidity in the home also helps prevent condensation problems. To reduce humidity during humid weather, air conditioners and dehumidifiers may be used. Proper exterior wall insulation helps prevent condensation inside the home during cold weather that could cause mold growth.
Can Mold be toxic?
Some molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. Airborne mycotoxins have been shown to cause health problems to some occupants in residential or commercial buildings. The health effects of breathing mycotoxins are not well understood and are currently under study.
High or chronic airborne exposures, typically associated with particular occupations like agricultural work, have been associated with illnesses, although these are rare. More is known about eating mycotoxins (from humans and animals consuming moldy foods or feed) and the resulting health effects that are known about breathing mycotoxins.
What is “Black Mold”?
The news media often refer to “black mold” or “toxic black mold.” It has usually been associated with the mold Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of greenish-black mold commonly associated with substantial water damage. It has been associated with more severe health effects in some people. While there are only a few molds that are truly black, many can appear black. Not all molds that appear to be black is Stachybotrys. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), this mold is responsible for over “100 cases of lung disorders”.
Why are we concerned about Mold?
Small amounts of mold growth in workplaces or homes (such as mildew on a shower curtain) or workplaces are not a significant concern, but no mold should be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When molds are present in large quantities, they may cause nuisance odors and health problems for some people. It will be essential to identify the type of mold. Mold can damage building materials, finishes, and home furnishings. Some molds can cause structural damage to wood.
How does Mold affect people?
Most people will not react at all when exposed to molds. Allergic reactions, similar to common pollen or animal allergies, are the most common health effects for individuals sensitive to molds. Flu-like symptoms and skin rash may occur. Molds may also aggravate asthma. Fungal infections from building-associated molds may occur in people with serious immune disease, but this is very rare. Most symptoms are temporary and eliminated by correcting the mold problem in the home.
Who is affected by exposure to mold?
Small amounts of concentrated indoor molds and mildew are easily eliminated once you discover them. Use a cleaning solution containing 10% bleach 90% water, and a small amount of detergent is effective for NON-POROUS surfaces only. Pure white vinegar has also been shown to be effective on most but not all mold species. Porous services which have mold should generally be discarded as long as they are not structural. If mold or mildew is visible in small amounts on the carpet, sheetrock, wood molding or wallpaper, remove them from the house. Strive to keep all sections of the house below 55% relative humidity.
- Infants and children
- Elderly people
- Individuals with respiratory conditions or allergies and asthma
- Persons with weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, or organ or bone marrow transplant recipients, autoimmune diseases.)
Those with particular health concerns should consult their doctor if they are concerned about mold exposure. The symptoms that may seem to occur from mold exposure can also be due to other causes such as bacterial or viral infections, or other allergies.
What should I do if I see or smell mold in my home?
The most crucial step in solving a mold problem is to identify and fix the moisture sources that caused the mold growth. For small mold problems, use bleach and water to wash mold off hard surfaces and dry thoroughly. There are many specific products available to remediate small localized mold growth. Porous or absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles, wallboard, and carpeting) that become moldy should be replaced. If you do not see mold growth, but notice a musty odor, mold may be growing behind water-damaged materials, such as walls, carpeting or wallpaper. Persons cleaning mold should wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask or respirator to protect against breathing airborne spores (an N95 dust mask or respirator may be purchased in hardware stores). If you have health concerns, you should consult your doctor before doing any mold cleanup.
Should I test my home for mold?
Your first step should be to inspect your home for any evidence of water damage, abnormal odors, musty conditions, and any visible mold growth if anyone in the home has a compromised immune system or experiencing any respiratory illnesses then yes. It would be prudent to identify the mold and compare the levels in the home to a base level of the outside air. If you know you have a mold problem, it is vital to spend the time and resources to get rid of the mold and solve the moisture problem causing the moldy conditions.
Who do I call to deal with extensive mold growth in a building?
A professional experienced in mold cleanup may need to be hired to address extensive mold growth in a building. It is important to correct large mold problems as soon as possible by first fixing the source of the moisture problem, then cleaning the surfaces, and finally by drying the area completely. If you use outside contractors or professionals, make sure they have experience cleaning up mold, check their references, and have them follow the recommendations and guidelines as outlined by the IESO (Indoor Environmental Standards Organization).
Can I remediate the mold myself?
Spores from dried mold are hazardous and should be cleaned with caution. You should never scrape or scratch at dried mold as the spores would then be released into the air and pose an inhalation risk. A respiratory mask and eye protection are necessary, and adequate clothing to prevent skin contact is recommended.
If the problem is more internal such as on insulation or throughout a carpet, the only solution is to remove and replace the items. An infected area of over 2 feet is considered a “heavily infested” area and professional help should be consulted. Mold problems resulting from flooding should also be managed professionally to avoid possible health risks.
What is ultraviolet light?
Light has a wide bandwidth, from ultraviolet at the lower end to infrared at the upper end. Neither end is visible to the human eye. Near the middle is the visible light spectrum, what we see. Ultraviolet light is broken into different bandwidths: UVA (315 to 400 nanometers), also known as black light, is used for safe skin tanning and to treat certain skin disorders. UVB (290 to 315nm) is that part of sunlight that leads to sunburn and skin cancer. Most of solar UVB is absorbed by the stratospheric ozone layer. UVC (220-290nm) includes germicidal UV and can be used for air, surface, and water disinfection. Overexposure causes skin redness and eye irritation, but does not cause skin cancer or cataracts. UVV (187nm) is naturally occurring (from lightning you get that fresh smell after a thunderstorm) but doesn’t usually penetrate the upper atmosphere.
What triggers allergic reactions?
Allergies are triggered by substances called allergens. Each year, millions of people suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms such as nose and sinus congestion, itchy, watery eyes, and runny nose. However, many also suffer from perennial allergies, which result in symptoms throughout the year. Perennial allergies are triggered by indoor allergens, including house dust mite droppings, animal dander, cockroach droppings and indoor molds.
How do I control dust mites, animal dander, cockroach droppings and indoor mold?
Indoor dust is composed of small particles of plant and animal material. While this mix is not appealing to us, dust mites thrive in it. They especially thrive in high humidity and in areas where human dander (dead skin flakes) is located, in homes and offices. Bedrooms are especially high mite areas and problematic for allergy sufferers. Weekly vacuuming with a HEPA filter will help.
Contrary to popular belief, people are not allergic to an animal’s hair, but rather, to a protein found in the saliva, dead skin flakes or urine of an animal with fur. A dog or cat produces a certain amount of allergen per week, and this amount can vary from animal to animal. All breeds are capable of triggering symptoms – there are no ‘hypoallergenic’ breeds of cats or dogs. While it may be a painful decision, some family members may have to exclude certain pets.
Cockroaches have been around 300 million years, a very successful species. Besides being disgusting, a protein in their droppings is a primary trigger of asthma symptoms. Block areas where cockroaches could enter the building, including crevices, wall cracks, windows, woodwork or floor gaps, cellar and outside doors and drains. Roaches feel less welcome in a clean, dry house. To keep them from returning, keep food in tight-lidded containers, and put pet food dishes away after they are done eating. Wash dishes immediately and wipe off the stove and countertop where loose crumbs accumulate.
Small amounts of concentrated indoor molds and mildew are easily eliminated once you discover them. Use a cleaning solution containing 10% bleach 90% Water and a small amount of detergent. If mold or mildew is visible in small amounts on carpet or wallpaper, remove them from the house. Strive to keep all sections of the house below 55% relative humidity.
Making changes to your indoor environment can take some time. To begin, you may want to write down a priority list. Progressive changes will produce an indoor environment that is less allergenic, easier to clean, and healthier for the whole family.
Can my Doctor use this information to help with my allergies?
Most likely… In many cases, any information is useful in eliminating allergies. A positive answer is just that, it pinpoints the problem. A negative answer is also instructive as it serves to eliminate that particular allergen as a potential problem. Your Allergist will have a different battery of tests which will provoke an allergic reaction. If it is within your home or work environment, chances are fairly good that it can be identified.