In recent times, people have become much more aware of exposure risks to elevated levels of mold in their homes, schools and work environments. High levels of mold indoors can lead to air quality issues and health concerns. Its presence indoors can also result in property damage and expensive repairs.
Getting mold treated right away is the best way to avoid health risks. Once you remove the mold from your home it’s very important to fix the moisture problem to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
Mold (fungi) is a natural, living substance that grows in every part of the world, and is especially harmful on food, vegetation, and building materials. While visible mold can present many dangers, hidden mold in our place of residence can not only cause serious health problems, but also damage the structure of our home over time. Where does this living matter hide? How can it be detected? And what does one do when it is discovered?
The Typical Effects of Mold inside the Home Two major problems usually occur when mold growth is not handled quickly and efficiently: the family’s health will suffer and the stability of the home’s building materials will be compromised.
Health risks associated with exposure to hidden mold include breathing problems, congestion, headache, severe or increased allergic reactions, skin disease, asthma, sinusitis, as well as infections of all sorts. Airborne mold spores are inhaled, thereby causing serious issues with an individual’s respiratory and immunity system. Those with a pre-existing condition such as asthma or allergies will find it difficult to sleep and their ailment will most likely be aggravated in a home with major mold issues. Exposing children or the elderly to mold for a certain period of time can cause them to eventually develop illnesses.
Mold breaks down the stability of building materials in your home. Experts advise that out-of-sight mold is especially destructive, since it has the opportunity to spread extensively before being detected. It will damage drywall, plaster, wood and insulation. Steel, glass and plastic components are less susceptible to damage; nevertheless, when mold is coupled with humidity your house structure is at risk.
Where does mold hide? You are likely to find fungi wherever there is a build-up of moisture and lack of air flow. Two areas in the home that commonly harbor mold are the kitchen and bathroom due to their high level of humidity. Basements and attics should also be inspected regularly for hidden mold.
Whenever a defective sump pump results in flooding or a plumbing leak occurs, mold usually establishes itself behind the drywall. The spaces between wood frames, and near windows and doors are ideal for mold growth. It can spread behind wallpaper as well as under flooring. It can grow in the back of closets or behind heavy furniture that is not often moved from its spot against the wall. If you can actually see mold creeping up the wall or in a damp corner, you can assume that it is growing out-of-sight as well.
How can hidden mold be detected? A keen sense of smell and diligent observance of health symptoms are key in determining whether the presence of mold exists in your house.
A consistent earthy, musty odor that cannot be traced to damp clothes or wet items is usually a sign of mold. If this odor only manifests itself when the heat or air conditioning is turned on, you may have mold growth in the HVAC system. In order to refine your search, pay attention to when and where the strange odor is most noticeable.
If members of your family are having trouble sleeping, constantly clearing their throats, or exhibiting cold and flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose, scratchy throat and/or labored breathing for an extended period of time, they could be reacting to the presence of mold. Pay attention to whether the symptoms are consistent or intensify when the person is at home. For instance, your child may experience a persistent cough or runny nose at home, but not at school. Or your spouse may suffer from a constant headache, which disappears when he/she leaves the house. These patterns are valid indicators of hidden mold.
What to do? If you suspect mold growth in your home, do not delay in contacting a professional mold inspection firm. These companies use state of the art technology to thoroughly inspect your house for the presence of hidden mold. Early detection often means less invasive circumstances and less expensive repairs.
Written by Gary Martin Gary Martin is a freelance writer specializing in health and allergy research for the Mold Removal Unit website.
1) The object to killing mold is to kill its “roots” (hyphal fragments). Mold remediation involves the need to penetrate and disinfect porous surfaces such as concrete, wood and other cellulose based building materials. Chlorine bleach should not be used in mold remediation as confirmed by OSHA’s Mold Remediation/ Clean up Methods guidelines. The use of bleach as a mold disinfectant is best left to kitchen and bathroom countertops, tubs and shower glass, etc. (non-porous surfaces)
(2) Chlorine Bleach does kill bacteria and viruses. Mold is a fungi, NOT bacteria and NOT a virus. Bleach is not effective in killing mold on porous surfaces. Bleach itself is 99% water and water of course is the main contributor to mold growth. Current situations using bleach to remediate mold regenerated mold at twice the CFU counts than were originally found before bleaching. Bleach is an old and outdated method used for cleaning up mold. It is the only product people have known for years. The spore strains now associated within indoor air quality issues are resistant to the methods our grandmothers employed to clean up mold.
(3) What potential mold ‘killing’ power chlorine bleach might have is diminished significantly as the bleach sits in warehouses, on grocery store shelves or inside your home or business. 50% loss in killing power happens in just the first 90 days inside an un-opened jug or container. Chlorine constantly escapes through the plastic walls of its containers.
(4) The ionic structure of bleach prevents the chlorine from penetrating into porous materials such as concrete, drywall and wood. It remains on the outside of the surface, whereas mold has roots growing deep inside the porous material. The 99% water that is in bleach does penetrate the porous surface and actually feeds the molds roots. This is why a few days to weeks later you will notice that the mold returns.
(5) Chlorine Bleach accelerates the deterioration of most materials and wears down the fibers of porous materials.
(6) Chlorine bleach is NOT registered with the EPA as a disinfectant to kill mold. You can verify this important fact for yourself when you are unable to find an EPA registration number for killing mold on the label of ANY brand of chlorine bleach. ALL proper Biocides used to kill mold have to be registered with the EPA, and all must contain a registration number on the container.
(7) Chlorine bleach off gases for a period of time. Chlorine off gassing can be harmful to humans and animals. It has been known to cause pulmonary embolisms in low resistant and susceptible people.
(8) Chlorine bleach will evaporate within a short amount of time. If the area is not dry when the bleach evaporates, or moisture is still in the contaminated area, you could re-start the contamination process immediately and to a much greater degree.
If Not Bleach, What Can I use?
If you have an area of mold on a porous surface, you have two options.
1) Completely remove and replace the affected area.
2) Remediate the mold by encapsulation. This is typically a two stage process in which the remediator will apply a proper EPA registered biocide spray (serum) to the affected area. The remediator will then apply a top coat sealant which will encapsulate the molds roots and prevent it from coming back.
Of course it is important to understand that it is never recommended to remediate mold until the issue that created it is resolved. Typically that involves locating the water source. Sometimes it can be caused from improper grading around your home, excessive vegetation around home, damaged gutters, downspouts discharging too close to the foundation walls, roof leaks etc. Once the moisture issue is remedied, then the process of mold remediation can take place.
Conclusion: Chlorine bleach, has been generally perceived to be an “accepted and answer-all” biocide to abate mold in the remediation processes for years. New studies have now proven that chlorine bleach is ineffective in killing mold. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), have both changed their prior recommendations and do NOT recommend the use of chlorine bleach as a routine practice in mold remediation.
With spring finally upon us, more and more potential home buyers are out and about looking for homes to call their own. Many homebuyers are drawn to looking at older homes (1900-1960) for a variety of reasons from their character to old school building practices. Unfortunately many home buyers are unaware of the environmental hazards that still exist in thousands of older homes. Even many current homeowners have no idea about some of the things in their home that are potentially hazardous to their health and well being.
The following are 4 major environmental hazards that we as home inspectors encounter in literally thousands of older homes on a regular basis.
Radon – Odorless, colorless radioactive gas. According to the EPA, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and kills approximately 21,000 people a year. High Radon levels are commonly found in all years of homes, but tend to be particularly high in older homes with basements or cellars.
Lead Based Paint – According to leadfreekids.org and cancer.org, more than one million children in the United States alone are affected by lead poisoning from lead based paint. Just a few particles of dust from lead based paint are enough to poison a child. Health effects range from headaches, stomach problems, anemia and brain damage. Lead based paint was widely used in homes until 1978 and is still very much present in thousands of older homes here in Indiana.
Asbestos – Classified as a carcinogen. Asbestos causes a wide range of health effects including lung cancer, Mesothelioma and Asbestosis. According to cancer.org there are 3,000 new cases of Mesothelioma confirmed every year in the United States. Asbestos was widely used in older homes from the 1800’s to the 1960’s. During home inspections, we stumble upon Asbestos regularly. Asbestos was commonly used as insulation on duct work and plumbing supply lines in basements and crawlspaces. Other areas we commonly find Asbestos at are exterior siding, 9×9 floor tiles (VAT) and even attic insulation (Vermiculite).
Mold – Although there are no federal guidelines or standards concerning mold, it is widely known for causing a wide range of health effects. According to the CDC, exposure to excessive mold spores can lead to respiratory illnesses, eye and skin irritation, rashes, fungal pneumonia, lung damage, aspergillosis and liver and kidney damage. Mold is by far the most common hazard we find during home inspections here in Indiana.
Although most state laws do not require home inspectors to mention the presence of these hazards, good home inspectors with strong work ethics and morals will alert their clients to their presence and should recommend further review and suggest that these items be tested for by a qualified professional in that particular field.