- What is mold? Molds are forms of fungi found all year round both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors, molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. Another common term for mold is mildew. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions, although it can grow during cold weather. There are thousands of species of mold and they can be any color. Many times, mold can be detected by a musty odor. Most fungi, including molds, produce microscopic cells call “spores” that spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) with the right conditions. All of us are exposed to fungal spores daily in the air we breathe.
- How does mold get into a house or building? Most, if not all, of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. It needs moisture to grow and becomes a problem only where there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. Common sources of indoor moisture that cause mold problems include flooding, roof and plumbing leaks, damp basements or crawl spaces, or any moisture condensation on cold surfaces. Bathroom showers and steam from cooking may also create problems if not well ventilated.
- 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 (vented to the outdoors) to remove moisture where it accumulates, particularly in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas. Clothes dryers should be vented to the outside. Repair water leaks promptly, and either dry out and clean or replace water-damaged materials. Materials that stay wet for more than 48 hours are likely to produce mold growth. Lowering humidity indoors helps prevent condensation problems. To lower humidity during humid weather, use air conditions and dehumidifiers. Proper exterior wall insulation helps prevent condensation from forming inside during cold weather.
- Can mold be toxic? The news media often refer to “black mold” or “toxic black mold.” It is usually associated with Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of greenish-black mold commonly associated with heavy water damage. Not all molds that appear to be black are Stachybotrys. The known health effects from exposure to Stachybotrys are similar to other common molds, but have been inconclusively associated with more serve health effects in some people.
- Why are we concerned about mold? Small amounts of mold growth in workplaces or homes (such as mildew on a shower curtain) are not a major concern. But no mold should be allowed to grow and multiply indoors. Large quantities of mold growth may cause nuisance odors and health problems for some people. In addition, mold can damage building materials, finishes, and furnishings and, in some cases, cause structural damage to wood.
- How do molds affect people?Most people have no reaction when exposed to molds. Allergic reactions, similar to common pollen or animal allergies, and irritation are the most common health effects for individuals sensitive to molds. Flu-like symptoms and skin rash may occur. Molds may also aggravate asthma. In rare cases, fungal infections from building-associated molds may occur in people with serious immune disease. Most symptoms are temporary and eliminated by correcting the mold problem.
- Who is affected by exposure to mold? There is a wide variability in how people are affected by mold exposure. People who may be affected more severely and quickly than others include:
- Elderly people
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with respiratory conditions or allergies and asthma
- People with weakened immune systems (for example, chemotherapy patients, organ or bone marrow transplant recipients, and people with HIV infections or autoimmune diseases)
- Those with special health concerns should consult their doctor if there are concerns about mold exposure. Symptoms that may seem to occur from mold exposure may 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 important step is to identify and fix the moisture sources causing mold growth. This question can also be one of the toughest to answer. The answer may be short and simple or it may be much more involved and costly. There are so many issues to consider: how much is present; who lives or works in the home or building; what potential health variables exist; etc.; etc.; etc. Remember there are right ways and wrong ways to solve your problems. Our goal is to help you research what will work for you by sharing information and options. MAXIM recommends you contact us to personally discuss your particular situation, questions and concerns. Also, see limited discussion about Removing Mold Personally
- Should I test my home for mold? Looking for evidence of water damage and visible mold growth should be your first step. Testing for mold has the potential to be expensive, and you should have a clear reason for doing so. It may or may not be necessary. If visible mold is present, then it should be removed/remediated, regardless of what species of spores are present and whether samples are taken. If testing is warranted it is very important that a correctly educated professional perform the testing but also be capable of interpreting the results of the testing. MAXIM recommends enlisting the professional services and expertise of a Certified Environmental Hygienist (CEH) A CEH is a highly trained professional capable of conducting a thorough assessment of your home or building including, but not necessarily limited to, identifying moisture sources that may have contributed to mold growth, impacted areas both visible and hidden, scope of work required for complete removal of mold, work practices needed and required, pre-removal testing required if needed, etc. Generally this information will be presented in a Mold Remediation Action Plan. Part of the plan may require drying of affected areas in addition to mold removal/remediation.
- Who do I call to remove/remediate the mold? A certified professional, such as MAXIM, may then be hired to review the Action Plan. This contractor should be trained, certified and experienced in mold removal/remediation. They should also meet and adhere to all city, state, professional certifications and insurance requirements. Request written proof that they not only hold General Liability Insurance but also Pollution Insurance specific to remediating mold. It is prudent that the professional contractor provide you with a detailed proposal outlining not only costs but also the scope of services you should expect which matches the Action Plan directives.
- What should happen once the mold removal/remediation has been completed? A post-remediation assessment by the independent CEH is recommended by MAXIM for your assurance that the recommendations of the DEH have been followed entirely and that no further removal/remediation is required or recommended. The post-assessment may include, but not be limited to, visual and or sample testing.
Got mold? MAXIM Cleaning & Restoration offers professional mold remediation services to homes, businesses, and properties throughout the Omaha area.
MAXIM wishes to thank the AIHA (American Industrial Hygiene Association) for providing much of the information above. The guidance offered is practical information and does not claim to be a definitive or comprehensive position statement. Because it is not comprehensive, it should always be used in conjunction with other existing guidance documents, as well as professional judgment.