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Mold Health Risks

Molds are small organisms found almost everywhere, inside and outside, including on plants, foods and dry leaves. Molds are beneficial to the environment and are needed to break down dead material. Very tiny and lightweight, mold spores travel easily through the air. When molds are present in large numbers, they may cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.

Exposure to a large number of mold spores may cause allergic symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itching, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, headache, and fatigue. Repeated exposure to mold can increase a person’s sensitivity, causing more severe allergic reactions. These problems are worse indoors, where mold causes indoor air quality problems. Certain molds, such as Stachybotrys and Aspergillus, can produce toxins called mycotoxins under certain conditions. Exposure to mycotoxins can cause more serious illness.

Populations at Risk

People who live or work in buildings that are exposed to moisture and not adequately ventilated are more at risk of illnesses causes by mold. Populations at particular risk include: infants and children, elderly persons, immune compromised patients and people with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies and asthma.

What you should do

Check for Mold

Testing for molds is very difficult and expensive and cannot determine whether health effects will occur. Mold is normally found outdoors and counts fluctuate from day to day depending on the season. Due to the uncertainties associated with testing for molds, it is not recommended in most cases. If you can see or smell mold it needs to be cleaned up.

Sources of moisture in your home may include; flooding, damp basement or crawl space, leaky roof, leaky plumbing, humidifiers, poorly ventilated areas, and/or clothes dryer vented indoors.

Prevent Mold from Growing Back

  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas, such as the basement
  • Fix leaks in the roof, walls, windows, or pipes
  • Ventilate bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas
  • Vent clothes dryer to the outside
  • Use mold-resistant paint
  • Dry areas that are wet or have been flooded within 24 to 48 hours, throw out anything that cannot be completely dried

Remove Mold

If you can see or smell mold, it is present and must be cleaned up. You also need to fix the problem causing the mold to prevent it from growing again. It is important to make sure that sources of moisture are eliminated before mold is cleaned up. If this is not done, the mold will grow again. If an area of mold growth is larger than 10 square feet (3 feet x 3 feet), it is recommended that a contractor with experience in mold remediation clean up the area. If the area is less than 10 square feet, in most cases you can do the job yourself. (more)