On the Lookout for Mold

By: Danielle Banks
By: Danielle Banks

Recent snow and rain have increased ground moisture throughout the valley, leaving your basement with a not so welcome intruder.

If you've had water damage to any part of your house, your family could be at risk for mold spore inhalation. Mold is usually present in most homes, but it doesn't always cause trouble. But lots of moisture like we've seen lately can increase mold in your basement.

Mold is a common allergy among adults and children. It can cause symptoms like watery eyes, congestion, and chest tightness.

"Mold has gotten an undeserved reputation as being this deadly home invader that you won't be able to see. Most people are going to be able to see the mold that's causing them trouble,” said allergist Steven Pence, who has helped Valley residents with their allergies for years.

Pence said if you have mold as a result of water damage, you need to clear it out as quickly as possible.

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Causes of Mold Growth

  • Mold is a musty-smelling fungi that feeds on organic materials and thrives in moist conditions.

  • Outside air has so many mold spores in it that it is impossible to keep them from entering and growing in your home if you have high levels of humidity.

  • Even short periods of high humidity or condensation can cause mold to grow and release spores with harmful toxins.

  • Molds primarily thrive in environments with a relative humidity level above 70 percent and temperatures between 50 degrees and 90 degrees F.

  • They also tend to be more robust in poorly ventilated areas with little air movement to disrupt their growth.

  • Mold colonies emit spores and mycotoxins--a type of toxin. As molds grow, they also emit metabolic gases that contain airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

  • Mold spores are carried through your house by air currents. Consequently, the spores land on other objects inside your home.

  • If humidity levels are high enough, they begin to grow, starting the cycle all over again.

  • It is when the spores come in contact with your family that the mycotoxins can sometimes cause serious health consequences. The gases containing VOC emissions can also pose health risks for your family.

Types of Indoor Molds

  • Penicillium:
    • This mold has a dense, brush-like appearance with many different branches.

    • Penicillium tends to emerge at sub-basement levels and rooms.

    • It can grow in fairly dry conditions, categorizing it as a xerophilic type of fungi.

    • In addition to the toxins held by the mold spores, the actual penicillium growths also contain toxins.

    • These growths can be found almost anywhere, increasing the threat of this mold in your home.

  • Aspergillus:
    • This mold can be seen in several different colors, depending on the species.

    • Aspergillus can withstand conditions of low moisture and therefore can be categorized as a
      xerophilic fungi.

    • It can be a very toxic mold due to the carcinogens they produce, called Aflatoxins.

    • These toxins can be especially toxic to the liver, brain, kidneys, and heart.

  • Stachybotrys:
    • This mold has a ‘slimy’ head and is greenish-black in color.

    • Stachybotrys can grow on completely saturated surfaces due to its low nitrogen requirements.

    • It has a high moisture requirement and a broad temperature range.

    • This high moisture requirement categorizes it as a hydrophilic type of fungi.

    • Recently, this mold has been linked to cases of infant respiratory bleeding and several infant deaths in the Cleveland area and across the United States.

Protect Yourself From Mold

  • Monitor the Indoor Air Temperature in Your Home.
    • Monitoring the indoor air temperature is a good way to inhibit mold growth, although it will not completely eliminate it.
    • By keeping air temperatures around 68 degrees F you can help to inhibit mold growth in your home.

  • Keep Your Home Well Ventilated with Adequate Circulation.
    • Keeping your home well-ventilated will also inhibit mold growth, but won’t eliminate it.
    • Indoor areas should always be well ventilated and space for circulation should be allowed behind furniture and storage units.
    • Most homes require approximately 0.2 to 0.3 air changes per hour.

  • Monitor the Relative Humidity Levels in Your Home.
    • Keeping the relative humidity levels low is the only way to actually eliminate mold growth in your home.
    • For this reason, it is the most important rule for you to follow in order to keep your home safe from mold growths.
    • Mold growth can be reduced or eliminated by maintaining relative humidity levels below 50 percent.
    • In order to keep the relative humidity in your home within this range, a high quality dehumidifier which will constantly monitor the relative humidity, drying the air only when necessary, should be used.

Source: Web Reports

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