Abundance of Mold Varieties
There are over a million different species of mold. Mold is a fungus that becomes visible when organic matter decays, especially when humidity exceeds seventy percent. Lower humidity and lower temperature inhibits mold growth. A growth medium, e.g., drywall, building materials, various organics, natural fibers, leather, etc., may be found throughout our environment. Most of the time mold is innocuous, but it can become a hazard when spore particles become suspended in the air or attached to skin or ingested with food.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys Chartarum are the most common molds found indoors. A home that is unclean and moist is an invitation to these molds. Leaking pipes, failing roofing, basements with water penetration issues, plumbing leakage, etc. encourage development of visible mold. High humidity and poor ventilation permit rapid spread of mold. Carpeting that absorbs, concentrates, and retains water will develop mold.
Effects of Mold on People
Allergies and symptoms of mold contamination are considered part of the “toxic mold syndrome.” Molds have been associated with asthma and rhinitis, but they appear to cause pneumonitis in hypersensitive individuals, and are known to be associated with both primary and secondary illnesses in immunocompromised individuals. Irritants from mold metabolites may contribute to systemic problems associated with environmental contamination. A recent study of 65 subjects found an incidence of rhinitis in two thirds of them, cough in one half, headache in one third, breathing problems in a third, CNS symptoms in a quarter of them, and fatigue in another quarter. Investigators found subject nasal passages were pale, pharynges were “cobblestoned,” and noses were runny. Half of the patients had skin responses to the molds. Study authors concluded that most responses were allergic in nature as opposed to being a toxic response to mold.
Controlling the Problem
Since spores from mold permeate our environment, prevention begins with management of surfaces and mold “food sources.” Surfaces with grease or soil on them need to be cleaned. Floors and walls may be covered with sufficient organic material to encourage those mold spores to grow. Appropriate carpet cleaning can be an effective component to an in-depth cleaning plan to minimize mold growth. Effective grease cleaners must be applied with rubber gloves and nose/mouth and eye protection and rinsed appropriately.
The air quality of the environment will be affected by “old” moisture within the house and by “new” moisture penetrating the house. Generally, the home should be ventilated and dehumidified. Textiles need to be washed, dried, and stored where mildew growth is under control. Air filters and cleaners should employ filters fine enough to remove mold spores. Humidity in humid areas, e.g., bath, shower, basement, kitchen, etc. should be reduced. Air flow should be enhanced for ventilation of high humidity areas or where mold has been identified in the past. Condensation is an indication that humidity is building. Water penetrating living spaces through cracks in basement or foundation require caulking and landscaping to drain rain run-off away from a building. Window wells may need covering. More intensive control will be required when buildings are flooded.
Review of the Facts
Water is the key. Remove it or minimize the background humidity. Keep it dry. Allergies are often tied to mold. If your allergies are triggered by a certain area of your home, check out that area for moisture or any medium that may be supporting mold. Eliminate it or move it to the outside, e.g., houseplants that seem to have mold. Use your nose. That musty smell suggests that mold may be growing close by. Find it, get rid of the supporting medium, ventilate the area, and get it dry. Because mold can be airborne, use those rubber gloves and eye protection. Cover your airway with a mask capable of keeping those spores out of your respiratory tract.
Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance.