The process of identifying the location and causes of mold growth is of paramount importance. We urge you to make whatever corrective actions are necessary in your environment. Although this can be an expensive process, it’s well worth the price given the potential health consequences. Initially, and minimally, you should do some mold testing on your own.
Particular types of mold release mycotoxins, organic compounds that create toxic reactions in humans. Prolonged exposure to these toxins adversely affects nerve and brain cells. In some cases, such exposure can result in irreversible brain damage and cause problems with eyesight, memory, coordination, balance, and hearing. Mycotoxins are inhaled along with mold spores. Like fungi, molds reproduce by releasing spores into the air, and can therefore be inhaled as mold dust (dried mold).
Another source of irritation from mold exposure comes from substances known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). These compounds are produced through fungal metabolism and released directly into the air, often giving off strong or unpleasant odors. Exposure to mVOCs from molds can irritate the eyes and respiratory system and has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nasal irritation, and nausea. The effects of mVOCs are not completely understood and research is still in the early stages.
People are exposed to molds every day, usually by touching or breathing them. Because molds naturally exist outdoors and indoors, living in a totally mold-free environment is practically impossible. As molds grow, spores may be released into the air where they can be easily inhaled. People who inhale large numbers of spores may get sick. Possible health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to clean up molds in indoor environments. To help control your indoor air, mold and otherwise, get a high quality air filter.
How can you determine if you might have a mold problem in your home or office? Be on the alert for these signs:
- Buckling floorboards
- Crumbling walls
- Damp basements or crawl spaces
- Discolored areas on bathroom or kitchen tile, caulk, or grout
- Improperly installed siding
- Lack of ventilation (where indoor humidity can accumulate)
- Musty or earthy scents
- Roof or plumbing leaks (especially if undetected for a while)
- Sewer backups
- Unusual stains on walls or ceilings
If you suspect heating and cooling air ducts as sources of mold in your home, hire contractors to clean or replace them. Carpets are another potential substrate for molds, especially in homes built on cement slabs. The concrete “sweats” and moisture is absorbed into the carpeting, creating an ideal environment for molds. To properly install carpet over a concrete floor, the concrete should be covered with a plastic sheet, which is then covered with plywood sub-flooring for insulation. Even carpets made of synthetic fibers trap all kinds of organic material on which molds can feed. Never install carpet in areas that have high potential for water contact, such as kitchens or bathrooms