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10 Things You Should Know About Mold

In recent years, mold has been talked about more frequently, particularly when it comes to finding it in homes. Popular DIY and home renovation shows often touch on the subject of mold, and most news outlets have run at least one article or report on mold and it’s effects. With so much attention being given to mold, we thought we’d share some fungus facts from a source you can trust!

 

  1. It’s Everywhere! What many mold specialists won’t tell you is that mold can be found almost everywhere, it’s perfectly normal. It’s only when the levels become excessive that mold typically becomes a problem. Mold can grow on almost any surface. It doesn’t need light, just the right temperature, moisture levels and something to grow on. It’s very tough stuff – surviving in the most challenging of locations.
  2. The health effects associated with mold?  From allergic reactions to asthma and other respiratory issues. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. For these people who are sensitive to molds, exposure can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, flu-like symptoms and/or skin irritation (source: CDC.GOV). Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
  3. Mold problems in homes are almost always caused by moisture issues. Removing mold contaminated materials like drywall and flooring treats the symptoms, but unless the cause of excessive moisture or humidity is also treated, mold is always going to return. Where there’s a moisture problem, a mold problem will almost always follow.
  4. The ideal humidity for your home? 40-50%. Controlling your home’s humidity and keeping it lower than 60% is the easiest way to prevent mold in otherwise healthy homes. Ventilation is the easiest way to do this, so make sure bathrooms have exhaust fans and dryers are properly vented to prevent moist air from circulating. In the kitchen, a range hood that vents outdoors is ideal for extracting humid air when cooking, cleaning or doing dishes.
  5. Mold loves damp carpets and upholstery! Fix any moisture problems before installing carpet, and don’t install carpet in any wet locations like bathrooms. Basements are also high-risk areas for mold, often because foundation drainage is inadequate, downspout extenders are not installed, or the grading around the foundation is not helping the property to dispel water fast enough. Vegetation and mulch around the foundation can also cause water to be held against the foundation – Mulch is also a great way to mask grading issues, so check the soil beneath it if you want to be sure your grading is adequate.
  6. Bleach does not kill mold! The internet is littered with recommendations for cleaning mold with bleach – even professionals who should know better! The fact is, common household bleach does not kill mold effectively. It may assist in removing evidence that a mold colony was once present, but it seldom kills the flora below the surface, especially in more porous materials like wood and unfinished drywall. Disturbing mold can also cause spores to be released which makes them airborne – meaning you can now breathe in these spores, and where the spores settle on surfaces, more mold colonies can form. Also, Sodium Hypochlorite (the active ingredient in common household bleach in concentrations of 5-7%) evaporates quickly, and does not sufficiently penetrate porous surfaces where mold can grow deep below the surface. We recommend a specialist biocide that can better penetrate porous materials to treat active mold as it ensures the sub-surface is treated too, but only after remedying the moisture problem that lead to the mold in the first place. Remember, where there’s mold, there’s moisture issues.
  7. Real professionals don’t use the term “toxic black mold”. Molds can indeed produce toxic substances known as Mycotoxins, but we hear the term “toxic black mold” far too often. Black Mold is usually used to describe a particular type of mold – Stachybotrys chartarum – but is all too often used to describe any mold before sampling and laboratory analysis has been performed. With many people being concerned by the presence of mold in their homes – especially given the increased media coverage it has received in recent years – “toxic black mold” has been the go-to alarmist phrase used for everything from getting people to tune into a broadcast, or to sell expensive remediation work before the mold has been sampled and lab tested.
    It’s an easy button to push when you think about it –  if a news anchor who naturally speaks with some authority on any subject says “Does your home have toxic black mold? tune in at 7PM to find out!”  most of us would be interested to hear more. It’s something that as a specialist company and expert in the field, we’re acutely aware of and often frustrated by, as the alarmist bait in the headline is seldom followed up with substantiated fact from educated sources.
    The fact is, with so many species of mold out there, it is inevitable that there are many that look and behave similarly. Some produce more mycotoxins than others, and some are more harmful than others. When we take a mold sample and have our laboratory analyze it, it’s usual to get many species of mold in the same sample, particularly with air samples. Making the assumption that any darker colored mold is Stachybotrys chartarum without testing should be avoided, and you should be suspicious of anyone who uses it when trying to sell you something.
  8. There are over 100,000 species of mold! New species of mold are being discovered all the time. To date, there are over 100,000 mold species known. Many of these molds, including some species found in homes, have yet to be researched, and some we know very little or even nothing about. Some are highly dangerous, others totally harmless. Mold and fungi are highly diverse cultures we have yet to fully understand and explore.
  9. Molds can be useful too! Many of us know the story of Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming, who hypothesized that mold had antibacterial properties and later went on to develop Penicillin in 1920’s. But did you also know that molds were used to remedy health issues centuries before this? In ancient times, many cultures such as the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians, as well as Ancient Indians used molds to treat infection. This worked because certain molds release antibiotic substances. In pre-medieval Russia, peasants used warm soil to treat infection, and similarly Polish peasants used dampened bread and spider webs (which trap spores). Source
  10. Even space gets moldy! As prolific as mold is down here on Earth, it’s not too surprising we’ve taken some of it to space – sometimes less intentionally than others. The team aboard the International Space Station made some very interesting discoveries when growing plants in space – inadvertently culturing mold on the leaves on plants they were growing when struggling to maintain humidity and moisture balance – unfortunately they didn’t call us on that occasion, it would have been one of the more unique occasions we’ve been called in!
    Mold from the ISS living environment has also be studied –  HEPA filters used in the air handling equipment were sampled and dozens of mold types were found. The MIR space station was also reputed to have mold growth problems in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Recently Teikyo University in Japan launched a satellite to study the effects of radiation and micro-gravity on a specific type of mold.

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