Mold is a natural part of the worldwide environment and is necessary for life on earth. Most mold is not a problem… unless it begins growing and spreading inside a home or building. Indoor mold growth is never desirable and can be prevented with the right precautions.
Let’s take a look at mold and some of the most important things to know about it.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that grows in multicellular filaments. There are thousands of different types of mold, most of which can be identified by surface discoloration and a ‘fuzzy’ appearance.
Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce. Mold spores travel through the air and may start growing wherever they land on a suitable nutrient source. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive.
Molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and other common surfaces. A very common nutrient source for mold is dust and cast skin. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold in an indoor environment.
While you can’t eliminate mold completely, undesired growths can be controlled and prevented in many areas. The way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
What Should I Know About Mold?
The key to mold control is moisture control. Cleaning up spills and other liquid leaks can help stop mold before it can grow. Any mold discovered indoors should be cleaned up immediately, followed by promptly fixing any water or leak problems. Drying water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth is the best practice.
The EPA has a list of 10 important things everyone should know about mold:
Ten Things You Should Know About Mold
- Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
- There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
- If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
- Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
- Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and dehumidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
- Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
- Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, will need to be replaced.
- Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
- In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
- Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.
How to Tell if You Have a Mold Problem
Molds are usually not a problem indoors unless the spores land on a wet or damp spot and start to grow. This is why it is important to clean up leaks and spills as soon as possible–especially on absorbent materials like rugs and carpeting.
Even though mold is a natural part of the worldwide environment, indoor mold growths should be avoided. Mold reproduces by spreading microscopic spores that float through the air. Mold may begin growing indoors when spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, none of which can grow without water or moisture. However, the amount of moisture necessary for mold to grow varies greatly; even high humidity or poor ventilation will allow certain molds to sporulate.
An indoor mold problem can be identified by visible mold. Although mold will always be present in the air, it is unable to grow without a steady supply of moisture. It is important to realize that although visible mold may be dormant (moisture is removed), the mold is still a potent allergen. Indeed, if you see visible mold on a surface, you cannot tell whether it is viable or non-viable (dead).
If you notice any patches of indoor mold, you may have a problem. Mold may start growing in hard-to-reach places with the visible mold only being the tip of the iceberg. If you notice mold growing anywhere indoors at your home or property, it might be time to call in an expert.
Mold in Large Buildings & Properties
Larger buildings have more space for mold to grow, especially in low-traffic areas like maintenance rooms or basements where people may not notice mold growth early on. Larger buildings need to be on top of cleaning and prevention to stop mold from spreading and potentially causing health issues to anyone inside.
HVAC & ductwork, water & gas pipes, and other distribution systems need to be regularly inspected for mold. Mold can move very quickly through ducts and certain pathways, so making sure your systems are mold-free is very important.
If you are unsure of what you need to be aware of when it comes to commercial or large building mold detection, prevention, or remediation, you need to talk to an expert. Stopping mold before it starts growing indoors is the only way to ensure the people inside your building stay healthy and free of mold-related ailments.
Can Mold Cause Health Problems?
Mold has the potential to cause health problems. Mold produces several allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Allergic responses to mold are common and may include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions can be immediate or delayed.
Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Hidden mold in a room or space may not affect 90% or more of the people in the space; not all molds affect individuals the same way.
Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. You may also wish to consult your state or local health department regarding the potential dangers of mold and steps you should take to prevent it from growing inside.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with mold prevention, remediation, or removal, check the resources below:
- Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Members
- IECA Common Questions & Answers
- Illinois Environmental Organizations & Related Agencies
EPA Mold & Removal Documentation