From time to time, I meet clients who are very concerned about mold. This is understandable given everything we’ve all heard and been told about “toxic” black mold and the many “dangerous” health issues mold can cause. While mold is certainly not good for anyone’s health, having mold in your home is generally not quite the cause for concern it’s often made out to be.
Mold spores are everywhere, but we don’t see them. They’re in the outdoor air, they enter our houses through windows, doors and crevices, they cling to clothing, pets, and other materials, and so on. Simply put, it’s not possible to breathe air or live in a home that is completely mold free.
Most people tend to become especially concerned when mold growth is visible. This occurs when mold spores attach to materials that have a high water content, which is often due to leaking, poor ventilation, condensation, flooding, and other similar water problems. Mold cannot grow without water, and most molds grow the easiest when humidity levels in the area are also high (60% or greater). For this reason, solving a mold problem begins at the source by identifying the cause of excess water/moisture and fixing the problem. Often times, simple solutions like running a dehumidifier can be helpful for decreasing moisture levels – especially when a major water problem doesn’t exist. Water damage has the potential to cause much more harm to a home than just mold – structural damage and a haven for pests, for example – and should always be dealt with immediately and properly.
The vast majority of mold spores are actually not very harmful to people. The most common symptoms associated with increased mold exposure mirror typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy eyes and caugh. For this reason, people with severe allergies, upper respiratory diseases like asthma or COPD, or compromised immune symptoms are more likely to experience some sort of unfavorable reaction to mold than people who are generally healthy.
But I know what you’re thinking… what about the infamous black mold, Stachybotrys chartarum? Contrary to popular belief, no molds are “toxic” themselves; however, some mold strains can produce what are called myctoxins, and these molds are referred to as “toxigenic.” Stachybotrys is relatively rare and thrives best in environments with high levels of cellulose and low levels of nitrogen. Despite this fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually recommends treating all molds the same and not taking any extra precautions when removing them. In addition, HUD recommends that all homes being purchased be tested for mold.
If you do have a more major mold problem, chances are you will see and/or smell it. And despite the fact that most molds are not as threatening as they’ve been made out to be, it is still a good idea to have any visible mold professionally analyzed and remediated (removed). At times, this process can be quite extensive and costly. Visible surface mold on wood, drywall and other building materials can be cleaned fairly simply, but other materials are not as easy to treat. Moldy carpet, for example, generally needs to be replaced, and mold behind walls can only be accessed by tearing down and replacing the wall covering. Depending on the extent of the mold problem, remediation can last anywhere from several hours to several days. Needless to say, it’s a job best left to the pros.
In summary, most types of molds are not life threatening or overly concerning for most people. Spores are everywhere and we would normally never know. If you have a noticeable mold problem, remember that treating the water problem is the first step and that getting rid of the mold is not a DIY job. Don’t panic, but don’t allow mold to take over your home either.
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