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Mold in a Residence

An Inside Look at Mold Issues in Homes

Fungi include yeast, mold, mildew and mushrooms. Fungi grow over a wide range of environmental niches and are able to colonize on any surface, provided moisture is present. Spores are very lightweight and are easily dispersed in air.

Every home is subject to moisture problems, either due to leakage (flooding, pipes bursting, and overflows) or routine activities (showering, watering indoor plants, cooking).  Molds are easily distributed indoors due to natural breezes, heating/ventilation and cooling systems, humidifiers and active movement.

Molds are known to cause a variety of health effects, including mild skin infections to severe allergic reactions to lung disease, cancer, organ failure, neurological disorders and death.

Table 1:  Sources of Indoor Moisture

Problem Sources   Common Sources
Flooding   Steam from cooking
Backed-up sewers   Wet clothes or indoor drying lines
Toilet overflows   Appliance drip pans
Clogged drains   Appliances vented indoors
Leaky roofs   Humidifiers
Mud or ice dams   Damp basement or crawl spaces
Leaking pipes   House plants or attached greenhouses
Outside water intrusion   Shower or bath steam and leaks
    Clothes dryers vented indoors
    Condensation on windows or walls
    Firewood  
    High indoor humidity
    Window condensate
    Vaporizers
    Limited ventilation

The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.  These are primarily associated with allergic reactions, headaches, itchy eyes, rashes and respiratory problems, but they are also known to produce mycotoxins, resulting in chemical toxigenic responses.  However, perhaps the most disconcerting indoor molds are Stachybotrys and Chaetomium.  These mold species, even in small doses, are associated with severe, often irreversible neurological conditions, lung disease and death.

Mold development requires Moisture, Food (which is typically Cellulous), and Time.  Eliminate any one of the three variables and mold will not develop.

The level of mold needed to make people sick varies with the individual.  In general, if the mold is visible or odiferous, it should be eliminated.

Table 2: Symptoms Associated with Pathogenic Molds

Hay fever   Mood changes or irritability
Wheezing   Seizures
Coughing   Asthma
Sneezing   Difficulty in concentration
Earache   Memory loss
Sore throat   Headache
Shortness of breath   Kidney failure
Nausea   Rashes and dermatitis
Diarrhea    
Fever    
Chills   Others Suspected
Aches and pains   Infertility
Fatigue   Still birth
Tracheal bleeding   Hormonal imbalances
Nose bleed   Sudden infant death syndrome

Preventing a home from becoming moldy is far easier (and cheaper) than trying to eliminate a fungal colonization. The most important step for elimination of mold in buildings:

  • Remove the moisture source.
  • Reduce the contaminant via routine cleaning and disinfecting. Numerous commercial products are widely available for disinfecting non-porous surfaces.
  • Carpeting and other porous material should be carefully removed.*

A mold inspection includes the following:

  • Complete visual inspection of the residence, apartment or building.
  • At least 2 air samples: 1 inside and 1 outside – reveals the type of mold spores and in what quantity, measured in spores per cubic meter.
  • Samples of visible mold (Dry Wall, Paneling, etc).
  • Comprehensive written report.

For questions regarding mold or to schedule a mold inspection, please call us: American Environmental Laboratories, LLC at (314) 664-2800.