Mold: The Facts

Mold: The Facts

What Are Molds?

Magnified Spores. Source: US EPA

Molds are fungi that can be found almost anywhere in the indoors or outdoors. They can grow on almost any organic material as long as there is enough moisture and oxygen present.

Outdoors, they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other plant materials are decomposing. Indoors, they can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements, showers, or on materials that have gotten wet from water (spillage, leaks, etc).

Molds reproduce through the production of microscopic, seed-like structures called spores that have the ability to survive extremes in both temperature and moisture.

Recognizing Mold

Mold can be recognized using your senses.

Do you see a discoloration on walls, ceilings, furnishings, boxes, etc. that have been wet? Is there a fuzzy black or green surface growth? Know that it only takes 48 hours for mold to appear on damp materials.

The presence of mold may also be detected by a musty, earthy, sometimes foul odor.

Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure

People who are sensitive to molds may experience:

  • watery or itchy eyes
  • sore throat
  • nasal stuffiness
  • skin irritation

upon exposure. Individuals who are allergic to mold may have more severe reactions, including:

  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • asthma attacks

People with weakened immune systems and with chronic lung diseases, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

Removing Mold

Successful and complete removal of mold from porous surfaces such as paper, drywall, ceiling tiles and carpet padding is not possible – these materials should be discarded if possible.

  1. Mold growing on the surface of non-porous materials should be scrubbed with detergent and water followed by a clear water rinse.
  2. The surface can then be disinfected with a mild bleach solution – ¼ cup of chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) in 1 gallon of water.
  3. Leave bleach solution on surface for 15 minutes.
  4. rinse with clear water and dry surface as quickly as possible.

Key Points

  • Dry surfaces quickly. Damp materials promote mold growth.
  • Never mix chlorine bleach with cleaners containing ammonia – The fumes are toxic.

For cases where the mold growth is severe, a mold treatment company may need to be called.

Prevention Steps

  • Should moisture enter your home,
    • Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours).
    • Open doors and windows.
    • Consider using fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the space.
  • Immediately fix plumbing leaks and other water intrusion.
  • Keep the humidity level in the house below 65% – ideally between 40% and 60%.
  • Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
  • Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside.
  • Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.

Remember: Moisture control is the key to mold prevention!