Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mold in your home, how serious is it?

Learning that mold is present in your home can be scary, but before you panic there are some things that you should know.

Mold (fungi) is present everywhere - indoors and outdoors. There are more than 100,000 species of mold. At least 1,000 species of mold are common in the U.S. and are found in moist or damp areas, as all molds need water to grow.

Mold is often confused with another fungus, mildew. Mildew is the black residue on your shower curtains and the funny smell coming from clothes that sat too long in the washer. Mold is the fuzzy or slimy stuff that sometimes grows on your counter fruit. It also appears as irregularly shaped spots of black or gray on a wall or ceiling, which is much harder to throw away than a rotting orange!

Just like mold on fruit, mold growing in a house gets its energy from organic matter. Like mildew, it is attracted to moisture and breeds in damp environments. Therefore, if a home has been exposed to any sort of water damage, it may have hidden mold. Common areas where mold hides include:
  • Backsides of dry wall
  • Wallpaper or paneling
  • Top side of ceiling tiles
  • Underside of carpets and carpet pads
  • Inside walls around pipes
  • Surface of walls behind furniture
  • Inside ductwork
  • Roof materials above ceiling tiles
Most types of mold that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals, however there are household molds that are toxic and can cause neurological problems. Common symptoms in individuals living in a house with mold are:
  • Itchy and watering eyes
  • Chronic coughing
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus problems
  • Nasal blockage
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Depending on the amount of exposure and a person's individual vulnerability, more serious health effects - such as fevers and breathing problems - can occur but are unusual.
Mold should be cleaned as soon as it appears. Persons cleaning mold should be free of symptoms and allergies and need to wear gloves during cleaning. Small areas of mold can be cleaned using a detergent/soapy solution or an appropriate household cleaner. Once the area is cleaned, it then needs to be thoroughly dried and any sponges or rags used need to be disposed.
If a house has a severe mold problem, more likely than not that there will be a musty scent in the affected area. Some surfaces may look smudged or blotched and should not be touched.
If you suspect that your home or potential home is contaminated with mold call a professional home inspector to inspect and test the house for mold. If the home tests positive for mold, caution should be taken.  Even in the event that mold can be cleaned up, purchasing mold insurance would be a wise investment to minimize financial and personal harm that could occur if mold does not get properly cleaned up.

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