What’s the Dirt on Mold?

Mold can grow in any home, even newly-built homes or homes under construction. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Although research on the health effects indoor mold can cause is ongoing, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects. . . In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people. . . The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking exposure to damp indoor environments in general to shortness of breath, to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children and to potential development of asthma in susceptible individuals.

How can I prevent mold from growing in my home?

  • The key to preventing mold is controlling moisture. Keep humidity levels low (between 40% and 60%). A hygrometer is an inexpensive humidity measuring instrument that will measure your indoor moisture levels and can be purchased at most hardware stores.
  • When water leaks through roofs, windows, or pipes, act quickly. If damp areas are dried within 48 hours of a leak, mold will most likely not grow.
  • Thoroughly clean and dry all areas affected by flooding.
  • Increase ventilation by running the fan or opening the window when showering.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking or running the dishwasher.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • If you notice condensation or moisture collecting anywhere, quickly dry the wet surface, determine the water source, and reduce the moisture. Condensation can also be a sign of high humidity in your home.
  • Clean and maintain your home regularly. Discard clutter and excess stored materials. Molds grow on fabrics, paper, wood, or anything that collects dust and holds moisture.

If you are building a new home, make sure your builder is contractually obligated to do the following:

(1) Construct a mold-free home (except for very low levels of non-harmful molds);

(2) Inspect lumber and building materials used and reject moldy lumber and building materials from being used in the construction of your home;

(3) At the close of every work day, cover the entire home in clear plastic sheeting to protect it against rain and snow until the roof is completely shingled, the exterior siding is completed, and the windows are installed and closed;

(4) Permit you to do mold inspection and testing (at your expense) during the construction process so that you can monitor whether or not the home is being built mold-free;

(5) Remove any mold contaminated lumber or building materials discovered during your mold inspection and testing.

What do I do if I find mold in my house?

If mold is growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold will reappear until its source of moisture is completely removed. High moisture levels that are not corrected can cause mold to grow back quickly. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a solution containing no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Mold growth, which often forms spots, can be a variety of colors, and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before beginning any mold cleanup.

You may need professional help when there is a lot of mold, the home is very damp, or mold returns after repeated cleaning.

Remember the following steps when cleaning mold yourself:

  • Discard any moldy or damaged materials. Wear a mask and gloves when removing any moldy materials. Furnishings, mattresses, carpets, rugs, or sofas that have been wet or damp for over 48 hours should be discarded.
  • Vacuum. Vacuum all surfaces in the home thoroughly to reduce the amount of mold spores.
  • Clear wet areas. Pull carpets and furnishings away from wet walls. Carpets and floor pads that are moldy should be cut out and discarded.
  • Isolate any affected areas. If the mold is limited to one area, isolate that area. Cover the affected surfaces with plastic sheeting. Note that this is only a temporary measure to minimize exposure.

If you are renting and you encounter mold, report all plumbing leaks and moisture problems immediately to your building owner, manager, or landlord. In cases where persistent water problems are not addressed, you may want to contact local, state, or federal health or housing authorities.  Find your state health department contacts here.

 

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