Mold can pose serious health risks to both adults and children alike. Oftentimes people who have had mold growing in their home are unaware of these risks, or that the mold is even present on the property. There have been many reported cases of homeowners and their families having long term, unaware exposure to mold growing and they suffered health consequences as a result. Knowing whether or not your home is exposed can provide peace of mind and a pathway forward to getting any mold safely removed.
What is mold?
In simple words, mold is a fungus that grows mostly on damp organic matter. It is composed of small thread-like filaments which are known as hyphae. It is multicellular, unlike yeast which is single-celled. The network of hyphae forms a mycelium. Molds can be identified quite easily due to their fluffy appearance and the staining that they cause on the surfaces. The dusty texture of mold is due to the presence of a large number of spores which are known as conidia.
What are the types of mold?
Molds can be categorized as allergenic, pathogenic, and toxic. Toxic molds are the most harmful of the three types. Molds have a large number of species. Some of them include Stachybotrys (commonly called the black mold), Aspergillus, Penicillium, Rhizopus, Fusarium, Trichophyton, Trichoderma, Alternaria.
Dangers of mold exposure
Mold spores are present everywhere and as soon as they find the right temperature and moisture levels, they start growing. While most molds grow on foods, their growth is not limited only to food items. Molds can grow on different surfaces like wood, carpets, tiles, ceilings, walls, cardboard, wallpapers, plants, fabric, etc.
Mold exposure does not only harm the foods and properties but also causes serious health issues. Early exposure to mold can cause headaches, skin rashes, and flu-like symptoms. Advanced exposure to molds can cause dangerous conditions like breathing disorders, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, ear infections, chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, asthma, nervous and neurological disorders, etc. Long-term exposure to molds can be life-threatening. It can cause blindness, long-term memory loss, kidney failure, liver failure, lungs failure as well as cancer. There are four major risk factors that decide the severity of the symptoms of mold exposure.
These risk factors are levels of mold spores, time of mold exposure, mold toxins, and immune system. Higher levels of mold spores result in higher severity of symptoms. The longer you are exposed to mold and stay in mold-infected environments, the more chances you have for developing health complications. Mold produces extremely dangerous toxins which can be really difficult to treat. One of the most dangerous toxins produced by molds is mycotoxin. Mycotoxins can cause cancer. Mold exposure affects different members of the household differently. If mold exposure is not treated on time, it can result in a compromised immune system.
Mold exposure can also be misdiagnosed as other ailments so it is important to get the right diagnosis and testing to treat the disease correctly and save lives.
How to keep an eye out for mold and prevent it?
Mold can be life-threatening if not identified and removed at the right time. Unfortunately, mold is very commonly found in households. It is necessary to keep an eye out for mold exposure ahead of time before it spirals into a dangerous situation.
Mold appears in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. It is the biggest threat to a healthy home as it is dangerous for household members, pets, and the property. There are some basic precautions that you should take to prevent mold in your home.
- It is recommended to keep the property dry and prevent moisture, humidity, and dampness.
- Fix any leaks present anywhere in the property.
- Do not let water stand anywhere in your property.
- Ventilate your property consistently with exhaust fans and windows, especially kitchen and bathrooms.
- Expose the inside of your property to as much sunlight as possible as it will help remove moisture and keep it dry.
- Do not use humidifiers excessively and clean them frequently.
- Do not keep too many indoor plants.
- Use rugs instead of carpets as rugs can be washed easily.
- Use mold-resistant products in your home.
- Educate yourself on the climate of your area.
What to do when mold is identified?
Once you have identified the mold in your home, it is mandatory to handle it correctly and respond to it in a safe way. Act quickly and do not delay the process of removing it as the longer it stays, the more damage it will cause.
It is possible to remove the mold yourself but it is not a good option as it can be unsafe and can cause more harm than good. If you see any mold in your house, do not touch or disturb it as it will spread the spores, and inhalation of spores can cause serious health damage. A popular DIY method to remove mold is bleach but it is certainly not effective. In fact, it can increase the damage as bleach is water-based and mold feeds on moisture. So do not depend on bleach for mold removal.
If you do not have the option to get it removed professionally, remember to always wear a mask (most preferably an N-95) and wear the mold removing DIY kit.
Getting Professional help
Though it can be costly, the best option for homeowners is to contact trained professionals to safely and effectively remove mold from their homes rather than attempting to do it themselves.
Get an evaluation: if you are experiencing mold exposure symptoms or have identified mold anywhere in your house, call a professional to do a thorough evaluation of your house. They will help you identify the problem areas of your house and the triggers of mold.
Mold testing: whether the mold is obvious or hidden, a mold test will let you know if you have a mold problem in your property. There are typically three types of mold tests; air testing, surface testing, and bulk testing.
Air Quality Test: air tests will identify the levels of spore concentration in the air and the overall quality of the air you breathe in your house. The higher the level of spore concentration in the air, the higher is the risk of health damage.
Surface Testing: Another type of testing is surface testing. Samples are taken from the surfaces of your house through swabs and tape-lifting and then examined in a lab. The results will vary for different surfaces as the spore concentration is never the same on all surface areas. Some areas are more affected than others.
Bulk Testing: in this type of mold testing, materials are taken from your house and then studied in a lab. It helps you to get an idea about the levels of mold in your house.
Culture Testing: If you want to identify the species of the mold growing in your house, you have to get a culture test. In this test, samples of the mold are taken from your house and then grown in a laboratory setting for certain. However, it can only be done if the mold is alive.
Is dead mold harmful?
Killing the mold is never enough and it has to be removed because dead mold can still be harmful to your health. If the residue is left behind, it can cause allergic reactions, release toxins and cause other harmful effects. A culture test can only detect species of mold if it is alive. However, there are other tests that can also detect dead mold, though identifying their species might not be possible.
The importance of mold testing
Mold testing is necessary to keep the environment of your house healthy.
Location: mold testing identifies the location of mold growth and detects the most problematic areas.
Level: mold testing also helps to detect the level and intensity of mold growth in your residence which is helpful to get an idea about the severity of the problem.
Species: if the mold is alive, mold testing lets you know the species of the mold growing in your residence.
Post mold removal: after the mold is identified and removed from the house, mold testing should be done to check whether the mold has been effectively removed or not.
So how can you discover if there is any unforeseen mold growing in your home?
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