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Health Risks Caused by Mold
Mold exposure can lead to several health-related problems. With its natural ability to travel through the air, the inhalation of mold spores can create a variety of respiratory ailments. Common side effects include asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, sinus infections and skin rashes. Mold in air ducts can cause allergic reactions. In some cases, mold exposure can even be fatal.
What about Hidden Mold?
Mold is detectable by smell and signs of water damage on walls or ceiling, and can grow in places invisible to the human eye. It may be found behind wallpaper or paneling, on the inside of ceiling tiles, the back of drywall, or the underside of carpets or carpet padding. Piping in walls may also be a source of mold, since they may leak (causing moisture and condensation).
Spores need three things to grow into mold:
Nutrients: Cellulose (the cell wall of green plants) is a common food for indoor spores.
Moisture: To begin the decaying process caused by mold
Time: Mold growth begins from 24 hours to 10 days after the provision of growing conditions.
Mold colonies can grow inside buildings, and the chief hazard is the inhalation of mycotoxins. After a flood or major leak, mycotoxin levels are higher even after a building has dried out.
Food sources for mold in buildings include cellulose-based materials such as wood, cardboard and the paper facing on drywall and organic matter such as soap, fabrics and dust-containing skin cells. If a house has mold, the moisture may originate in the basement or crawl space, a leaking roof or a leak in plumbing pipes. Insufficient ventilation may accelerate moisture buildup. Visible mold colonies may form where ventilation is poorest and on perimeter walls (because they are nearest the dew point).
If there are mold problems in a house only during certain times of the year, the house is probably too airtight or too drafty. Mold problems occur in airtight homes more frequently in the warmer months (when humidity is high inside the house, and moisture is trapped), and occur in drafty homes more frequently in the colder months (when warm air escapes from the living area and condenses). If a house is artificially humidified during the winter, this can create conditions favorable to mold. Moving air may prevent mold from growing, since it has the same desiccating effect as low humidity. Molds grow best in warm temperatures, 77 to 86 °F (25 to 30 °C), although growth may occur between 32 and 95 °F (0 and 35 °C).
Removing one of the three requirements for mold reduces (or eliminates) new mold growth:
Food for the mold spores (for example, dust or dander)
Warmth; mold generally does not grow in cold environments.
HVAC systems can produce all three requirements for mold growth. The air conditioning system creates a difference in temperature, encouraging condensation. The high rate of dusty air movement through an HVAC system may furnish ample food for mold. Since the air-conditioning system is not always running, warm conditions are the final component for mold growth.
Testing for mold
There are several home mold testing kits on the market. However, experts stress these kits should only be the first step. The testing kits usually come with a swab that can collect a small sample of mold. Some kits are designed to collect and grow mold in an incubator while others will instruct the user to send the sample in for lab testing. Home mold test can be misleading because they do not give an indication of the amount of mold present or how dangerous it is.
Hiring a professional for mold testing and removal
Professional mold removal contractors are individuals that are professionally trained in proper mold identification and removal techniques. These mold removal contractors use industrial equipment and cleaning supplies to kill and remove mold and mold colonies from the home.
During a mold inspection, a technician will perform a visual inspection and then any tests necessary. Expensive send-away lab tests are often not required, an experienced technician can eliminate this expense for you.
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