Mold is a fact of life - an unavoidable natural occurrence encountered with virtually every breath.
Because it is ubiquitous in the outside world doesn't mean it should live where you do, and mold growth can have serious health effects if prolonged growth is allowed inside the home. Indoor mold is preventable, and personally treatable in smaller quantities, before any damage to home or health begins.
Mold is a type of fungus and, as such, reproduces via spores similar to pollen and likewise travels airborne. Mold spores from outside are common among indoor dust particulate in all conditions, but are normally in doses too small and irregular to cause harm.
Mold can spread inside when outside spores land on damp surfaces, meaning that controlling moisture inside is critical to controlling mold. Three necessities allow mold to thrive in a given spot: moisture, a food source (such as wood, carpet, drywall or dust) and adequate warmth.
Water can enter the home through a number of ways, commonly leaking roofs, plumbing problems, humid interiors or flooding.
Water vapor can also condensate on cooler spaces, such as air conditioning ducts, allowing mold to grow with plenty of dust to feed on.
Mold problems may also occur at different times of the year depending on whether the home is too airtight or too drafty. If mold happens in warmer weather, it's likely that the humidity in the home is trapped because the home is too airtight. If the home is too drafty, warm air escaping the home may condensate and create mold in the winter months, as well as artificial humidifiers often used during this time.
Mold growth typically occurs within 24 hours to 10 days of ideal growing conditions. Mold can also go dormant when the source of moisture withdraws, only to reactivate when reapplied.
Mold can be plainly seen and smelled in cases where the water source is also visible, but it can often grow out of sight wherever water may seep.
While small portions of spores are generally harmless, breathing large amounts can cause allergic and respiratory problems in humans and animals, according to Centers for Disease Control. Minor symptoms, similar to any other allergen, vary between individuals and include runny nose, itching, throat irritation and sneezing. Mold spores can also trigger asthma attacks.
While the phrase "toxic mold" is a misnomer, the CDC states, some mold can produce proteins known as mycotoxins, which are harmful metabolic byproducts produced by fungi, including "black mold." These toxins can pose a more serious health risk when exposed to at high levels, particularly daily.
Professional mold inspections can be performed by Certified Microbial Investigators, which may consist of visual examinations, moisture metering and samplings of air and surface. The mold is actively visible to the homeowner, according to guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
However the EPA advises sampling is only necessary when symptoms appears in an individual, and generally are not needed with the mold is already clearly visible.
Residential mold can be prevented by cleaning the gutters, preventing water seepage inside the home, clearing air conditioner drip pans and drainage lines, keeping indoor humidity down, drying moisture-prone areas and treating exposed wood with fungicide, the EPA states
Light mold can be cleaned by the homeowner if it is spread to no more than a 3-foot by 3-foot area, the EPA states, advising that mold be approached with long clothing, gloves, eye protection and an appropriate respirator mask.
Removing and stopping the flow of water is the first step, followed by using a detergent to remove the mold. Simply spraying the mold with a fungicide is not enough, as the chemicals that cause human reaction still remain, meaning the mold must be physically removed.
Significant growth mold may require professional remediation to cover all the affected materials, the EPA warns. In some cases, extreme mold damage have proven to be more cost-appropriate to simply demolish the building than remove the mold.