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Mold: What is it?

You can also view our in-depth mold remediation tutorial shot on the scene of a mold remediation in which we participated. It is a two-part video series on the topic.
View Part One | View Part Two

Mold is a form of fungi that grows throughout nature and is found both outdoors and inside our homes. It is perfectly normal for tiny particles of mold to be present in the air that we breathe. In nature, molds help break down decaying materials and add nutrients to the soil and ecosystems around them. But inside our homes, mold can lie dormant. At the first sign of moisture, be it a leaky pipe or roof, the mold can take hold. If the leak is not abated, the mold will grow. Large-scale mold growth can cause a variety of respiratory ailments and discomfort for the occupants of the house.

What does mold need to grow?

Mold only requires a few elements to grow and multiply:

  • Nutrients. Any organic material including the paper wrapping on sheet rock, wood studs found inside walls and even concrete floors can contain enough nutrients for mold to grow.
  • Suitable Environment. Generally, a cool environment outside the area of direct sunlight is ideal for mold growth. Interior walls, kitchen cabinets, air conditioning units and even between floor coverings and the sub floor can provide a good habitat for mold growth. Mold does not need light to grow because it is not a plant, it’s a fungi!
  • Moisture. Moisture is critical to mold growth. And inside our homes moisture abounds from plumbing, to roof leaks and even long, hot and steamy showers can create the kind of moisture needed for mold growth.

Of these, the best way to prevent mold growth is to combat sources of moisture inside your home. Repair plumbing and roof leaks promptly and cleanup any areas that have moisture when it happens. Waiting days, weeks or years can result in a gradual and, eventually immense mold problem requiring considerable cost in remediation and repair.

Should I be concerned about mold in my home?

Mold occurs naturally both outside and inside our homes. Normally, mold spores are present in the air, but in a properly maintained home mold should not be actively growing. Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply. If allowed to grow, mold will cause respiratory distress and can damage building materials, furniture and even harm your pets. You can remove small amounts of mold, but large growths should be handled by qualified professionals because of the possibility of acute respiratory problems associated with the act of removing the mold.

Health Effects

Will mold make me sick?

Mold by itself generally won’t make you sick. However, mold produces spores and releases those spores into the air. They can be drawn in to ventilation systems and spread throughout your house. These spores are then inhaled by you and your loved ones. In higher concentrations (such as a home with actively growing mold) the spores can reach such a concentration that they cause respiratory distress in humans and animals.

How severely the spores affect you are difficult to predict. But the more mold, the more spores and the more spores the more likely it is that the spores will affect your health.

What are some symptoms?

Many of these symptoms appear to look much like the common cold. They include:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Cough
  • Wheezing/difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Upper respiratory infections (including sinus infections)

Repeated or continuous problems relating to these symptoms can indicate a mold problem. But they can be caused by other factors in your environment. Only detection of mold growth through a thorough physical inspection of your home will reveal the extent of the problem or rule out mold altogether.

Are some more than others more affected by mold?

There is a wide variability in the severity of illness due to mold. Generally, however, the long-term exposure to indoor mold growth may eventually become unhealthy for anyone. But infants, the elderly, individuals with respiratory problems or persons with a weakened immune system (such as chemotherapy patients) will generally feel the effects of a mold infestation sooner and become more sick before healthy individuals show symptoms.

Are some molds worse than others?

Some varieties of mold do produce substances known as mycotoxins. These substances technically make those molds more dangerous. But since all mold can affect people over the long term, all mold infestations no matter how small or what variety of mold is present should be abated as soon as possible.