You have certainly seen ugly mold patches in the corners of the basement. You have probably felt musty odor in the bathroom and found mold on the shower curtains. You may have heard that mold is harmful and can cause various health problems. You surely know that it thrives in humid environments and spreads very quickly and easily. But do you know that mold needs less than 48 hours to begin growing? Or that dead mold spores are just as harmful as live ones? Or that modern-day building practices actually promote mold growth?
There are many important facts about mold that people are not commonly aware of. Yet, knowing them can help you better protect yours and your family’s health, as well as the structural integrity and value of your home. Here is everything you need to know about mold:
1) Mold Requires Moisture and Organic Food to Grow
Mold is a kind of fungi that reproduces by making tiny spores which can survive extremely harsh weather conditions and spread easily over large areas. Mold spores exist everywhere in the outdoor environment and can get indoors thorough open doors, windows, air ducts, vents, etc. or even attached to clothes, shoes, and bags. Once the mold spores get into your home, they will wait for the right conditions to start developing.
The purpose of mold in the eco-system is to decompose dead organic material. Therefore, it thrives in warm, humid conditions where organic “food” is available in abundance. Your home provides an ample food source (all kinds of organic materials, such as wood, paper, leather, fabric and upholstery, grout, paint, drywall, insulation materials, carpet, etc.), so as soon as there is any source of moisture – flooding, leaky roofs, pipe leaks, condensation, steam from cooking and showers, etc., the mold spores will begin reproducing and spreading all over your home.
2) There are over 10,000 species of mold but only 5 of them are commonly found indoors
Most household molds belong to one of the following five types:
- Alternaria mold is usually found in buildings that have suffered some kind of water damage. It can appear black, grey, or dark brown and has a wooly or down-like texture. It can cause various allergic reactions and asthma attacks;
- Aspergillus is the most common type of household mold, especially in warmer climates. It can be grey, brown, yellow, green, white, or black in color. Aspergillus mold causes not only allergic reactions, but also respiratory infections and inflammation of the lungs in people with weak immune systems;
- Cladosporium can grow in lower temperatures than other kinds of mold. It has a characteristic black or olive-green color and may trigger hay fever and asthma symptoms;
- Penicillium is usually found on carpeting, wallpaper, and insulation. It looks blue or green and produces strong musty odor;
- Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as “black mold”, produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins that can cause severe health problems, such as respiratory problems, asthma attacks, chronic sinus infections, fatigue, and depression. The toxic black mold has a characteristic musty odor and appears only on surfaces that have been in prolonged contact with water.
3) Mold develops very quickly but often remains hidden for a long time
When all the right conditions are present – moisture, ample food, and a temperature of 41 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, mold will begin growing within 24 to 48 hours. However, it can often remain hidden until the spores have already affected large areas of your property and caused considerable structural damage. This is so because mold usually starts growing in very inconspicuous areas of the house – inside walls, behind leaky appliances, within insulation, throughout the HVAC system, in crawl spaces, and in other damp, dark places (mold doesn’t need light to grow, which is why it is often found in poorly lit areas of the home).
Therefore, in order to prevent serious mold problems, you need to watch out for the very first signs of mold growth in your property (musty odor, deteriorating household materials, etc.) and take quick and efficient measures to fix the source of the problem and get rid of the mold spores before they have resulted in severe structural damage and health issues.
4) Mold growth is a sign of water damage
Unless you have experienced a recent flood or sewer backup, you may have no reason to suspect water damage to your home. The presence of mold, however, should alert you of a hidden problem (as already mentioned, mold spores cannot develop unless there is some source of excessive moisture). Therefore, if you detect a musty smell in the basement or attic, or see mold patches on the ceilings or walls of your home, you need to carefully inspect your property and find the source of the moisture – it may be a leaky pipe, or a leaky roof, or a malfunctioning appliance, or even poor insulation that results in too much condensation. In the best case scenario mold may be caused by inadequate air exchange and high indoor humidity levels resulting from water evaporating from home plants or drying clothes, or steam from the kitchen or bathroom.
Anyway, you need to take adequate precautionary measures in order to prevent further problems. If you leave mold untreated and don’t remove the source of excessive moisture, the spores will continue to reproduce and affect a larger area of your home, compromising its structural integrity and reducing its value.
5) Your homeowner’s insurance may exclude mold damage
The standard homeowner’s insurance policy may or may not cover mold damage, depending on the cause of the mold problem. If mold results from a covered water loss, such as the sudden or accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from the plumbing system or a household appliance, the cost of mold remediation will be covered under home insurance, because the reason for the claim is the covered peril, not the mold itself. Some insurance policies, however, contain exclusions, specifying that they will not cover mold removal and remediation, regardless of the source of the problem. Besides, standard insurance policies exclude flood damage and do not cover water damage as a result of neglected home maintenance – long-term roof leaks, landscaping or drainage problems, condensation, etc.
Even when mold damage is covered, there may be limitations on the coverage (most policies cap it at a certain amount). If you want to maximize your coverage, you can purchase a mold rider as an add-on to your existing insurance policy.
6) Mold can cause various health problems
It is a proven fact that prolonged exposure to mold may cause a variety of allergy symptoms and other serious health issues:
- Chronic fatigue and headaches;
- Dizziness and disorientation;
- Sneezing, runny nose, or nasal congestion;
- Itchy eyes and blurry vision;
- Coughing and respiratory problems;
- Skin irritations and rashes;
- Sinus infections and chronic sinusitis;
- Asthma and inflammation of the lungs.
Toxic black mold, in particular, may have very serious long-term health effects. It produces mycotoxins that can cause a number of circulatory symptoms and vascular problems when inhaled – irregular heartbeat, heart inflammation, low blood pressure, internal or external hemorrhaging, etc.
The effects of mold exposure can vary considerably from one person to the next (with young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and individuals with chronic diseases and weaker immune systems being most at risk), but according to recent studies 1 in every 4 people has genetic pre-disposition to mold illness – the so called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
7) Mold is very difficult to get rid of
Mold is often found in areas that are difficult to reach and remediate. It spreads very quickly and affects not only building materials, but also furniture pieces, fabrics, books, and other personal possessions. The spores grow within the porous materials, so the only way to remove mold completely is to replace the affected items.
What’s more, most DIY mold removal methods provide only a temporary solution to the problem: household cleaners are not strong enough to eliminate the fungi and paints only hide the problem. Bleach kills the spores but dead spores can be just as harmful as the living ones – some mold species are toxic in both a live form and a dead form, others may stay dormant for a long time until the right conditions appear to allow them to grow again, etc.
The only sure way to get rid of mold for good is to use professional mold remediation services. The experienced mold removal specialists will discover all the mold (visible, hidden, dormant) in your property, will use advanced equipment and powerful cleaning agents to remove the spores, repair any related damage, disinfect the contaminated area, and purify the air. Your home will be completely mold-free, fresh, and safe.
8) Mold growth can be prevented
In modern times, mold has become a very common and serious issue. It is mainly due to the fact that building practices nowadays actually promote mold development – building materials are very porous and susceptible to mold growth; homes are built to be energy efficient, so they are air-tight and lack proper ventilation; water pipes run throughout the home hidden inside walls and insulation, etc. This makes mold prevention quite a difficult task. Yet, there are some efficient precautionary measures you can take to inhibit mold growth in your home:
- Ensuring good air circulation – keeping windows open, running bathroom fans, keeping air ducts clean and in good condition – can help reduce the risk of mold growth;
- Keeping indoor humidity levels below 45 percent can inhibit mold growth;
- Keeping your property in good repair (roofs and foundations, plumbing system, HVAC system) can prevent excessive moisture from entering your home and causing mold growth;
- Inspecting your property at regular intervals (and especially after major storms, torrential rains, snow meltdown, etc.) can help detect mold growth in its early stages and prevent it from spreading any further;
- Adding mold-inhibitors to paints before application can reduce the potential for mold growth;
- Removing already affected materials can help prevent mold spores from contaminating other items.
If you keep your home moisture-free and properly ventilated, you have every chance to prevent mold formation and mold-related problems.
9) Mold can be useful
Mold is not necessarily bad. It plays an essential role in the ecosystem – it breaks down dead organic matter, such as dead leaves, trees, etc., and recycles it into the environment. Certain species of mold are commonly used as fermenting agents, others are engineered to make delicacy cheeses. Mold is even used in drug production – the antibiotic penicillin is a purified mold!
10) Interesting facts about mold
- Mold is used in biological warfare;
- Christmas trees can be a source of mold spores;
- Mildew is a type of mold that remains on the surface of the affected materials;
- Each year mold destroys more wood than all the fires and termites combined;
- The World Health Organization acknowledges that mold is a health hazard;
- The cost of repairing mold problems in homes around the United States is approximately 73 billion dollars per year.
Mold facts can be shocking, indeed. What matters most is learning all you can about mold to help you better handle mold issues in your home.