Frequently ask question
WHAT IS MOLD?
– they are very different organisms
WHAT DOES MOLD NEED TO GROW?
HOW DO I FIND A COMPANY TO DO MOLD SAMPLING IN MY HOME OR BUSINESS?
Look for a Certified Industrial Hygienist or Industrial Hygienist to conduct mold sampling. Search under “Indoor Air Consultants” in the Yellow Pages online website.
HOW IS MOLD SAMPLED?
It depends on what the client is trying to determine. If they want to know the types and concentrations of fungi to which they are being exposed in their home, or if they want to know if they have elevated mold growth in their home, they should do air sampling.
To do air sampling, samples are collected indoors and compared to outdoor samples. Sampling media is attached to a sampling pump. A known quantity of air is pulled through the pump. Hence a concentration in spores per cubic meter of air can be determined. If a client wants to know if a certain material that is discolored is actually mold, bulk or swab samples would be collected. Bulk samples are preferable over swab samples, because the sampler is more likely to collect all the fungi spores present in the material. One downside
of bulk sampling, however, is it is destructive in nature, meaning a portion of the sampled material is cut out and sent to the lab. Hence if you’re dealing with expensive family heirlooms, swab sampling, which is not destructive, is best.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS “TOXIC” MOLD?
You may have seen media reports about “toxic mold” and seen vivid pictures on television news shows of homeowners burning down their houses because they were infested with “toxic mold”. Most of these reports specifically refer to a black mold called Stachybotrys (stak-e-bot-ris). You might ask, “Is toxic mold really a problem for the average homeowner?” Many types of mold besides Stachybotrys, even common ones such as Penicillium (bread mold), produce mycotoxins, which are chemical toxins or poisons. The mycotoxins serve an important purpose for the mold organism: they help ward off other molds and bacteria so they don’t occupy the mold’s space. Molds derive their nutrients from the substrate upon which they’re located, so the production of mycotoxins is an important survival mechanism for molds. There has been speculation, especially in the media, that these mycotoxins are responsible for causing some severe toxic health effects in humans, such as mucous membrane irritation syndrome, inhalation fevers, skin symptoms, gastrointestinal tract problems, bleeding lungs, and fatigue.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO QUANTITATE AN EXPOSURE CONCENTRATION OF MOLD THAT WILL CAUSE HEALTH EFFECTS IN INDIVIDUALS?
It’s difficult to quantitate an exposure concentration of mold that will cause health effects in individuals, because the health effects of mold exposure experienced by most individuals are allergic in nature. Consequently, if you are allergic to mold you may have symptoms. Typically, very small quantities of allergens elicit an allergic response in individuals; it can vary by individual. It would be difficult to devise a health standard that would be applicable to both allergic and non-allergic people. The challenges would be similar to developing a health standard for dog dander or peanut allergens. The vast majority of people who aren’t allergic to mold have no problem being exposed to low concentrations of mold.
ARE THERE GOVERNMENT HEALTH STANDARDS FOR EXPOSURE TO MOLD?
There aren’t any government health standards to indicate what is considered an elevated exposure to mold.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MOLD EXPOSURE?
According to the study damp indoor spaces and health (national institute of medicine, 2004), in which scientists reviewed the body of published scientific literature regarding exposure to damp indoor environments (including the presence of mold) and health outcomes, there is sufficient evidence of an association (but not a causal relationship) between exposure to mold and/or damp indoor environments and the following symptoms: · upper respiratory (nasal and throat) tract symptoms · cough · wheeze · asthma symptoms in sensitized asthmatic persons in addition, the report found inadequate scientific evidence to determine whether an association exists between any other health symptoms and mold exposure.
WHERE IS MOLD FOUND IN THE ENVIRONMENT?
Molds (or fungi) are everywhere in the environment. They only require standing water or humidity levels greater than 60% and a source of nutrients (such as dirt, cellulose, drywall, etc.) to grow. In addition, temperature plays a role. Molds can grow in temperatures ranging from 32--95 °F, but grow best at 77--86 °F. Since nutrients are readily available in the environment, when there is water present for more than 48 hours or high humidity levels, mold is likely to grow.
DO YOU HAVE ANY GENERAL INFORMATION ON MOLD (ESPECIALLY GUIDELINES ON CLEANUP) THAT YOU COULD MAIL OR FAX TO ME?
For general information on mold see the EPA brochure A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home. The EPA brochure also covers health effects. If you would like guidelines on clean-up, especially the procedures mold remediation contractors should use when cleaning up your home, consult the EPA brochure Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings . Although it was written for schools and commercial buildings, the concepts apply to the home setting as well.
CAN I USE CHEMICALS OR BIOCIDES SUCH AS CHLORINE BLEACH TO CLEAN UP MOLD?
The purpose of mold remediation is to remove the mold to prevent human exposure and damage to building materials and furnishings. It is necessary to clean up mold contamination, not just to kill the mold. Dead mold is still allergenic, and some dead molds are potentially toxic. The use of a biocide, such as chlorine bleach, is not recommended as
a routine practice during mold remediation, although there may be instances where professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area;
a background level of mold spores will remain in the air (roughly equivalent to or lower than the level in outside air). These spores will not grow if the moisture problem in the building
has been resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area. Outdoor air may need to be brought in with fans. When using fans, take care to not distribute mold spores throughout an unaffected area. Biocides are toxic to humans, as well as to mold. You should also use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and read and follow label precautions. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia; toxic fumes could be produced.
CAN YOU RECOMMEND A COMPANY TO CLEAN UP MY MOLD AND WATER DAMAGE?
Companies that do this type of remediation are available by searching in the online Yellow Pages under terms such as “mold remediation” and “mold removal”.
I SMELL A MUSTY ODOR, DO I HAVE MOLD?
Almost certainly. A musty odor is indicative of mold growth. You should look in the areas where the odors are and look for signs of water and mold. In order for mold to grow, standing water for 48 to 72 hours is needed or high humidity levels (above 60% Relative Humidity). Therefore, if you have had standing water or a water leak for more than a few days, you probably have mold growth. If you see mold, correct the problem causing the water intrusion. If you see mold, you should clean it up by a qualified contractor.
I HAVE MOLD IN MY SHOWER, SHOULD I BE CONCERNED?
You don’t need to be concerned about the health risk associated with small amounts of mold that you may find in your bathrooms. The “average” person, (who is not allergic to mold, is not asthmatic, and is not immune-compromised) has developed immunity to these small amounts of mold.