What are Molds?
Molds are simple, microscopic organisms, present virtually everywhere, indoor and outdoors. Molds, along with mushrooms and yeasts, are fungi and are needed to break down dead material and recycle nutrients in the environment. For molds to grow and reproduce, they need only a food source – any organic material, such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt – and moisture. Because molds grow by digesting the organic material, they gradually destroy whatever they grow on. Sometimes, new molds grow on old mold colonies. Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the form of discoloration, frequently green, gray, brown, or black but also white and other colors. Molds release countless tiny, lightweight spores, which travel through the air.
How Am I Exposed to Indoor Molds?
Everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without evident harm. It is common to find mold spores in the air inside homes, and most of the airborne spores found indoors come from outdoor sources. Mold spores primarily cause health problems when they are present in large numbers and people inhale many of them, This occurs primarily when there is active mold growth within home, office or school where people live or work. People can also be exposed to mold by touching contaminated materials and by eating contaminated foods.
Can Mold Become A Problem In My Home?
Molds will grow and multiply whenever conditions are right – sufficient moisture is available and organic material is present. Be on the lookout in your home for common sources of indoor moisture that may lead to mold problems.
- Leaky Roofs
- Sprinkler spray hitting the house
- Plumbing leaks
- Overflow from sinks or sewers
- Damp basement or crawl space
- Steam from shower or cooking
- Wet clothes drying indoors or clothes dryers exhausting indoors
Warping floors and discoloration of walls and ceilings can be indications of moisture problems. Condensation on windows or walls is also an important indication, but it can sometimes be caused by an indoor combustion problem! Have fuel-burning appliances routinely inspected by your local utility or a professional heating contractor.
Should I Be Concerned About Mold In My Home?
Yes, if indoor mold contamination is extensive, it can cause very high and persistent airborne spore exposures. Persons exposed to high spore levels can become sensitized and develop allergies to the mold or other health problems. Mold growth can damage your furnishings, such as carpets, sofas, and cabinets. Clothes and shoes in damp closets can become soiled. In time, unchecked mold growth can cause serious damage to the structural elements in your home.
Mold spores aren’t the only biological pollutants that are bad for your lungs. Our Myrtle Beach air quality and mold testing inspection can help diagnose high levels of airborne dust mites as well as animal and plant allergens. Just because every part of a house you can see is clean doesn’t mean that the parts you can’t are free of dust mites, rats, or even cockroaches. Our inspections occasionally reveal that out-of-sight areas of a house are the cause of bad air quality and allergy symptoms.
What Symptoms Are Commonly Seen With The Mold Exposure?
Molds produce health effects through inflammation, allergy, or infection. Allergic reactions (often referred to as hay fever) are most common following mold exposure. Typical symptoms that mold-exposed person report (alone or in combination) include:
- Respiratory problems, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Eye irritation (burning, watery, or reddened eyes)
- Dry, hacking cough
- Nose or throat irritation
- Skin rashes or irritation
- Headaches, memory problems, mood swings, nosebleeds, body aches and pains, and fevers are occasionally reported in mold cases, but their cause is not understood.
How Much Mold Can Make Me Sick?
It depends. For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can trigger an asthma attack or lead to other health problems. For other persons, symptoms may occur only when exposures levels are much higher. Nonetheless, indoor mold growth is unsanitary and undesirable. Basically, if you can see or smell inside your home, take steps to identify and eliminate the excess moisture and to clean up and remove the mold.
Are Some Molds More Hazardous Than Others?
Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to the amount and the types to which they react. In addition to their allergic properties, certain types of molds, such as Stachybotris chartarum, may produce compounds that have toxic properties, which are called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are not always produced, and whether a mold produces mycotoxins while growing in a building depends on what the mold is growing on, conditions such as temperature, pH, humidity or other unknown factors. When mycotoxins are present, they occur in both living and dead mold spores and may be present in materials that have become contaminated with molds. While Stachybotrys is growing, a wet slime layer covers its spores, preventing them from becoming airborne. However, when the mold dies and dries up, air currents or physical handling can cause spores to become airborne.
At present, there is no environmental test to determine whether Stachybotrys growth found in buildings is producing toxins. There is also no blood or urine test that can establish if an individual has been exposed to Stachybotrys chartarum spores or its toxins.
Who Is At Greater Risk When Exposed To Mold?
Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone inside buildings. Therefore, it is always best to identify and correct high moisture conditions quickly before mold grows and health problems develop.
Some people may have more severe symptoms or become ill more rapidly than others:
- Individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, or asthma.
- Persons with weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy patients, and so forth)
- Infants and young children
- The elderly
Anyone With Health Problems They Believe Due To Molds Should Consult A Medical Professional.
Additional fact sheets on Mold and Health Effects are available from CDHS:
- Health Effects of Toxin-Producing Molds in California
- Stachybotrys chartarum (atra) – a mold that may be found in water-damaged homes
- Fungi and Indoor Air Quality
- Misinterpretation of Stachybotrys Serology
These documents are available from the Environmental Health Investigation Branch, (510) 622-4500, or on the web at www.dhs.ca.gov/ehib/.
DETECTION OF MOLD
How Can I Tell If I Have Mold In My House?
You may suspect that you have mold if you see discolored patches or cottony or speckled growth on walls or furniture or if you smell an earthy or musty odor. You also may suspect mold contamination if mold-allergic individuals experience some of the symptoms listed above when in the house. Evidence of past or ongoing water damage should also trigger a more thorough inspection. You may find mold growth underneath water-damaged surfaces or behind walls, floors, or ceilings.
Should I Test My Home For Mold?
Yes, If you can see or smell mold, you likely have a problem and should have it tested. if you have any unexplained healthy symptoms, you should have it tested. Reliable air sampling for mold requires expertise and equipment that is not available to the general public. Owners of individual private homes and apartment generally will need to pay a contractor to carry out such sampling, because insurance companies and public health agencies seldom provide this service. Mold inspection and cleanup are usually considered a housekeeping task that is the responsibility of homeowners or landlord, as are roof and plumbing repairs, house cleaning, and yard maintenance.
As you probably guessed, an air quality and mold inspection involve searching for signs of mold and mildew. Instead of looking under carpets, however, our inspector uses modern techniques to test how many mold spores are present in the air. If we determine that there are a lot of spores, we can then begin to search for the cause and find out where the mold is growing.
WHAT WE CAN DO – OCEAN BREEZES HOME INSPECTIONS
Ocean Breezes certified inspector, trained in appropriate sampling methodology, performs topical sampling. Topical sampling should be performed if: 1) the building inhabitants are suffering from health problems, which are or may be associated with fungal exposure; 2) to identify the presence or absence of mold if a visual inspection is equivocal (e.g. discoloration, and staining); 3) to determine whether a specific fungal colonization is compromising air quality (by comparing the results with the air tests) and 4) as a necessary precursor to a remediation of the area. There are three main categories of topical sampling techniques:
1.) Bulk Sampling: Bulk samples are collected from visibly moldy surfaces by scraping or cutting materials with a clean tool into a clean plastic bag. At the laboratory, the surface of the material is wiped with a sterile cotton swab and transferred to a malt extract agar petri dish. Tape lift samples are collected by stripping the suspect surface with clear tape and placing the tape onto a glass slide for identification at the laboratory. The dish is incubated at the laboratory in a special incubator that is high in humidity and void of all ambient light at a temperature suitable for fungal growth.
2.) Tape Lift Sampling. Tape lift samples were collected by pressing cellophane tape onto a surface to lift surfaces contaminants and then placing the tape onto a laboratory microscopic slide. The sample was then analyzed at the laboratory by direct microscopic exam.
3.) Swab Sampling. Similar to tape lift sample, but designed to reach solely into grass not accessible by the Tape life slides.
Air monitoring should be performed if: 1) the presence of mold is suspected in a particular area of the structure (e.g a microbial volatile odor is detected) but cannot be identified through a visual inspection or bulk sampling (the purpose of such air monitoring is to determine the location and/or extent of mold contamination); 2) the building inhabitants are suffering from health problems which are or may be associated with fungal exposure; 3) if there is evidence from a visual inspection that the ventilation systems may be contaminated.