Though mold is a natural part of our environment, if left unchecked inside the home it may become a health hazard. Most mold types thrive in the air and soil, which make them easily tracked into the home. Moisture is a prime concern when dealing with mold, as moist conditions offer an ideal environment for mold to thrive. Mold favors dark, moist areas, particularly floorboards, inside walls, attics and basements. A few signs and symptoms will indicate the presence of mold in a home.
Conditions Favorable to Mold
Every home has some mold, but certain conditions encourage mold populations to thrive. Moisture and humidity are key components to mold growth, and the most serious problems tend to arise after flooding or heavy rains, or if humidifiers are used without humidity control. Basements, crawl spaces and poorly ventilated rooms are all prime candidates for mold problems. Roof or plumbing leaks, steam in the bathroom and poor drainage may also encourage mold growth.
Early stages of mold infestation are usually accompanied by a distinct smell or visible mold colonies. Smelling or seeing mold is usually an indication of an underlying problem. The smell is usually musty and strong, and often leads to the source of the problem. The look of the mold depends on the type of mold that is present, but mold growths are most commonly furry or slimy patches that become larger as the mold reproduces. Colors may vary greatly, and may include white, yellow, brown, green or black, among an array of hues. It is important for homeowners to realize that color is not indicative of the level of danger the mold presents. Many people believe all black molds to be toxic, but this is inaccurate.
Mold that is visible is often just the tip of the iceberg. If colonies begin showing up on windows, in showers and in other easily accessible locations, it usually means the mold colony has overgrown its dark, damp hiding space. Look for water stains on walls or ceilings, cracked or peeling paint, warped wood and growth between bathroom tiles. All of these are signs of long-term mold exposure and may require the aid of a professional to cure and clean up the problem.
Most people will have few serious side effects from mold exposure. Most at risk are people with respiratory problems, including allergies or emphysema, and those with compromised immune systems, including chemotherapy patients and people with HIV or AIDS. Allergylike symptoms -- sneezing and itching -- are the most common responses to mold. Sinus congestion, eye irritation, breathing difficulties and coughing can result from exposure to just about every type of mold. Occasionally, people may develop rashes, headaches and throat irritation. In some cases, side effects will be more severe. Stachybotrys is a greenish-black mold found on paper, in dust and in lint, and in a few home construction products like fiberboard or gypsum. It is among the most dangerous molds, particularly to the respiratory system. Long-term exposure may result in insomnia, breathing difficulties, memory loss and death. Use extreme caution when removing any mold from the home, taking particular care to protect the respiratory system.