What is Mold?
Mold in your home can happen, even in Colorado! Most people assume that with the dry climate of Colorado, mold cannot grow. But think again. Molds need three things to grow: wet surfaces, a nutrition source such as wood, wallboard, insulation, ceiling tiles, carpet or fabric and the appropriate temperature for the spore’s growth. If an area gets wet (water leak, pipe burst, condensation, etc) and does not get properly taken care of, it creates an ideal environment for mold to grow. According to the EPA,
“Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.”
Types of Mold
Alternaria sp.- Extremely widespread and ubiquitous. Outdoors it may be isolated from samples of soil, seeds, and plants. It is commonly found in outdoor samples. It is often found in carpets, textiles, and on horizontal surfaces in building interiors. Often found on window frames. The species Alternaria is capable of producing tenuazonic acid and other toxic metabolites which may be associated with disease in humans or animals. Alternaria produces large spores having sizes between 20-200 microns in length and 7-18 microns in width, suggesting that the spores from this fungi are deposited in the nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. It may be related to bakers asthma. It has been associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, sinusitis, dermatomycosis, onychomycosis, subcutaneous phaeohyphomycosis, and invasive infection. Common cause of extrinsic asthma (immediate-type hypersensitivity: type 1). Acute symptoms include edema and bronchospasms, chronic cases may develop pulmonary emphysema.
Aspergillus sp.– A genus of fungi containing approximately 280 species. Members of this genus have been recovered from a variety of habitats, but are especially common as saprophytes on decaying vegetation, soils, stored food, feed products in tropical and subtropical regions. Some species are parasitic on insects, plants, and animals, including humans. Species within this genus have reported water activities (Aw’s) between 0.75-0.82. All of the species contained in this genus should be considered allergenic. Various Aspergillus species are a common cause of extrinsic asthma (immediate-type hypersensitivity: type 1). Acute symptoms include edema and bronchiospasms. Chronic cases may develop pulmonary emphysema. Members of this genus are reported to cause a variety of opportunistic infections of the ears and eyes. Severe pulmonary infections may also occur. Many species produce mycotoxins which may be associated with disease in humans and other animals. Toxin production is dependent on the species or strain within a species and on the food source for the fungus. Some of these toxins have been found to be carcinogenic in animal species. Several toxins are considered potential human carcinogens.
Chaetomium sp. – Large ascomycetous fungus producing perithecia. It is found on a variety of substrates containing cellulose, including paper and plant compost. It can be readily found on the damp or water damaged paper in sheetrock.
Curvularia sp. – It is reported to be allergenic. It may cause corneal infections, mycetoma, and infections in immunocompromised hosts.
Penicillium sp. – Aw (water activity) 0.78 – 0.88. A wide number of organisms are placed in this genera. Identification to species is difficult. Often found in aerosol samples. Commonly found in soil, food, cellulose, and grains (17, 5). It is also found in paint and compost piles. It may cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergenic alveolitis in susceptible individuals. It is reported to be allergenic (skin) (7, 17). It is commonly found in carpet, wallpaper, and in interior fiberglass duct insulation (NC). Some species can produce mycotoxins. Common cause of extrinsic asthma (immediate-type hypersensitivity: type I). Acute symptoms include edema and bronchiospasms, chronic cases may develop pulmonary emphysema.
Scopulariopsis sp. – It may produce arsine gas if growing on arsenic substrates. This can occur on wallpapers covered with paris green. It has been found growing on a wide variety of materials including house dust. It is associated with type III allergy.
Ulocladium sp. – Has an Aw (water activity) of 0.89. Isolated from dead or decaying plants, paper, textiles, dung, grasses, fibers in wood, and cellulose materials. Ulocladium is commonly found in damp or wet areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and in basements around windows. Ulocladium has been found to cause Type I (hay fever) allergy. There have been cases of causing skin surface and deep skin infections in immune-suppressed individuals
Signs of Mold in Your Home
- Musty smell
- Peeling/bubbling paint
- Warping of drywall
- Visible signs of mold
- Some molds might appear white and thread-like. Others appear in clusters of small back spots. Mold might be gray-brown, black, gray-green, or white. Mold that grows behind vinyl and wallpaper might be orange, pink, or purple.
- Past flooding
- Water damage
- Health issues
Can Mold Make You Sick?
- runny nose and congestion
- eye irritation
- sore throat
- skin rash
- lung irritation
People with conditions such as allergies, asthma, or a compromised immune system are at most risk when it comes to mold exposure.
In people with asthma, an allergic reaction to mold can trigger an attack. You may need to use an inhaler to manage symptoms.
Exposure to a large amount of mold can cause a more serious reaction.
According to the CDC, to prevent mold you should:
Inspect buildings for evidence of water damage and visible mold as part of routine building maintenance, Correct conditions causing mold growth (e.g., water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) to prevent mold growth.
Inside your home you can control mold growth by:
- Controlling humidity levels
- Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes
- Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding
- Ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas
- Keep humidity levels as low as you can—between 30% and 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. Bear in mind that humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in the moisture in the air and the air temperature, so you will need to check the humidity levels more than once a day.
- Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
- Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
- Thoroughly and quickly clean up and dry out any area that has been flooded or had a leak (ideally within 24 to 48 hours).
- Ensure that sliding doors seal.
- Look for broken, damaged or disconnected rain gutters.
- Check to see if water runs away from the foundation of the home and crawlspace.
- Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.
- Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms, basements, and kitchens as these places may have a lot of moisture.
Where to look for signs of mold?
- The kitchen and bathroom: look for loose and warped tiles or linoleum, discoloured walls especially around and under sinks, tubs, and toilets.
- Look at the walls inside cabinets; under throw rugs, behind and under refrigerators. Windows in all rooms and doors to the outside: look for chipping of paint or plaster or discoloration of walls or rotting wood frames.
- Check for condensation in window frames
- Look at ceilings or wall areas that contain piping/plumbing fixtures.
What if I Find Mold in My Home?
What to Do:
- Stay out of affected areas.
- Turn off the HVAC system and fans.
- Contact a professional for mold remediation services
What Not to Do:
- Do not touch or disturb the mold.
- Don’t blow air across any surfaces with visible or suspected mold growth.
- Do not attempt to dry the area yourself.
- Don’t spray bleach or other disinfectants on the mold.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), in most cases, you can handle the job yourself using this Mold Cleanup Tips and Techniques list.
If the area affected is larger, you will likely need to hire a professional. Many companies specialize in mold remediation, so you should be sure to search for a licensed, reputable company to come in to test and treat the mold. If you suspect that the HVAC system may be contaminated with mold (it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold near the intake to the system), consult EPA guide Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?
Statistics from the US Bureau of the Census indicate that approximately 35% of American homes are water-damaged each year, so the opportunity for mold to grow, cause illness to occupants, and damage structures is extensive. Recent studies indicate that household strength bleach does not kill mold, and in fact may contribute to further mold growth. Over the shelf bleach contains approx 1.5% bleach, when diluted at a rate of 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water (as per EPA), almost all that is being applied to the mold is pure water.
Think you may have mold in your home? Contact:
Stephen J. Cash
413 Mesa Road Colorado Springs, CO 80905
Colorado’s Warranty of Habitability Act:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home (Environmental Protection Agency):
About Mold and Moisture (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development):
Thinking about buying or selling a home? Please contact us!