While mold has brought us the wonders of yeast and the beauty of beer, it’s not always the best thing since sliced bread. This insidious bacterium grows out of sight in walls and roofs where it wreaks havoc on both building materials and the health of inhabitants. Household mold is ubiquitous and far more widespread than most homeowners imagine. Mold occurs in roughly 50% of households and can be very difficult to remove as the microscopic spores are released on contact which means the very act of cleaning can help to distribute the mold to other areas of your home.
The impact of mold on your home and your health
Prolonged exposure to mold can cause a plethora of health problems for building occupants in a phenomenon known as Sick Building Syndrome. The fungi release allergens into the atmosphere and reduce the indoor air quality of your home. Along with allergens, mold also produces irritants and potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. When you inhale or come into contact with mold spores, you could experience an allergic reaction which includes sneezing, congestion, irritation to the eyes and throat and rashes. Mold spores are also known to aggravate breathing conditions such as asthma.
Molds cause infections of the lungs, sinuses, digestive tract and skin. Researchers believe that fatigue, dizziness and headaches can also be attributed to exposure to mold spores.
Under certain conditions, mold can produce mycotoxins. Not all mold produces mycotoxins and not all mycotoxins are bad for humans (penicillin is a mycotoxin), but continued expose to large amounts can result in severe illness and even death. These kinds of exposures are extremely rare.
Prevent mold in the first place
Prevention really is better than cure when it comes to mold and there are steps you can take to ensure that your home stays mold-free.
Seal off problem areas: Prevent water from getting into your home by sealing cracks and holes and waterproofing your basement. Clean your gutters regularly and ensure there is adequate drainage around your home to keep moisture out.
Fix all leaks: Leaking taps, pipes and roofs need to be repaired before water gets in. Existing areas of water damage need to be professionally inspected to ensure that mold isn’t already growing there.
Clean up spills: If you’ve had a flood or if your shower is damp, make sure you dry up any spills within 24 hours.
Keep it clean: Regularly clean your appliances (dishwashers and washing machines) to prevent the buildup of mold that can easily spread to other areas of the house. Make sure areas which routinely get damp (like laundries, kitchens and showers) are properly ventilated so that moisture can evaporate.
Check indoor humidity: Monitor your indoor humidity, especially in the warmer months, and use a dehumidifier to restore a balance when your indoor humidity exceeds 60%.
Use mold-resistant building materials: Whether you are starting from scratch or planning a remodel, choose mold-resistant building materials. You can find everything from drywall to paint in a mold-resistant variety. Also ask your builder to check for mold during renovations and ensure that all new additions are properly sealed, ventilated and drained.
Build with ICFs: ICFs are garnering popularity for complete home construction and for basements thanks to their mold and insect-resistant properties. ICF homes virtually eliminate mold since they are constructed using the highly effective combination of non-organic materials, EPS and concrete.
Next week’s feature: Part 2 identifying and removing mold.