Frequently Asked Questions
Mold and Your Health
The predominant health effects from mold are allergenic in nature and are limited to the period of time that you are exposed to the fragments and chemicals that mold produces. Most healthy adults have a very high tolerance to mold exposure, even when exposed to large amounts of it. Some reports have been made that mold may cause or exacerbate more serious health problems like asthma or hyper-sensitivities, however a direct cause and effect to these issues is yet to have been established. Some individuals who have preexisting conditions like asthma or are immune-system compromised like HIV patients will be more likely to develop symptoms, illnesses, or complications when exposed to mold. If you do think that mold is making you sick, the best thing that you can do is to remove yourself from the environment where you know or think mold is present. If your acute symptoms (runny nose, watery eyes, fatigue) subside or improve when not in the affected area, it is likely that mold is the culprit. If you do not have a visible mold problem, and you suspect that mold may be causing you problems you should contact your physician about your concerns.
There are generally four different areas of discussion when it comes to the potential health effects of mold; spore, mold toxins or mycotoxins, microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs), and glucans or fungal cell wall fragments.
Spores are the "seeds" that allow mold to reproduce. Some spores are readily airborne, while others cling to surfaces only to be removed through direct contact or disturbances. Predominately mold spores are associated with allergic reactions or the exacerbation of asthmatic symptoms. Spores may pose potential allergic reactions whether they are viable (able to grow) or non-viable (dead).
Mold toxins are found residing on and within mold spores. Not all molds produce toxins, and some only given certain environmental conditions. There is abundant evidence that ingestion of mold toxins (like eating moldy bread) is harmful to human health, but there is limited information about inhaling or touching mold toxins. The most dangerous mold toxins are generally not found in building structures, but rather found on moldy food stuffs like contaminated grains and peanuts. Just because there is mold present, doesn't necessarily mean that mold toxins are present.
Health problems associated with mold toxins are reported to include mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer. More studies are needed to get a clear picture of the health effects related to most mycotoxins. However, it is clearly prudent to avoid exposure to molds and mycotoxins.
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs)
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds are the musty or "earthy" odors associated with mold growth. Generally MVOC's alert you to the presence of significant mold growth in an area or environment. There is limited research on the health effects associated with MVOC's, although it is reported that they can cause headaches, nasal congestion, dizziness, fatigue and nausea.
Glucans, or fungal cell wall fragments, are the parts and pieces of mold that has died or been decomposed. High amounts of glucan exposure can effect the immune system and even lead to Organic Toxic Dust Syndrome which is a flu-like illness. This along with many of the other health problems attributed to mold can be found predominately in agricultural and manufacturing settings.
Molds can be found in every environment throughout the world, including here in Indiana. Like mushrooms, many kinds of wood rot, and mildew; mold is part of the Fungi Kingdom. Outdoors, molds provide a valuable service to our planet by breaking down dead plant materials along with other microscopic organisms. Molds reproduce through the release of spores into their environments. These spores settle on surfaces and, if conditions are right, amplify into large colonies. Mold gradually destroys whatever it is growing on and so eliminating visible mold growth within building structures is important to protect building materials from deterioration. While additional research is needed to get a clear picture of the health problems associated with mold exposure, It is still prudent to avoid exposure to mold within indoor environments.
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.
Mold requires several conditions to grow. It needs food, moisture, and the right temperature. Once these are met, spores may germinate after 12 hours and can start to grow within 24 to 48 hours. How quickly molds colonize depends on what kind of mold it is, but it can occur after 1 to 12 days. This is why it is essential to act immediately in the event of water damage.
Mold can be present without the appearance of visible mold. It requires moisture to survive, so it is often found in areas with water damage or excessive humidity. Musty odors are an indication of a mold problem. If you think that you might have a hidden mold problem, you can hire a professional for an inspection and/or testing.
Mold growth in the crawl space is less likely to affect the interior of the home than mold growing inside the living area of your home. However, pressurization caused by airflow into and out of the vents, or through the introduction of air via the HVAC system could cause the transfer of mold into the home. The important thing in the crawl space is to correct the issues causing mold to grow.
For a more detailed answer see Mold Remediation in Attics. Due to the general movement of air up and out of the home, mold in the attic is not likely to affect the interior of the home. Mold growth in the attic is generally caused by condensation on the roof decking unless an apparent leak is present or ice damming has occurred. The conditions that lead to the mold growth should be corrected and the mold treated to prevent future growth.
The best way to deal with mold growth can vary greatly depending on the surface on which the mold is growing, the size and scope of the mold growth, and whether the building is residential or commercial. In many cases, especially a small amount of growth in a residential setting, you may be able to clean up the mold yourself. However; it may be necessary to hire or at least consult a remediation professional for larger areas of growth, or growth in a commercial building.
For guidelines on cleaning up mold, you may wish to consult the EPA's guide: Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Although it is geared toward large commercial projects, the advice it gives can easily be applied to mold removal anywhere.
If you decide to hire somebody to do the work, you should read our Buyer's Guide. It can help walk you through the process of choosing a mold remediation company.
In either case, we are available at 317-867-4766 to answer any questions you may have.
When removing mold from the affected area(s) of a building, it is important to prevent spores from spreading to unaffected areas. The mold remediation technician will seal vents, doors, windows, cracks, and/or any other openings through which spores could escape. Negative pressurization should be established in the sealed area using fans, HEPA filtered air scrubbers, or by other means to control the flow of air and further reduce the risk of cross contamination. By taking these steps, and others as necessary, the mold remediation technician should be able to perform the mold removal in a safe and contained manner.
If there is visible mold growth on your carpet or carpet pad, we do advise that you get it replaced. These are very porous materials that are difficult to get completely clean, even with hot water extraction, once mold begins to grow.
If there is no visible mold on the carpet or pad, but you are worried about settled spores from mold growing on another surface, the carpet can probably be cleaned and salvaged. We recommend a detailed cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and a low moisture cleaning system. Hot water extraction could also be used, but care must be taken to ensure that the carpet and pad are dried quickly.
We often get this question from customers who have spotted some mold growth on or near their vents in warm weather. Usually, this mold doesn't come from inside the vents; it is caused by condensation on cold surfaces as a result of air conditioning. In such a case, lowering the humidity in the home should reduce the amount of condensation and mold growth.
Duct cleaning has not been shown to be particularly effective at reducing or eliminating health problems. If you are concerned about the air quality in your home for other reasons, the best way to keep your duct system from spreading particles throughout your home is to increase filtration at the furnace.
However; if you have visible mold growth inside the ducts, there are rodents in the ducts, or the ducts are clogged with dust and debris; duct cleaning probably is necessary to remove those contaminants.
The EPA has a lot of informaiton about this subject; click here for more information about duct cleaning.
According to the EPA (Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings) mold sampling is not normally required. All types of mold are treated the same in regards to remediation, so there is no need to find out what type it is to remove it. This is very different than what you hear from most mold remediation companies.
The fact of the matter is that if you can see mold, you likely do not need to test it. However; there are times when testing is a good option. For example, if there is an odor present with no visible mold, or if there is a specific reason to legally prove the presence of mold. In any case, it is always wise to think about why testing is needed, and what the desired result might be, before spending the money to have it done.