Frequently Asked Questions

Health

Q: Is Mold Making Me Sick?

I think mold in my house is making me sick. How can I tell?

A:

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.

Q: Is Mold Harmful to Humans?

What are the health hazards of mold? Is it really dangerous?

A:

Health effects from mold exposure occur due to the presence of spores, mold toxins (mycotoxins), microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOC's), and glucans or fungal cell wall fragments.

Spores, as indicated above, 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 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.

Mold Biology

Q: What is Mold?

This may sound like a silly question, but what exactly is mold?

A:

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.

Q: What Causes Mold?

We found mold in our house, but we don't know why it's growing there.

A:

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.

Q: How Fast Does Mold Grow?

We had a water leak that took more than a couple of days to dry. How fast will mold grow?

A:

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 Cleanup/Remediation

Q: How Do I Know If I Have a Mold Problem?

I think we have mold, but how do you tell?

A:

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.

Q: Is Mold in My Crawl Space affecting my home?

We found mold in our crawlspace, what should we do?

A:

Mold growth in the crawl space is less likely to affect the interior of the home that 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.

Q: Is Mold in My Attic Affecting My Home?

Our home inspector found mold in our attic. How dangerous is it? Will it cause mold to grow in other parts of the house?

A:

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.

Q: How Do I Get Rid of Mold?

What is the best way to deal with mold? Can I do it myself?

A:

In most cases, mold must be physically removed. That means cutting out the drywall, carpet, or other affected material. When dealing with mold on wood, the mold can often be physically removed from the surface of the wood by sanding or blasting it off. When removing mold, some mold spores will still be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back. You can find more information in the EPA's Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home.

Q: Does Mold Spread During Cleanup?

I have heard that mold can spread to other areas of my house during cleanup. How do you prevent that?

A:

To take care of a mold problem, you must remove the mold and mold spores. You must also fix the water problem. When removing mold, it is important to prevent spores from spreading to unaffected areas. To do this, the remediator will block vents, doors, and any other openings through which spores could reach clean areas. Negative pressurization is established in the sealed area. The remediator creates low air pressure inside so that spores cannot leave.

Q: Should I replace my carpet?

I don't visually see any mold on the carpet, but we have mold in the crawl space, on all the windows, and on some walls. We are going to replace our windows this spring; would replacing the carpet help reduce the amount of mold spores in our home?

A:

The mold on the windows is most likely due to condensation due to the difference in temperature between the indoor and outdoor air, and is unlikely to be a direct result of the mold in the crawl space. There may be elevated levels of mold spores in the home from these two sources, but unless there is excess moisture in the carpet as well it is unlikely to grow there. Once the visible mold growth is removed from the affected areas, you will want to eliminate as many of the remaining spores from the air as possible so you aren't breathing them in. Part of this process is removing the settled spores from the carpets and other surfaces in the home. We would certainly advise replacement of the carpet if there is mold actually growing on it. For the removal of the settled spores, however, it is usually sufficient to have the carpets HEPA vacuumed and cleaned with a low moisture cleaning system. If you have further questions about your specific situation give us a call! We don't charge for phone time.

Q: Should we have our ducts cleaned?

We have discovered mold in our house. Should we have our ductwork cleaned to remove mold spores?

A:

That is usually not necessary, unless you have visible mold growth inside the ducts, there are rodents in the ducts, or the ducts are clogged with dust and debris. The best way to keep your duct system from spreading particles throughout your home is to increase filtration at the furnace; duct cleaning has never been shown to prevent health problems.  Check out the EPA's website for more information about duct cleaning.

Mold Testing

Q: Are Mold Tests Necessary?

There is mold in the basement. Do I need to get mold tests on it?

A:

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 it, you likely do not need to test it. There are times when testing is a reasonably good option. For example, if there is an odor present with no visible mold, it may be a good idea to have testing done.