Mold & Health
Q. Is Mold Making Me Sick?
Health affects that can be reasonably associated with mold and damp environments include the following,
- Increased asthma development and exacerbation
- Difficulty and/or labored breathing (dyspnea)
- Respiratory infections
- Allergic rhinitis
- And upper respiratory tract symptoms.
Those who have known allergies are generally more susceptible to mold and its byproducts, but nonallergic individuals may also be affected. Those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for health problems associated with mold. Generally speaking, most people have a high tolerance for exposure to mold and most symptoms subside once the sources are removed.
The effects of toxins or other byproducts of mold growth are not well understood in the medical community. Ongoing investigation and research is being conducted. There is toxicological evidence obtained in vivo (from people or animals) and in vitro (in test tubes) that show the occurrence of diverse inflammatory and toxic responses after exposure to microorganisms (including mold) isolated from damp buildings. This includes mold spores, metabolites and components. While the effects of these components at real world levels is still under investigation, there are those within the medical community that believe even low dose exposure may pose potential problems for people who are genetically susceptible.
Q. I Have Mold In My House. Do I Need to Move Out?
It is rare that someone would need to move out of their home because of mold, but there are times when relocation might be a good idea.
Choosing whether to move out of your home for any reason can be challenging. Financial and emotional stresses and a perceived health risk can add fear and confusion to that decision. Immediate evacuation from the home may be warranted if you suffer from a severe health issue, a compromised immune system, or a doctor has made the suggestion.
If you do not suffer from an extreme health condition, moldy areas in a home can usually be isolated from the rest of the house as an alternative to moving out. Visible mold should be removed, when found, and the home can usually be restored without significant risk to occupants.
Q. How Do I Know If I Have a Mold Problem?
More often than not, if you have a mold problem you will be able to see it or smell it.
Sometimes, though, areas of mold growth may be hiding. You or your doctor may suspect mold in your home even though you haven’t seen it. Mold is always present, but because it is so small, it can go unnoticed until it grows into a problem. This is especially true in hidden areas like a crawl space or attic.
Mold requires moisture to survive, so it is often found in areas with water damage or high humidity. Areas with a previous water issue can still have mold growth. Knowing the history of the home can help to determine if there is a possible problem that you can’t see. You may need A thorough mold investigation, possibly with testing, if you think you may have mold in your home but can’t find it.
Q. Is Mold in My Crawl Space Affecting My home?
Mold in the crawl space will almost always have a lower impact on indoor air quality than visible mold indoors. The crawl space may have increased impact on indoor air if it is pressurized. Pressurization of the space can occur via heating and cooling ducts, air infiltration through foundation vents, or differences in temperature.
Mold is common in crawl spaces and can usually be found to some extent in small areas. This can become more pronounced as a home ages or ground moisture problems are left uncorrected.
Uncorrected mold growth in crawl spaces may affect the resale value of your home even if it isn’t a health issue. It may even prohibit the sale to potential buyers in the future. We recommend fixing any mold issues in the crawl space before listing your house for sale.
Q. Is Mold in My Attic Affecting My Home?
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 a 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. There is a Smell in My House. Is It Mold?
According to the EPA, “You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source…”
As molds grow they produce compounds released into the air known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOC’s). The “musty” smell that people often associate with mold growth can be attributed to these compounds. They generally are good indicators that mold is growing somewhere in the home.
Smells can be very hard to describe without referring to other odors, so we often hear that my house smells “musty” or “earthy” or “gross” or some other word that people use to try and tell us what’s going on. From experience, we have found that many times these unpleasant odors are associated with other sources such as mice nesting or sewer gas. Unfortunately, until you have experienced various odors first hand many times, it can be hard to tell the difference.
The more history that is known about a house, the easier it is to narrow down the source of an unpleasant odor. The occurrence of water damage in the past, the presence of mice, or recent plumbing problems can all help to determine where the odor is coming from and what the solution is to resolve it.
Mold Cleanup & Remediation
Q. Should I Have My Ducts Cleaned?
We often get this question from customers who have mold growth on or near their vents in warm weather. Usually, this mold doesn’t come from inside the vents. Instead it comes from condensation when the air conditioner causes surfaces to be cold.
In such a case, lowering the humidity in the home should reduce the amount of condensation and mold growth. You should clean the register covers and the surrounding area with a biocide. Any labeled “disinfectant” or “sanitizer” should work fine.
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. Some studies have shown an increase in efficiency of heating and cooling systems following duct cleaning.
The EPA has a lot of information about this subject; click here for more information about duct cleaning.
Q. How Do I Get Rid of Mold?
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 should 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 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 317-932-9862 to answer any questions you may have.
Q. Does Mold Spread During Cleanup?
It is true that mold releases spores into the surrounding environment when agitated. Physical disturbance or even air currents can cause this release. Spraying the surface with a cleaner will produce the same result, albeit not to the same extent as physical agitation.
When removing mold from the affected area(s) of a building, it may be important to prevent spores from spreading to unaffected areas. For large areas of concern, or more sensitive occupants, isolating the affected area from the rest of the home may be the best option. We can minimize the spread of spores from one area to another using airflow, positive and negative pressures, or containment barriers (like plastic sheeting).
Q. Should I Replace Moldy Carpet?
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.
Q. Are Mold Tests Necessary?
Mold testing isn’t always necessary, but there are some instances where it’s a good idea. This requires more discussion than we can provide in a simple FAQ. Please visit our mold testing page for more information on the subject.
Q. What is Mold?
Molds are in every environment throughout the world, including here in Indiana. Like mushrooms and wood rot, mold is part of the Fungi Kingdom. They provide a valuable service, breaking down dead plant materials and taking part in the circle of life.
Molds reproduce through the release of spores into their environments. The spores form at the top of the mold structure and are often what gives mold its unique color. Air, water, or insects can cause the mold spores to disperse into the air. If conditions are right, these spores can amplify into large colonies. While the spores tend to not be visible with the naked eye, these colonies become visible as they mature.
Surface mold generally poses no risk to the structural integrity of materials on its own. The presence of mold can indicate moisture, which promotes other organisms that do affect these items.
More 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.
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 structures. Not all molds produce toxins, and some only given certain environmental conditions. 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.
Toxicological evidence obtained in vivo (from people or animals) and in vitro (in test tubes) show the occurrence of diverse inflammatory and toxic responses after exposure to microorganisms (including mold) isolated from damp buildings, including their spores, metabolites and components. The effects of these components at real world levels is still under investigation, although there are those within the medical community that believe even low dose exposure may pose potential problems for people who are genetically susceptible.
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs)
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds are the musty or “earthy” odors associated with mold growth. They are composed of low molecular weight alcohols, aldehydes, amines, ketones, terpenes, aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons, and sulfur-based compounds, all of which are variations of carbon-based molecules. 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.
Beta-Glucans, or fungal cell wall fragments, are the parts and pieces of molds that have 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. Generally speaking, these portions of the cellular makeup of the air are not completely understood. Inflammation appears to be the primary response within the respiratory tract.
Q. What Causes Mold?
Mold is literally everywhere. Mold spores are found in every environment on earth, both inside and outside. All of the components are already present within your home to grow except moisture. Elevated humidity, water damage, or condensation are the primary ways that moisture becomes sufficiently present on surfaces for mold to grow.
Q. How Fast Does Mold Grow?
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.
What often appears as a rapid outbreak of mold has taken weeks, months or years to reach the level at which it is visibly seen. It’s important to control humidity indoors and always dry out water damaged materials as quickly as possible. Maintaining a clean home with periodic dusting and deep cleaning dramatically reduces the chances of developing significant mold problems.
Q. What is the Difference Between Mold and Mould?
Q. What is the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?
For the purposes of health and cleanup, there is no distinction between mildew and mold in how one would address the situation.
Mildew is often a term used to describe the growth found on living plants in horticulture. You would say you have mildew growing on your pumpkin vine for example. Mildew has been used as a term to refer to mold growth in general in the past, usually types characterized by a flat growth habit that are white or light in color.
Indiana Mold Remediation (Our Company)
Q. Do You Offer Free Mold Estimates?
We are committed to providing resources and services to help as many people as possible resolve mold questions and problems through education, consultation, advice and remediation. We offer as much free advice and information as possible to allow people to resolve problems themselves when possible and strive to provide reasonable solutions for those that need our help directly.
To better reach these goals we currently offer free visual inspections and estimates in our local service area.
Q. Can You Find the Source of Mold and Write a Report?
We have many years of experience in investigating water damaged and moldy buildings. Most of the time, we have a high degree of certainty that we have identified the location of mold growth in a home as well as the moisture source that led to its growth following a visual inspection. Having seen similar problems first hand many times, it can be obvious to the experienced eye (and nose) whether or not there is a mold problem present and what the cause of the problem was initially. With this information, we can often deduce areas that could be problematic and prompt additional investigation which may involve removal of building materials.
While this is generally true, there are times when hidden mold growth can be causing occupants trouble and determining the exact source of the problem can be difficult if not impossible. Areas that have been painted over or repairs made to a home over moldy surfaces can dramatically interfere with our ability to determine whether or not mold is present or what the moisture source was that originally caused the problem. Knowing the history of your home can really help to narrow down possible locations of a problem.
Any findings are generally explained and reported in a written statement following an on site evaluation. This is true whether mold was found or not. There are times when additional investigation or testing is suggested to acquire more concrete information about the current state of a home.
Q. Can I Stay in My Home While Cleanup Work is Going On? Is It Safe?
We generally recommend that occupants not be present within the areas where work is taking place nor any adjacent areas throughout the duration of cleanup activities. Ideally, a period of 24 hours after completion of work is recommended to remain out of these areas as well. This adds a layer of protection for you and your family as well as allows us to focus on the task of resolving the mold problem. When we are working in attics or crawlspaces, the affected area is adjacent to large portions of the home, so staying overnight somewhere is probably best. We can understand when this is not possible, so discussing these things prior to scheduling work with us is suggested. Some odors from cleaners and other treatments may remain present in the home for several days following the cleanup, this is normal and should diminish over time. If you are concerned about cleaning odors, please discuss this with us so that we can come up with a solution that meets your specific needs.