how to detect mold?

The odds are that at one time or another, we’ve all seen mold inside our homes. In fact, according to the World Health Organization’s 2009 report, WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould, mold and mold-causing conditions are “estimated to affect 10–50% of indoor environments in Europe, North America, Australia, India and Japan. In certain settings, such as river valleys and coastal areas, the conditions of dampness are substantially more severe than the national averages.”

Depending on the type and severity of its presence, it can come in any number of colors and textures. It could be white and powdery, green and fuzzy, patchy black spots or really just about any other color on the spectrum.

No matter how it presents itself indoors, it’s gross. Oh yeah, and it’s not great for your home OR your health.

Medical News Today identifies several different mold types commonly found indoors:

  • Alternaria – found in damp places indoors, such as showers or under leaky sinks
  • Aspergillus – often found indoors growing on dust, powdery food items and building materials, such as drywall
  • Cladosporium – capable of growing in cool areas as well as warm ones. It is typically found on fabrics and wood surfaces
  • Penicillium – typically found on materials that have been damaged by water and often has a blue or green appearance.

Ultimately, it doesn’t necessarily matter what type of mold is present in your home. What matters most is that, regardless of the type, the mere presence of mold is potentially hazardous and may be a sign of other larger issue(s).

What does it mean?
Mold can be found just about anywhere. It’s part of the natural environment that helps to break down organic matter and deposit useful materials back into soil and the ecosystem. Molds help create important antibiotics. Some molds such as certain varieties of mushrooms, and cheeses made with mold are even edible…to a certain point. So mold isn’t all bad.

However, the benefits of mold tend to stop when it reaches the surfaces of your home. When those ugly spots start to appear on your walls, counters, ceilings and other surfaces, you’ve not only got a mold problem, you’ve got a moisture problem.

Sure, mold in itself can be an issue, but it’s important to remember that mold is a sign of moisture being someplace it’s not supposed to be. Mold spores only grow when they attach to wet surfaces and are left to multiply. As such, oftentimes home owners may find mold on bathroom and kitchen surfaces where water has been allowed to collect.

Beyond those areas where water use is commonplace, mold can be a red flag to indicate leaks, inadequate ventilation, and water damage. Needless to say, when you spot mold in your home, it’s best to act quickly to diagnose and remedy the situation as soon as possible and minimize any potential long term affects.

Control Moisture to Control Mold
Prevention is the best way to eliminate mold problems before they start. By identifying and controlling moisture in your home, you can effectively eliminate the ability for mold to attach to moisture and grow.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends several measures you can take to control the presence of undue moisture in your home. These include:

  • Fix the source of the water problems or leaks to prevent mold growth.
  • Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  • In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting.
  • Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mold growth by:
    • Venting bathrooms, dryers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside
    • Using air conditioners and de-humidifiers
    • Increasing ventilation
    • Using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dish-washing and cleaning
  • Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Tackling the problem with preventive measures such as these before it begins will go a long way toward eliminating the risk of mold taking hold of your home. It will also help to minimize impacts should mold ever turn up, and make clean up much easier.

Removal of Mold
If you suspect or discover that you may have a mold problem, it’s important to contact a certified mold assessment specialist who can help determine to what extent your home may be impacted. Should your home show signs of mold beyond what may fall under routine cleaning of showers and sinks, it is recommended that any mold removal and remediation be handled by a professional remediation company with the expertise necessary to ensure the job is done right.

The EPA offers a few tips and techniques that the experts use to effectively remove mold. These include:

  • Fixing plumbing leaks, standing water and other water problems as soon as possible and drying all items completely.
  • Wearing appropriate clothing and safety gear to avoid exposure to mold.
  • Scrubbing mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and drying completely.
  • Cleaning up the mold and drying surfaces before painting. NOT painting or caulking moldy surfaces as paint applied in this way is likely to peel.

It’s important to note that mold growing on absorbent or porous materials such as ceiling tiles, drywall and carpet, may make adequate cleaning difficult or impossible. Since mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, affected materials may need to be tossed.

For larger mold removal, such as remediating damage caused by flooding, many mold clean up steps are the same in general, they are just far more involved depending on how much has been affected and to what degree!

Following a flood event, there are many other variables to consider as floodwaters touch everything in their path. Where a leaky kitchen faucet may cause water damage and mold under and around the sink, a flood will impact every square foot of the kitchen and beyond. That means floors, walls, cabinets, appliances, furniture and anything else in the way.

Flood damage broadens the scope of an assessment, requiring detailed inspections of every impacted area and item within a space to determine what may be safely salvaged and restored. A 2012 article published by the Centers for Disease Control provides in-depth information about mold prevention and clean up following major floods including information about assessing mold, minimizing exposure, cleanup and remediation considerations, and much more.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to effective mold removal and remediation. What’s most important is protecting the health and safety of all involved.

Indoor environmental experts, WonderMakers Environmental, offers a great case study among their many resources on the complexities of mold remediation and many of the considerations to be made when determining the best approach for effective clean up.

Mold is Everywhere, and that’s okay!
It’s very easy to make mold out to be the bad guy. But mold is a naturally occurring thing. It’s around us in many forms all the time, and it’s nothing to be concerned about in that context.

What is important is to be aware of those times when mold may become an issue and when it’s time to take action. Knowing the hazards, warning signs and preventative measures to minimize your exposure is a great first step in ensuring mold doesn’t have a negative effect on your environment. Regular inspections and maintenance of any trouble spots in your home is another.

And of course, if you ever need professional insight, there are many mold assessment experts out there to help keep your home and family in the know and out of harm’s way.

Resources:
https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-cleanup-your-home#TipsandTechniques
https://www.epa.gov/mold/brief-guide-mold-moisture-and-your-home#tab-4
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288651.php
https://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm
https://www.epa.gov/mold
http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
https://www.wondermakers.com/Portals/0/docs/Remediating%20mold%20from%20painted%20surfaces.pdf?ver=2014-03-25-093208-543
https://iaq.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/212104617-How-can-I-tell-if-I-have-a-mold-problem-
http://www.eatingwell.com/article/91553/4-moldy-foods-you-can-eat-plus-which-foods-to-toss/
https://www.ciriscience.org/a_318-Mold-Prevention-Strategies-and-Possible-Health-Effects-in-the-Aftermath-of-Hurricanes-and-Major-Floods
https://housecheck.com/mold/
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-08/documents/mold._homeowners_and_renters_guide_to_cleanup_after_disasters.pdf