Mildew and molds are fungi - simple microscopic organisms that thrive anywhere there is a moist environment. Molds are a necessary part of the environment; without them, leaves would not decay and aspects of soil enrichment could not take place. It is their ability to destroy organic materials, however, that makes mold a problem for people - in our homes and in our bodies.
Mildew (mold in early stage) and molds grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, decaying leaves and other organic materials.
Mold growths, or colonies, can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. They reproduce by spores - tiny, lightweight “seeds”- that travel through the air. Molds digest organic material, eventually destroying the material they grow on, and then spread to destroy adjacent organic material. In addition to the damage molds can cause in your home, they can also cause mild to severe health problems. See the HEALTH section to check for possible mold related health problems.
Mold and mildew will develop within 24-48 hours of water exposure. Even worse, it will continue to grow until steps are taken to eliminate the source of moisture, and effectively deal with the mold problem.
Use the diagram on the facing page to assess the extent of mold in your home. We are all exposed to many kinds of mold both inside and outside the house. The exposure is greater in damp or wet conditions, especially when timely drying out do not have a chance to occur. Of the thousands of molds that exist, some are known allergens (aggravating or causing skin, eye, and respiratory problems), and a few molds produce harmful mycotoxins that can cause serious problems. But all molds, in the right conditions and high enough concentrations, are capable of adversely affecting human health.
Health issues caused by mold
The potential for health problems occurs when people inhale large quantities of the airborne mold spores. For some people, however, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions, and the elderly are at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.
Typical symptoms reported from mold exposure include:
Respiratory problems -wheezing, asthma attacks, etc
Nasal and sinus congestion or dry, hacking cough
Eye irritation - burning, watery, redness
Nose or throat irritation -sneezing fits, bloody noses
Skin irritations -rashes or hives
Nervous system -headaches, memory loss, mood changes
Aches and pains
The more serious health problems have been associated with the toxic black mold, Stachybotrys atra. The mold is greenish-black and slimy, resembling tar or black paint. Stachybotrys typically grows only on repeatedly wetted materials that contain cellulose - from paper to ceiling tiles, and any kind of wood. In most cases, this mold can be removed by a thorough cleaning with a 10% bleach solution. Severe mold infestations may require the assistance of a professional with experience in dealing with Stachybotrys.
There is no practical way for you to eliminate all of the molds and mold spores in the indoor environment. But there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth in your home. Here is a partial list: Stop the water
- Fix leaks in pipes, and any damp areas around tubs and sinks, so that biological pollutants don’t have growing environments.
- Rebuild, or retrofit, with water-resistant building materials such as tiles, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/ outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard, water-resistant glues, and so on.
- Prevent seepage of water from outdoors into your house. Rain water from gutters or the roof needs to drain away from the house. Ground around the house needs to slope away to keep basement and crawlspace dry.
- Cover dirt in crawlspaces with plastic to prevent moisture from coming from the ground. Ventilate the area as much as possible.
If you have a mold issue, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378 to assist you.