The Path Of Resistance
Initially, Mikes landlord tried to fix the problem himself, bleaching the moldy walls. We call that spray n’ pray, said Scott Armour of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, a global industry body for remediators. They, along with the EPA, advise against bleach for a variety of reasons, namely that fumes can be dangerous and its usually ineffective.
Bleach only works for non-porous surfaces. It cant touch the mold that has burrowed into surfaces like wood or drywall . But the most important reason bleach fails is that people dont stop the molds water supply.
First thing I do is check for leaks, in the bathroom or roof or a crack in the foundation, said Greg Bukowski, who runs the Chicago-based remediation company Moldman USA. Theres always a leak. If you dont fix that, dont bother with bleach or vinegar. Then kill and remove the mold with detergent and water, then prevent its return with mold-resistant paint like Kilz .
When bleach didnt work, Mike paid for an indoor airborne mold test, which raised more questions than it answered. We had no idea how to interpret the results. I just couldnt find any information out there that isnt written by remediation guys, he said. They told him he had the dreaded black mold, and needed professional remediation.
Identifying Mold In Your Home
- Appearance or dark spots or clusters. Look for spots or clustered growths, especially in warm, moist rooms.
- Musty smell. You may be able to identify mold by a musty smell.
- Allergies or asthma. If you experience asthma attacks or allergy symptoms in your home, that may also indicate theres mold.
- Potential causes. Look for causes of mold growth, like a leak, water damage, lack of ventilation, or old food, papers, or wood.
How Fast Does Black Mold Spread
Mold begins to grow as soon as its spores land on a damp, fibre-rich material and it can spread around the house within 24 to 48 hours. It colonizes in one to twelve days and grows at one square inch per day. In less than a week, it can cover surface areas of several square feet.
Unfortunately in most cases, mold is widespread and already a big problem before a problem is even suspected by the homeowners.
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How Can I Check For Mold
Its best to hire a professional to help you identify and remove mold, especially if youre allergic or vulnerable to it.
You should also consider hiring help if the mold covers more than 10 square feet or if its hidden behind wallpaper, ceiling tiles, or other areas.
Here are some steps for identifying and removing mold.
Signs Your Home Has Toxic Black Mold
There are many different kinds of mold, and each comes with their own signs and symptoms. While all types of mold can affect your health, the biggest risk comes with toxigenic mold. Of these toxigenic molds, the most common is stachybotrys chartarum, or toxic black mold. Black mold grows in environments with a high cellulose contentsuch as carpets and drywalland excess moisture. Fortunately, you can tell that black mold is growing in your building in a few ways. We identify some of the signs your home has toxic black mold.
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Do Other Mold Types Smell
Not all kinds of mold have such a distinctive odor as black mold does. In fact, some types dont smell like anything at all. Other types of mold that are common in homes, such as Aspergillus or Penicillium, have a musty smell.
If you think you might have a mold problem in your home, its important to get it checked out by a professional. Some molds can cause health problems, especially for people with allergies or asthma. So its important to be able to identify mold, and know when its time to call in the professionals.
If youre not sure whether you have a mold problem, here are some signs that you might:
- You can see mold growing on walls, ceilings, or furniture.
- There is a musty smell in your home.
- You have allergies or asthma, and they seem worse than usual.
- Youve had recent water damage in your home.
Common Causes Of Water Damage Leading To Mold Smells
There are multiple reasons why your house can smell moldy due to mold but they all have one common factor which was stated earlier
It can come in many forms:
- Roof leaks
- Appliance leaks such as your refridgerator line or ice maker
- Air conditioning leak
When these types of leaks aren’t cleaned up quickly, mold can start to grow and let off odors.
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Can Black Mold Spread From House To House
Yes. If you have had mold in your old house and youre moving into another space, it is possible to cross contaminate this new environment.
Because mold spores are not visible to the naked eye, it is hard to tell which surfaces are contaminated. Therefore, the mold has to be completely cleaned before you renovate or move to a new home.
How Do I Identify Fatal Black Mold
by Rebekah Smith / in Home
Fatal black mould, Stachybotrys chartarum, can be located in any location that is dark and moist. Black mould is fatal and any drywall and baseboards that are infected must be removed. Black mould releases mycotoxins and causes respiratory problems. You may notice an increase in allergic reactions from high mould levels. Fatal mould can also cause headaches, difficulty concentrating, dizziness and a short attention span.
- Fatal black mould, Stachybotrys chartarum, can be located in any location that is dark and moist.
Search for black mould in areas of high humidity, greater than 55 per cent where there are leaks in pipes in flood areas where there are mildewy or musty smells in damp basements where humidifiers are running and where you see rust forming. Poor ventilation can also cause mould to form. Look at damp or wet rugs, indoor clothes lines, carpet or furniture that has been wet. Look at bathroom tile, behind vinyl wallpaper, in crawl spaces and anywhere there are lots of indoor plants. Check the attic to ensure you don’t have mould growing from a leaking roof. Look in air conditioning ducts, swamp coolers and on insulation. Mold can even hide inside cabinets.
Identify the smell of black mould. Black mould smells like urine. It will smell musty and mildew, but not unless it is out in the open. If it is growing in the walls, you will not smell fatal black mould.
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Are Mold Smells Harmful
On their own, mold smells arent especially harmful. However, they are an indicator of a mold problem, which could be a threat to your health if left unaddressed.
Depending on the species of mold, the amount of spores youre exposed to, and the duration of exposure, mold can cause a number of health problems. The symptoms of mold exposure can be mild, such as headaches, nausea and minor irritation in eyes or lungs. Mold symptoms can also be very serious, causing potentially fatal allergic reactions, cancers, lung infections and other serious health issues.
Because the health risks of mold exposure range from mild to life-threatening, its best not to take any chances. Eliminating all sources of mold in your home is the surest way to protect yourself from the toxic effects of mold.
Health Effects Of Black Mold
According to the EPA, various types of mold can cause health problems for some people. Those health problems are primarily in the form of allergies such as stuffy head, headache, itchy eyes, trouble breathing, etc. These ailments can be more severe in the young, the old, and those with other health issues. The CDC basically says the same thing that mold can cause health issues in some people, or no issues in other people.
According to the CDC, Stachybotrys black mold is unproven to cause serious medical issues beyond those mentioned above. In other words, symptoms of black mold are only proven to be similar to other molds. The CDC simply states that various types of mold may cause health symptoms, to consult with a doctor if symptoms persist, and that no color or type of mold belongs in a building.
You may be thinking: If all we know for sure is that mold causes allergies in some people, and maybe some serious health problems in a small percentage of other people, then whats the big deal?
Well, our answer to that is to imagine yourself as one of those people who are sensitive to mold. Constant allergies, constantly feeling sick, and miserable in your own home. Theres even a scientific name for it: Sick Building Syndrome . Mold, along with other problems such as radon, Chinese drywall, etc., can cause Sick Building Syndrome. Suffering through Sick Building Syndrome is a terrible way to live, and we wouldnt wish it upon our worst enemy!
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How Is Black Mold Identified
Collected mold samples on a medium such as a bulk sample, swab sample, or even air sample are sent to a laboratory. A microbiologist then identifies the spore type which can be Stachybotrys or other mold spore species under a microscope.
But who collects the samples?
Well, you can hire a licensed mold inspector who may tell you many issues about your house that you did not know.
You can collect the samples yourself using something such as My Mold Detective.
I always recommend the mold inspector route if possible, to avoid any contact with dangerous toxins produced by mold growth. However, getting a mold inspection can be expensive.
Is Black Mold The Only Dangerous Mold
Stachybotrys is not the only dangerous species of mold that can be toxic. Other dangerous species include Chaetomium, Memnoniella, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.
So how did this one particular species get so much notoriety?
The mold itself is not toxic. Stachybotrys can produce something called Mycotoxins. Mycotoxin is a fancy word for toxic. While Stachybotrys is not the only type of mold that can be toxic, it is the most feared of the toxic mold types you would find growing indoors.
That alone did not make black toxic mold famous. The media did its job and reported on a couple of high profile cases, some of which involved celebrities which will always get more attention. Two instances were the Ed McMahon Case and The Cleveland Drop Case.
But just like anything with the media, it got taken to the next level.
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Preventing Mold In Your Home
The best way to keep your family safe from black mold is to prevent it from growing. Since mold grows in damp, dark places, you should aim to improve ventilation and reduce humidity in areas that are prone to mold.
In your bathrooms, for example, you can use a shower squeegee to remove excess water from shower walls and bathroom mirrors. You can also install a vent fan or open a window when showering to allow humidity to leave the room. These steps help reduce the moisture in your bathroom and make it more difficult for black mold to grow.
Make searching for black mold or potential growth areas a part of your spring cleaning routine. The sooner you catch a mold growth, the better chance you have to get rid of it before it causes health problems.
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What Are Black Mold Health Symptoms
We all know mold isnt welcomed in the home, but did you know too that breathing in the presence of mold can harm your health? There are over 2,000 different species of mold and the most dangerous of all is called Stachybotrys Chartarum, also known as black mold or the invisible killer.
Why is black mold so dangerous? Black mold releases toxic spores that linger in the air and attack your respiratory health. The potency of these toxic spores has proved to be the most detrimental to human health.
Black mold often appears as slimy and greenish-black. If its water source runs out, it can also appear as dry and powdery. Black mold is also dangerous because its sometimes difficult to distinguish from other species of mold.
The following are health symptoms associated with black mold exposure:
- Eye irritation
In severe cases, symptoms caused by inhaling black mold can lead to the following health troubles:
- Respiratory complications
Sometimes mold invades spaces that are hard to see and reach. It spreads fast, burrowing into walls and ceilings and hiding in cupboards and under carpets. Quite often, people are exposed to black mold without even knowing it. If you or anyone in your home is experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms without knowing why, you may be exposed to mold.
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Why Does Mold Cause A Pungent Odor
Mold growth itself does not smell bad. It is the off-gases that are let off by mold growth called Microbial Organic Compounds .
The dank musty odor signifies the presence of microbial volatile organic compounds . Traditional volatile organic compounds are mainly industrial made chemicals with low molecular weights, high vapor pressure and low water solubility. MVOCs are released from metabolic processes of decay agents like fungi, bacteria and biofilm. The off gassing of MVOCs include a wide range of alcohols, ketones, aldehyde, esters, carboxylic acids, lactones, terpenes, aromatic hydrocarbons, sulfur and nitrogen compounds.
You don’t need to know scientifically how MVOC’s are formed, however, you must know it is caused in most causes by water damaged porous materials. This could mean drywall, clothes, flooring, etc.
Bottom line is this:
If you have had a leak in your home that was not dried up properly or maybe a hidden leak that led to mold growth
You have identified mold as the source of the moldy smell in your home.
How Can You Test For Black Mold
There are do-it-yourself mold testing options that are available at many hardware stores. However, you should be wary of their accuracy. There have been many instances where at-home tests have been wrong some have even been moldy upon purchase.
The best way to identify and eradicate black mold is by having it professionally tested and removed. Professional mold inspectors, like myself, will accurately detect the types of molds growing in your home and the level of severity.
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Can Black Mold Spores Travel In The Air
Yes. Mold spores are airborne and can attach themselves to peoples skin, clothing, shoes, shopping bags, furniture, carpets, and even pets. Once spores enter your home, they can settle onto any surface and start to multiply. They can also enter your house through open doorways, open windows, and HVAC systems.
Mold spores are microscopic and are virtually found everywhere. They are naturally found in the air we breathe, both indoors and outdoors. Since spores are tiny and lightweight, they become airborne easily, every time we vacuum or walk on the carpets or even sit on our couch.
How Can You Tell If Black Mold Is Active
Active mold looks different from inactive mold, and so there should be some visible signs for you to see if your suspected mold is active.
Look out for a webbing-like filament that resembles hair. This can develop out into a more bushy appearance as the bloom of the mold matures.
In comparison, inactive mold is flakier in appearance and can look and feel powdery .
You may also find that the surface layer of inactive mold can be brushed off relatively easily, whereas it is much more difficult to remove black mold from the surface.
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How To Keep Your Home Safe From Black Mold
If you have a reaction to black mold in your home, you can take steps to remove the mold from your home.
Youll be able to identify black mold by its characteristic black and splotchy appearance. Mold also tends to have a musty odor. It often grows:
- on top of showers
- in basements
- inside air-conditioning units
If you notice small amounts of mold, you can usually get rid of it with a mold-removing spray. You can also use a bleach solution of 1 cup household bleach to 1 gallon of water.
If theres a lot of black mold in your home, hire a professional to remove it. If you rent, tell your landlord about the mold so they can hire a professional.
Mold professionals can identify all areas where mold is growing and how to best remove it. You may need to leave your home during mold removal if mold growth is very extensive.
Once youve removed the black mold from your home, you can help stop it from growing again by:
- cleaning and drying any water that floods your home
- fixing leaky doors, pipes, roofing, and windows
- keeping humidity levels in your home low with a dehumidifier
- keeping your shower, laundry, and cooking areas well ventilated
When Should You Test Your Home For Mold Exposure
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , if visible mold is present on inspection, testing is usually unnecessary. There are no Environmental Protection Agency or government standards that have been established for mold or mold spore levels, so it is impossible to prove that a building or room complies with any health regulations concerning mold exposure. Likewise, the CDC does not recommend routine sampling and testing of mold in the home. Health officials havenÃ¢t defined tolerable or acceptable limits of mold exposure for humans, and since individuals vary in their susceptibility to mold, testing cannot reliably predict the degree of health risks from any occurrence of mold.
When mold has previously been identified and cleanup procedures have been undertaken, sampling and testing may be carried out if necessary by qualified professionals to determine that adequate cleaning of a building has occurred.
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