Mold in homes can be a costly and dangerous problem, particularly when infestations of toxic black mold occur. The symptoms and health effects of exposure to certain types of mold exposure cover a wide range of health problems, but understanding the indicators and controlling the problem can help keep you and your family safe.
Types of mold in a home
Like the colors in a box of crayons (but not nearly as fun), mold comes in a variety of hues, including black, white, green and orange.
The most common types of mold include aspergillus, cladosporium and stachybotrys atra (also known as black mold).
Aspergillus is a fairly allergenic mold that is commonly found on foods and in home air conditioning systems. Cladosporium is typically a black or green "pepper like" substance that grows on the back of toilets, painted surfaces and fiberglass air ducts. While this mold is nontoxic to humans, it can trigger common allergy symptoms, such as red and watery eyes, rashes and a sore throat.
Mold that appears to be orange or red in color is typically found outdoors, given its nature to thrive on decaying plants or moist wood. This type of mold, which can appear slimy, is harmless and should only be removed for aesthetic purposes.
White mold is not technically a type of mold, but the good news is that this typically indicates the mold is only in the early stages of growth and can easily be treated.
Mold Exposure Symptoms
Toxic black mold can release spores as it feeds on organic materials in common household materials like drywall, carpet, insulation or sub-flooring that have been exposed to moisture. These spores, if ingested or inhaled, can cause a range of unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms in humans.
The most common black mold symptoms and health effects are associated with a respiratory response. Chronic coughing and sneezing, irritation to the eyes, mucus membranes of the nose and throat, rashes, chronic fatigue and persistent headaches can all be symptomatic of black mold exposure or black mold poisoning.
In particularly severe cases of prolonged exposure, black mold health effects can be more dangerous. Often compounded by allergic reaction to the black mold spores, these symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and bleeding in the lungs and nose.
Toxic black mold can be costly to remove, and black mold exposure and black mold poisoning can cause a wide range of health problems, some of them severe. Understanding black mold symptoms and health effects can help you and your family identify these indicators and take swift action to protect your health and your home.
Mold Inspection and Detection
Do you remember when you were a kid and you would dust for fingerprints using baby powder and clear tape? Well, it's time to whip out those super-sleuth skills once again and do a bit of mold inspection.
It's true: Mold is everywhere. Imagine what it would be like if things did not naturally decay! However, that doesn't mean you want it lurking in your home. The first step toward mold detection is to simply use your nose. If you smell a musty smell in your attic, basement, bathroom or other living spaces, then chances are likely you have a mold problem.
Check under and in between hidden areas, like underneath carpets, behind drywall and in between bathroom tiling. If you spot mold, then take the appropriate steps to scrub it clean and kick it to the curb.
If mold is undetectable, but you are confident it is present somewhere in your home, then you may want to consider a home testing kit. Calling on the help of a mold inspector is another option that will help to identify where mold may be hiding in your home.
Mold Control and Prevention Products
Mold can grow anywhere moisture, oxygen and organic material are present, and it's particularly common in damp, humid areas of the home, like basements, crawlspaces and showers. Once you have identified a potential mold problem area or an area of existing mold growth, you can begin steps to prevent or control mold.
Areas that you suspect may trigger mold growth should first be inspected for any leaks or excess moisture. Once any existing leaks have been repaired, mold susceptible areas can be kept dry with a dehumidifier, which should reduce the incidence of mold growth.
Treating areas of existing mold growth should always be done while wearing a respirator or mask rated for work with mold spores, and arms, legs and hands should be covered to prevent an allergic reaction. After removing any moldy debris such as sub-flooring or drywall, hard surfaces can be treated with commercial mold control products containing bleach or ammonia, which can help to eradicate any surviving mold.
For continued mold prevention in problem areas, you can apply vinegar one to two times a week. Vinegar makes areas too acidic for mold growth, and can prevent moldy buildup in areas like showers and sinks. A regular scrub of the area with borax and water will also help to prevent and control mold growth. Always follow the manufacturer's directions for the correct mixture ratio.
Mold in homes can cause significant damage and even health risks, but by understanding the range of mold control and mold prevention products available, you'll be equipped to keep your home mold free.