Mold is probably one of the annoying things anyone has had to deal with at one point or another, whether it was a small patch in an ill-ventilated area between a wall and furniture, or somewhere around the bathroom. But, as experts can detail, mold has a health-threatening potential that is higher than one might think.
What is Mold?
To break it down to the core, mold is just a bunch of microscopic fungi, with a very tiny body, shaped similarly to a thread. When in proper conditions, they multiply through differently colored spores (single or sometimes multicellular, and are round/ovoid) that go from approximately 1 to 15 microns. There are over 100,000 mold species, and around 50 to 100 types are usually showing themselves indoors. Other than being unsightly and giving off a foul smell, they release toxins (like VOCs) which can cause serious health problems.
Why it appears and what are its thriving conditions
First off, mold can be found wherever its thriving conditions are met, meaning that you’ll see it both indoors and outdoors. Even if your house is free of it, an open window, a door, any ventilation, or a simple walk outside can mean spores hitch-hiking inside. The growth conditions for a sudden appearance in less than 48 hours are:
- Temperature (over 70°F)
- Moisture (different levels attract different species). It is the most influencial element in mold growth, and the most efficient tool in combating it is the dehumidifier. One mistake Ice Energy sheds a light on is that the source of high moisture can root at times from the crawlway or basemenet, areas that are generally neglected since they are not used as living quarters.
- Nutrients. Unfortunately, most construction materials and common household objects represent a copious meal, like moist cellulose (any wood, cardboard, paper, ceiling tiles), tapestry, insulation, upholstery, wallpaper, and so much more.
The variety in combinations (nutrient type and humidity level) can cause a different type to appear in each space. To give an example, Stachybotrys needs way more moisture, whereas Aspergillus is the opposite.
To be on top of everything when it comes to checking if you have moisture issues in your home, here are the things you need to check:
- Any cracks or breaks that can allow for rainwater to flood or leak inside
- Faulty plumbing that might cause dripping, or, again, leaks
- If you have carpeted floors and you feel a weird smell coming from them, lift them up
- Improper bathroom or kitchen ventilation
- Water surrounding the windows caused by condensation
- Excessive moisture in air conditioning devices (humidifiers, Acs, drip trays, etc.)
On rare occasions, mold can be caused by animals, such as pigeons or bats. The way it happens is when these defecate, they create a buildup of guano that has mold in it (Histoplasma capsulatum and Cryptococcus neoformans). Trying to dispose of it without care and proper protection can mean accidental inhalation, which in turn causes respiratory infections. Make sure to check your attic or basement for any unwanted guests.
Here’s how it affects the environment
There are 3 main topics to address here. Since we’ve established that mold can be found anywhere, now we’ll analyze the effects it has on indoor environments, water, and health.
The most common molds that you might find inside are the Cladosporium, the Penicillium, and the Aspergillus. If your house is made with a wood structure and you have an unchecked mold problem, expect structural integrity issues. What can happen to the wood is something called dry rot, when mold latches onto it and begins a decomposition process as it would in a forest after branches and leaves hit the ground. Protect your structure with chemicals (creosote) or with sealant.
Yes, mold can and will grow on water if it is still and nutrient-rich. It forms on the surface and multiplies until it reaches a knit-like blanket all around, releasing more and more spores. The good news with this specific growth is that once the nutrient supply ends, the colony will die, but the bad news is that it is a cesspool of spores and you can pick them up just passing by.
Pipes aren’t safe either. Although very rarely, spores can find their way into pipes, and if there happens to be a faulty one that can provide oxygen and an opening that can provide nutrients (a paper filter). Well-sourced water taps are the most susceptible to molding as the cap can be placed improperly, and from that, an infestation will begin everywhere, from water tanks to appliances that run on water.
The effects mold and generally damp environments have on health are many, extremely serious, and can appear very fast. The most common symptoms after inhaling the spores are:
- Eye irritation
- Sore throat, sneezing, coughing, or wheezing
- Allergy flares
- Asthma (especially triggered in children when exposed to common allergens early)
- Infections (Aspergillosis which can cause death if untreated)
Other conditions that some are claiming to be possible (although not entirely proven):
- Memory Loss
- Immune System failure
- Brain damage
- Sick Building Syndrome
Drinking mold-infested water can accelerate these symptoms.
How to deal with Mold
If you’ve reached the point when you’re searching for how to get rid of mold, the problem might already be bigger than you think. And sadly, unlike common dirt or grout, mold doesn’t go away after a simple scrub with cleaning solutions. That can make all the icky-looking slime go away, but the spores are still there, waiting to multiply the second they find a new moist patch. The more problematic spaces that are prone to mold in any house are baths, kitchens, attics, basements, poorly ventilated and cramped spaces, and water-running appliances.
The steps to ridding your house of mold colonies are long and tedious, but well worth it because the alternative when things get out of hand is none other than tearing down the construction and starting all over. Fun.
Here’s a little guide on what you should do to ensure a definitive clean-up and prevention:
Protection – before going on an eradication journey, be sure to have quality protection materials, such as N-95 masks, long disposable gloves, and protective eyewear
Humidity-wise – try to keep it below 50%, deal with leaks, up your ventilation game, clean appliances that have water buildup, frequently clean the spots that are prone to molding, periodically check for water stains and unusual smells
Affected materials – depending on severity, these should be either cleaned or completely removed and thrown out (hard surfaces can usually be salvaged, but make anything is thoroughly dried after cleaning)
Call a guy! – if the problem actually turns out to be bigger than you thought (generally, more than 10 sq. ft. of growth is considered a serious problem), it would be best that you call a professional to deal with it instead of accidentally getting yourself sick trying to clean every little space
To wrap things up
Sadly, air pollution is becoming more and more of a problem each day. Mold, CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, pollen, wildfires, and so many more hinder our everyday lives, especially in urban areas. What one can do in these conditions is try their best to prevent them from entering their house, and spending more time in areas with fresh air, like forests or the mountainside.