Are there any federal regulations or safe exposure levels for mold?
No, and because mold isn’t regulated by any federal agency, no safe exposure levels have been determined for mold.
Can mold cause health problems?
Mold can cause a host of health problems. People most at risk are young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people who are immune-compromised or immune-suppressed. Some health effects related to mold exposure include allergies, asthma, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, infections, nausea, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
Mold is a sensitizer, meaning that the more a person is exposed to mold, the more of a reaction they will have. Some people are allergic to the glucans that make up part of the cell walls of mold. Many molds can also produce microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) that act as irritants. Some molds produce mycotoxins, which can be highly toxic if ingested.
How do I know if I have a mold problem?
It is best to hire an experienced mold inspector to identify a mold problem and determine the cause of the mold. Mold may be white, tan, brown, black or any number of other colors. Mold is often confused with dirt, dust, soot, or other contaminants.
How do I get rid of mold?
Eliminating the source of excess moisture will cause the mold to go dormant. The mold needs to be physically removed because even dead or dormant mold can elicit allergic reactions due to the glucans and mycotoxins.
Mold can be removed by damp wiping with a mild detergent solution or a biocide. Choices of biocides range from non-toxic, plant-based formulations to highly toxic chemicals. Other methods of mold removal include sanding, soda blasting and dry ice blasting.
Do I need to sample/test for mold?
Unless you are interested in determining the exact type of mold present, sampling is not really necessary. Sampling is beneficial if you are not sure whether or not a substance is mold.
Air sampling in particular can be misleading if not performed correctly by a trained professional. Most air samples will contain mold spores, no matter where the sample is taken. The presence of mold spores in the air does not mean that you have a mold problem.
Is bleach safe to use for cleaning up mold?
Experts, including the EPA and others, do not recommend the use of bleach to clean or remove mold. Bleach is highly toxic, can corrode building materials, and is not effective at penetrating porous materials such as wood to get to the “root” of the mold.
In general, a mild detergent solution such as Cascade® automatic dishwashing detergent or a non-toxic biocide such as Concrobium® is the best choice for cleaning molded surfaces.
How do I clean/remove mold?
The most important step is to identify and correct the source of excess moisture. The source may be a leaking roof, plumbing, or appliance, incorrect drainage, damp crawlspace, unventilated bathroom, or any number of other construction issues. Contributing factors may exist such as an improperly ventilated attic, inadequate airflow, high temperatures inside the home, or any number of other factors. If the mold is removed but the factors contributing to mold growth are not corrected, then the mold will return.
Once the contributing factors have been corrected, mold removal can begin. For small areas, less than 10 ft², the mold can be removed by damp wiping. Larger areas, 10-100 ft², need to be contained using polyethylene sheeting and maintained under negative pressure to prevent cross-contamination of other areas within the structure.
Damp wiping or blasting (if in an attic or crawlspace) are appropriate removal techniques. Areas larger than 100 ft² are best left to a professional. The minimum recommended personal protective equipment for any mold removal includes N-95 respirator, gloves and goggles.
What does mold smell like?
Not all molds produce a distinct smell. Many molds produce MVOCs which are usually detected as a musty or stale odor. Some people liken mold smells to a damp basement or an earthy or dirt smell. If you smell a musty odor, it does not necessarily mean you have mold. Likewise, the lack of a detectable odor does not correlate with a mold free environment.
What is mold?
Mold is a fungus. It’s a living organism that reproduces by making spores that are released and float through the air, much like the pollen that is produced by many plants in the spring. Mold needs adequate moisture, an organic substrate or food source, oxygen, and a suitable temperature range in order to grow and reproduce.
Some molds thrive in wet environments and others will tolerate drier conditions. Over 20,000 species exist. Some of these are relatively benign, while others are highly toxic. Some types of mold are more of an unsightly aggravation, while others are highly destructive. As molds grow, they begin to breakdown the substrate they are growing on. Therefore, it is important to check for structural damage and damaged building materials when mold is found.
Is there a difference between mold and mildew?
Mildew is a type of mold. Many people refer to mold growing in bathrooms or found in closets on clothing, shoes, boxes and other items as mildew. Mildew and mold are caused by the same environmental factors and require the same approach to cleaning and prevention.
Why do I have a mold problem?
A mold problem is really a moisture problem. Mold spores are present everywhere, outdoors and indoors. If you have mold, then you have excess moisture, possibly coupled with poor ventilation or some other contributing factor.
A mold problem is not necessarily the result of a dirty house. In fact, it is not uncommon for mold to be found in newly constructed homes even before they are occupied. Wet building materials can quickly become covered in mold if the HVAC system is not being used and the windows and doors are closed.
Where does mold come from?
Mold spores are everywhere. Fungi are actually an important component of the natural environment. Without fungi, leaves that drop from trees in the fall would never decompose. Fungi serve many important roles in the environment including the decomposition of dead organisms. Mushrooms are another type of fungi.
How do I prevent the mold problem from returning?
The most important step to prevent mold from returning is to fix the moisture problem. Additionally, maintaining adequate ventilation and routine cleaning will aid in the prevention of future mold growth.
What can be cleaned and what should be thrown away?
Most non-porous materials can be cleaned. Some porous materials, such as wood, can be cleaned.
Most porous materials, such as fabrics, paper, ceiling tiles and insulation, need to be thrown away if the mold is moderate to severe. Valuable porous items can be professionally cleaned if the mold is not severe.