About Toxic Mold
Learn the truth about toxic mold, symptoms of black mold syndrome, how to protect your home and family, how to test for mycotoxin, and options for mold abatement.
Mold is a microscopic organism or fungi that grows in damp environments. There are about 200,000 harmless types of mold; they pose no threat to our health. It’s a good thing most mold is harmless because it is quite omnipresent. It can be found in soil, in the air, and wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and some organic matter. You'll find mold in gardens, on some grasses and weeds, on grains like corn and wheat; It especially likes moist, shady areas. Mold can also be found indoors, in your home or work place.
There are four environmental factors that must exist in order for mold to thrive. If you remove any of these items, mold would not be able to survive. Those four factors are:
• Mold Spores that are circulating in the environment - This is not a problem, since mold spores are literally everywhere they would be impossible to eliminate
• Food - mold is not finicky! Virtually any substance that is a carbon based organic material will provide sustenance for mold
• Temperature - mold likes to live in the same temperatures that people like, so our homes will usually provide a very cozy place for mold to “start a family!”
• Moisture - mold likes it wet. A humidity level of about 70% is required for most molds to grow. Since people usually live in environments that have less humidity, moisture is the one factor (out of the four) that is the easiest to control
Toxic Mold in the News
So why is mold in the news with stories of exhorbitant litigation, serious respiratory illness, asthma, cancer, and the contamination of buildings so damaged they required extensive mold remediation or demolition?
A handful of mold types are dangerous and they present a serious health threat if they take hold and multiply in your home. This type of mold is referred to as toxic mold or toxic black mold, and when it multiplies, it sends dangerous spores called mycotoxins into your living environment. These mycotoxins interfere with cell and DNA function, resulting in serious health problems. Official names of these mycotoxins include: trichothecenes, beta glucans, nitric oxides, and aflatoxins.
A few of the most dangerous molds are named: stachybotrys mold or black mold, penicillium, and aspergillus; and they have been associated with respiratory illness, skin rashes, memory problems, and brain damage. Diseases are also associated with toxic mold exposure: kidney cancer, esophagus cancer, leukemia, and liver cancer.
Physicians are experiencing an increase in patients with toxic mold symptoms. No wonder, it is estimated that mold affects about 25% of the homes in the U.S. Why is the incidence of mold on the rise? We are not entirely certain. However, when you combine building materials like sheetrock with moisture from a plumbing leaks, you have a fertile breeding ground for mold. Even without household leaks, contemporary building practices that utilize air-tight construction and energy conservation techniques create a more fertile ground for mold to multiply, since houses such as this do not allow air to readily flow in and out. To make matters worse, modern central heating and air conditioning systems circulate mold spores very efficiently, greatly facilitating their ability to reproduce. Are we creating efficient-modern, toxic buildings?
Mold - its hiding places
Mold grows best at room temperature, so your house is a perfect place for mold to thrive and mold related allergy and illness to flourish! In your home and basement, a musty smell will let you know that mold has set-up house! Mold can grow on many things, including: tile, grout, wood, paint, plaster, and fabric.
Although molds often originate in basements because of the dampness, spores can spread through the rest of your home. Mold spores that are set adrift in your home will find an appropriate place to live and grow, like bathrooms and kitchens which contain adequate food and moisture.
You'll find mold in house in the following places:
• Air conditioning duct joints that aren’t sealed properly
• Vinyl wall covering that traps moisture in the drywall
• Washing machines with no floor drain beneath them
• Bathrooms that do not have sufficient ventilation
• Humidifiers that are not cleaned and treated properly
• Basement walls that are not water proofed from the ouside
• refrigerator drip trays
• air conditioners
• garbage pails
• foam rubber pillows
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Types of Mold that Affect Allergies
There are only a few different types of molds that cause significant allergy problems in the United States. In general, Alternaria and Cladosporium are the molds most commonly found indoors and outdoors.
A list of the molds that are frequently detected includes:
1. Cladosporium - A significant mold allergen, found across the United States.
2. Alternaria - A major allergy-causing mold. Found outdoors.
3. Helminthosporium - Located in warmer southern states and temperate zones.
4. Epicoccum - Similar to Helminthosporium.
5. Penicillium - A common indoor mold often found in musty basements.
6. Aspergillus - A hardy indoor mold that can live in dry conditions.
7. Mucor - An indoor mold and the black mold we see on breads.
Symptoms of Toxic Mold Syndrome
The mycotoxins produced by toxic mold create environmentally toxic air that affects the body’s myelin, depleting this important substance that covers the nerves. The nerves are thus exposed without protection and fail to function correctly. This affects essential components of the body, including: the immune system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the skin, and the gastrointestinal system. When toxic mold causes neurological problems, it can be devasting when children are involved, since their brains and other organs are not fully developed.
Symptoms of black mold and toxic mold exposure include:
• memory loss
• personality disorders
• shortness of breath
• abdominal pain
• hair loss
• skin rashes
• numbness in extremities
• mood swings
• pain in the extremities
• sore throat
• rectal bleeding
Other symptoms of toxic mold include: destruction of brain tissue, open skin sores, fungal infections, lung diseases such as Aspergilliosis), and chronic sinus problems.
How To Protect Against Toxic Mold
Knowledge is power, and we do have the power to protect our homes and families against the dangers of toxic mold as long as we take some simple precautions. Here are some proactive measures you can take to protect yourself:
Check for water stains - If your present home, or one you are planning to purchase, has ever had a water leak, there is good reason to suspect that mold or black mold may be present. Consider hiring a certified industrial hygienist to test for mold.
Measure the humidity in your home - Obtain a humidity sensor and keep track of your household humidity. During the summer when your air conditioning is running, your humidity level should ideally be less than 55%. A level over 55% might indicate leaks in the duct system, or another air conditioner problem.
Repair water problems quickly - If you have leaking pipes, water spills, broken gutters, etc., repair these problems without haste. Moreover, make sure to use vent fans in your bathrooms, and keep humidity low by using a dehumidifier.
Insurance coverage - Insurance companies usually will not cover toxic mold damage, but the Policy Holders of America is planning to offer insurance for mold and toxic mold. Check them out!
FloLogic System - This is a system installed in your home that monitors your water usage. If the system detects water flowing for more than 30 minutes, it shuts the house’s water flow.
Managing the exterior of your home - If you have sprinklers, redirect the water flow away from the walls of your home. Try not to landscape with hills if they direct water downward toward your home. Use gutters that direct the flow of water away from your home and keep the gutters free of debris.
Air Conditioner Setting – During the summer, set your A/C thermostat to the highest temperature you can bear; a temperature above 77 F would be wise. Setting your thermostat lower could actually cause higher humidity in your home. Why? It lowers the temperature of the materials in your walls, floors, and ceilings. This increases the risk of condensation forming on these components within your home.
Ceiling Fans – Using ceiling fans in the summer allows you to tolerate the higher air conditioner settings we discussed above. The fans will make you more comfortable as you lower the risk of condensation forming on the materials in your walls, floors, and ceilings.
Windows – Remember those single-pane metal windows that are common in some warmer climates? Water usually condenses on the inside of these windows during the winter. Be careful not to allow this moisture to run off onto materials such as wallboard; remove it on a regular basis.
Clean-up Any Mold You find - If you find a patch of mold in your home that is small, less than three feet square, clean it with bleach and water, letting it dry thoroughly. If any larger mold areas are found, contact a toxic mold expert to conduct a professional black mold test.
Should You Test Your Home for toxic Mold?
Whether or not to conduct toxic mold testing is not an easy question to answer. This is because there are laws that require homeowners to disclose any known environmental issues affecting the quality and safety of the home they are selling. The law does not require homeowners, however, to disclose any “suspected” problems to buyers. Not to disclose a known problem is considered fraud! For those who would like an inexpensive and accurate test for mold in their home, go to:
Policy Holders of America
As you can ascertain at the above web site, Texas Tech University will analyze your mold sample for a nominal fee of $40. Most importantly, they can tell you whether or not there are mycotoxins present in the sample, and to what degree they are present. This is extremely valuable information that can directly affect the health and well-being of your family. It is most imperative to acquire this information before engaging in a costly mold removal effort. Keep in mind, however, that there are more economical mold tests you can perform in your home.
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