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Understanding the Mold Problem

Why Is Mold a Problem?

This benign organism is important to eradicate for the following reasons:

  • A Main Source of Childhood Asthma
  • Causes A Wide Range of Other Health Issues
  • Causes Serious Property Devaluation
  • Jeopardizes Insurance Coverage

What Is Mold?

Mold is a microscopic organism - a type of fungus - that grows and flourishes optimally in humid and damp moisture conditions on surfaces that are mainly organic in nature. Unfortunately, these include household areas including paper on drywall, wood framing members, wall paper, wall paints, carpet, and more.

Mold spreads quickly once it takes hold in one of these ideal areas. In ideal conditions, mold releases airborne spores (seeds) into the air to further its growth. Thus, this aspect is where the danger lies. These spores are well known to cause a number of health effects that are hard to determine the source of - especially when a household or work building has an unknown mold problem. A primary indication of a building interior mold problem is a musty smell in certain areas or throughout a building or home.

Consider These Facts About Mold & Water Damage

According to the EPA 90% of our time is spent indoors.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, mold has become one of the most costly environmental claims today facing property owners, builders & contractors, as well as construction material manufacturers.

A Mayo Clinic Study linked nearly all the chronic sinus infections that trouble approximately 37 million Americans to mold. Recent studies have also linked mold to the tripling of the asthma rate over the past twenty years.

A Harvard University Study of ten thousand homes in the United States and Canada found that over half of the homes had water damage and mold. In the study, the presence of mold was associated with a substantially higher level of respiratory problems.

The American Lung Association and the US Consumer Products Safety Commission estimated that one third to one half of all structures within the US have damp conditions which can encourage mold growth. The study goes on to say, “This information is indicative of the problem. Mold doesn’t go away or become healthier over time.”

Why Is Mold A Health & Expense Problem?

The EPA list all molds as an allergen. The proteins within mold cells have been determined to cause an immune-attack response in the human body. It has been proven to cause symptoms such as eye irritation, nasal congestion, fatigue, skin rash, cough, headache, or difficulty breathing.

Additionally, some molds can release micro-toxins that can be carcinogenic and highly toxic. These micro-toxins can have profound effects on a person’s well-being when breathed in or ingested regularly over a long period of time. Prolonged exposure to high amounts of mold spores and micro-toxins can result in serious health risks such as pulmonary bleeding, renal toxicity, pregnancy complications, neuro-toxicity, hypersensitivity, and cancer.

Common Mold Health Symptoms

  • eye irritation
  • nasal congestion
  • fatigue & tiredness
  • skin rashes
  • persistent coughs & headaches
  • difficulty breathing - asthma

Long-Term Exposure Problems

  • Pulmonary Bleeding
  • Renal Toxicity
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Neuro-toxicity
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cancer

Real Estate Devaluation

Ignoring a mold problem while you occupy the building or home is one thing - what happens when it comes time to sell it? A common real estate inspection is always going to target water damage and mold as a primary factor that will prevent the property from selling until a professional certification is presented that the problem is remediated. Trying to fix the problem yourself at this point will not cut it. Obviously, this affects your property value through either conceding the remediation costs from the sales price or coming out of pocket to get it done.

Identifying A Mold Problem

The Obvious Mold Problems

Water leaks such as leaky roofs and pipes are obvious sources of moisture. Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, attics, and basements or crawlspaces are prime mold growth locations, but mold can be found in any area of your home or building. The bottom line is, if you had a pipe or water heater tank give out with a significant amount of water damage that seeps into baseboards, walls, or under flooring, you can pretty much bet on a future mold growth problem.

These photos are pretty obvious examples of a neglected, constantly damp basement, a significant roof leak behind the walls and a highly humid laundry room where the problem was ignored. Obviously, musty odors are a significant sign of mold contamination. Smelling and observing a significant mold infestation combined means you already have a serious mold remediation issue that needs immediate attention.

The "Not So Obvious" Mold Problems

Mold Red Flags

There are many signs that you can look for that can be indications of mold contamination that are not so obvious. The smell test is key. Again, musty odors in certain areas of the house indicate there is something going on behind the walls or under the floors of that general area.

Here are some red flags you should be aware of:

  • Musty odors in certain areas or throughout a home or building
  • Unexplained health issues - especially apparent when in the home or building only
  • Discovering water damage or excess moisture
  • Observing dark or black discolorations around baseboards or light switches
  • Observing dark or black discolorations around baseboards or light switches
  • Discovering areas of poor ventilation

Roofs & Attics - Basements & Crawlspaces

If your roof is old or you are aware of minor leaks, it would be in your best interest to thoroughly check your attic for mold growing in the known areas of a leak.

Roofs & Attics - Basements & Crawlspaces (Cont.)

With basements - where water pipes, water heaters and laundry areas are typically located - it's inevitable at some point in a home's history that there is going to be a water damage issue arise. Especially in circumstances where a weather flooding event or, with basements being under ground surface, through rain drainage seepage through cracks in the basement's concrete walls or floor.

Most of us are obviously not inclined to crawling under our home or building on a regular basis. Again, building water pipes are typically running through them and exposed to temperature fluctuations. Over time, they are prone to fail and leak or rupture. In many cases, the crawlspace has ineffective moisture barrier protection. Heavy rain and flooding causes occasional flooding or long-term puddling under the house. Your exposed wooden rafters and beams become ideal organic breeding grounds for mold - especially in older homes with untreated wood.

Property owners that are reasonably aware of the consequences of water damage are also aware of when a particular property is commonly experiencing them, as well. Frequent inspections of the property's crawlspace would be warranted to mitigate an expensive problem before it gets out of control.