FAQ

Why is Mold growing in my Building?

Molds are part of the natural environment.  Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided.  Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air.  Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet.  There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.
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What is the difference between Mold and Mildew?

Mildew refers to certain kinds of mold or fungus.  The term mildew is often used generically to refer to mold growth, usually with a flat growth habit. Molds include all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments, called hyphae.  Molds can thrive on any organic matter, including clothing, leather, paper, and the ceilings, walls and floors of homes with moisture management problems. Mildew often lives on shower walls, windowsills, and other places where moisture levels are high. There are many species of molds. In unaired places, such as basements, they can produce a strong musty odor.
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What is Mold?

Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce.  Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually.  When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive.  There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.  When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed.  There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
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What does Mold smell like?

Some compounds produced by molds have strong smells and are volatile and quickly released into the air.  These compounds are known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs).  Because mVOCs often have strong or unpleasant odors, they can be the source of the "moldy odor" or musty smell frequently associated with mold growth.  A moldy odor suggests that mold is growing in the building and should be investigated.  The health effects of inhaling mVOCs are largely unknown, although exposure to mVOCs has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.  More research is needed to determine whether there are any human health effects from non-occupational indoor exposures to mVOCs.
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What are the ten things I need to know about Mold?

  • The key to mold control is moisture control.
  • If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the water problem.
  • It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

 Ten Things You Should Know About Mold

  1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.  
  2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
  3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
  4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
  5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
  6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
  10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

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Should I use Bleach to clean up Mold?

Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms.  The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup.  There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present).  In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain - these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been resolved.  If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors.  Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced. 
 
Please note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.

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Should I have the air ducts in my building cleaned?

You should consider having the air ducts in your building cleaned if:

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation.  For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.

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Is testing or sampling of Mold necessary?

In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary.
 
Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards.  Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated.  Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing  mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results.  Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.

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How does Mold affect Asthma?

Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma.  People with asthma should avoid contact with exposure to molds. Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant and animal matter.  Molds can be found almost anywhere, and grow best in damp places such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.
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How do I identify the Cause of a Mold and Mildew Problem?

Mold and mildew are commonly found on the exterior wall surfaces of corner rooms in heating climate locations.  An exposed corner room is likely to be significantly colder than adjoining rooms, so that it has a higher relative humidity (RH) than other rooms at the same water vapor pressure.  If mold and mildew growth are found in a corner room, then relative humidity next to the room surfaces is above 70%.  However, is the RH above 70% at the surfaces because the room is too cold or because there is too much moisture present (high water vapor pressure)?  The amount of moisture in the room can be estimated by measuring both temperature and RH at the same location and at the same time.  Suppose there are two cases.  In the first case, assume that the RH is 30% and the temperature is 70oF in the middle of the room.  The low RH at that temperature indicates that the water vapor pressure (or absolute humidity) is low.  The high surface RH is probably due to room surfaces that are "too cold."  Temperature is the dominating factor, and control strategies should involve increasing the temperature at cold room surfaces. In the second case, assume that the RH is 50% and the temperature is 70oF in the middle of the room.  The higher RH at that temperature indicates that the water vapor pressure is high and there is a relatively large amount of moisture in the air.  The high surface RH is probably due to air that is "too moist".  Humidity is the dominating factor, and control strategies should involve decreasing the moisture content of the indoor air.
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How do I get rid of Mold?

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust.  The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors.  If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.
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Can Mold cause Health Problems?

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.  Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins).  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.  Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold.  Research on mold and health effects is ongoing.  This brochure provides a brief overview; it does not describe all potential health effects related to mold exposure. For more detailed information consult a health professional.  You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.
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