Mold in your home is a serious matter that can cause not only substantial property damage, but also significant harm to your health. Any mold infestation requires immediate attention and cleanup, but it could be growing in a place you cannot see and still affect your health.
How mold affects health
According to the Centers for Disease Control, mold exposure can affect people in a range of ways, from nasal stuffiness and eye irritation to wheezing and skin irritation. For those who are especially sensitive or who have a mold allergy, the reactions can be more severe. Mold can also pose a higher health concern for those with asthma and other illnesses or compromised immune systems. Some research, including a 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine, also suggests that mold can cause respiratory illnesses in otherwise healthy people.
Identifying a mold problem
If you or your family members are exhibiting symptoms consistent with mold exposure that cannot be attributed to another illness, you may find a mold problem in your home is to blame. Mold can vary in appearance but often you can readily recognize its white to greenish or black spotty appearance. You may also notice a damp, musty odor in areas where mold is growing. When mold is visible to the eye, it’s easier to connect your health concerns with the mold growth.
However, if you’re not aware of any mold in your home, you can do some additional investigating. Hire a professional mold tester who is experienced at collecting and analyzing samples. Or, a simple DIY kit can detect mold spores accumulating in household dust, including the types most associated with water damage and health issues. Other mold kits are available and may be a less expensive option than having a mold tester in your home.
A dose of prevention
Depending on the degree and type of mold you discover, you may be able to clean it up and eradicate the problem yourself. If the growth is extensive, you will require the assistance of trained professionals to locate, eradicate and prevent further spread of the mold contamination. Once the mold has been safely removed, you can take some steps to prevent chances of a reoccurrence:
To help trap airborne mold spores and other allergens, be sure the filter you are using is correctly rated for your HVAC system. A filter that is too restrictive for your air blower may overstress and burn out the motor.
A humidity level more than 65 percent invites mold growth. An inexpensive electronic humidity meter can monitor your rooms and identify areas that need better ventilation or dehumidification.
If your attic or crawl space has high humidity, have it checked by a professional for possible solutions before mold takes over.
Vent appliances properly and install exhaust fans in rooms that see high levels of moisture, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens.
Identify any sources of moisture or leaks throughout the home, including faucets and around windows and doors, and take steps to correct them.