A mold problem is often far more reaching than just a visible patch of mold on a wall or ceiling. Whether visible mold is present or not, testing can determine the overall mold contamination level and toxicity of the mold present. This information can be critical to the preparation of a remediation and clean-up protocol.
In order to properly identify the mold type, a swab or lift test or air quality test must be performed by a trained professional. Once a sampling of the mold has been taken, the professional will quickly be able to tell you what type of mold you have and what the associated risks are.
A molds smell is also another strong indicator of a molds presence as many produce an earthy, musty smell. This smell if often the first sign of mold growth for many homeowners when mold is present in building materials.
Although many molds are harmful to health and building materials, not all molds are dangerous. In fact, some foods are created through the controlled growth of mold. Even penicillin, the most widely known antibiotic on Earth, is obtained from a specific type of mold. Being a key ingredient in penicillin, it is arguable that we can attribute our very existence to mold.
Other molds produce hazardous materials that can cause health problems such as respiratory failure. One such material is Mycotoxins which is a toxic substance that can result in headaches, migraines, rashes, tiredness, sinus problems, difficulty breathing and chronic cough to name a few.
When mold is present, it will produce something that we in the business call MVOC’s. This stands for Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds but you don’t need to be concerned with what those are. What you should know though is that these MVOC’s produce a very distinct smell that is best described as musty or earthy. You might relate it to decaying wood or wet, dirty socks.
If you think your nose has detected mold but you are not 100% sure, the best way to double check is to step outside and get a good amount of fresh air. This will cleanse your pallet. When you step back into the room/area in question, if you smell that earthy, musty smell again, you may have mold. This can always be confirmed though with a simple mold inspection.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about some of the symptoms and effects that mold can have on the human body. First you should know that each and ever person has different sensitivity to mold. While some people may show some ill effects around mold, others may have a higher tolerance to its presence and not notice an effects. Those who display no symptoms though are not out of harms way.
Common symptoms of mold sickness include:
- Headache, fatigue, shortness of breath.
- Sinus congestion, coughing and sneezing.
- Eye, nose, throat and skin irritation (itching).
- Dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting.
Individuals who have the highest risk potential include:
- Allergy and asthma sufferers.
- People with respiratory disease.
- Those with weakened immune systems.
- Contact lens wearers.
The most common types of mold(s) that are found in homes include Cladosprium (non toxic but can cause reactions with those who have allergies, asthma or weakened immune systems), Penicillium (commonly found on food and causes gastric complications when ingested), Aspergillus (most common and most toxic mold that is believed to cause cancers and other serious health complications) and Alternaria (found in fabrics and can cause respiratory failure).
Wood for example will rot over time as the mold feeds on it. This can drastically reduce the structural integrity of the wood which can lead to much greater, and more expensive, problems. Your roof for example can develop leaks over time as wood rots. It can even collapse if its structure is broken down enough.
When it comes to your health, you can never be too careful. The effects of mold on the body can range from mild to severe. Simple headaches and sinus infections to respiratory failure and even cancer have been linked to mold complications. Typically pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with already weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable. Effects though depend on the type of mold present. This is why it always important to test the mold with something like an air quality test.
The real problem comes from correcting the source of the moisture. This could be caused by simple things like condensation build up in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms or even by spilling a glass of water. More serious water buildup can come from things like plumbing leaks, unsealed doors or windows that build moisture or even foundation cracks. In any case, the water needs to be eliminated! Adequate ventilation plays a big role in this job.
Furthermore, mold needs food such as dust. Good housekeeping practices help to minimize this food source. Mould also uses the nutrients found in drywall, wood, wallpaper, ceiling tiles, carpet, fabric and paint, all of which commonly exist in a home or occupational work place.