Got milk? - Good. Got mold? - Not so good. Mold spores are microscopic fungi that are present in dust and other materials and float along in the air. They are pretty much everywhere including inside and outside our homes. Mold spores need adequate moisture or humidity, an organic food source and oxygen to begin actively growing into colonies. Organic food sources are present in all homes. There are molds that can grow on drywall, wood, clothing, paper, carpet, foods, insulation, etc. Some molds can even grow on concrete, glass, plastic, vinyl, ceramic tile and metals. There are many different types of mold- many are beneficial, but unfortunately many are not. Mold and mold spores can cause allergic reactions in some people whether they are actively growing or not, and when mold colonies begin to actively grow, they can release toxins into the air which can be harmful, particularly if the affected area is large. “Black mold” or “toxic black mold”, (Stachybotrys chartarum), is one of the worst molds, and when present in large quantities, is associated with “sick building syndrome”. This type of mold growth is likely if cellulose based materials, (wood, paper, drywall, etc.), are allowed to stay very wet for a period of time. Under these conditions, significant mold growth can occur in as little as 2 to 3 days. If these conditions are not discovered or fixed for weeks or months, mold can become a very big problem. People living in a house with significant mold growth may have allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Common symptoms are watery itchy eyes, chronic cough, headaches, difficulty breathing, frequent sneezing and tiredness.
How can you know if your home has a mold problem? If any occupants are experiencing these symptoms and you have begun to notice a strong musty or moldy smell, mold should be suspected. If it is present in visible areas, it is usually easy to identify by its fuzzy appearance. Also, if there are plumbing or roof leaks that are causing areas to get wet and stay wet, mold is going to grow. So what can you do if the house or apartment where you are living has mold? If you are renting, you should notify your landlord. Landlords are required to provide a safe home for all tenants. In Lubbock, if your landlord refuses to take action, you can call the office of Landlord Dispute Resolution at 775-1720. If that doesn’t work you could try calling the City Codes Department at 775-3000. Also, you may want to visit the Texas Department of State Health Services Indoor Air Quality Program webpage at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/iaq/default.shtm
If you own your own home you have 2 choices for mold remediation: Hire a professional mold remediation company or tackle the problem yourself. If the mold area is very large (over 10 square feet or so), or if you suspect there may be significant hidden mold behind walls or in other locations, hiring a professional would probably be wise. If you decide to proceed on your own, keep in mind the following tips: 1. Assess the size of the moldy area. Get help for large areas. 2. Consider the possibility of hidden mold. 3. Note type of affected materials- Is it just some mold growth on the shower walls, or are there moldy and water damaged walls, ceiling, carpet, etc. 4. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) - rubber gloves and goggles with no vent openings. If you do anything that could cause the mold to become airborne you should wear an N-95 respirator. An example of this would be hammering or cutting a wall to remove a portion of it. 5. Lab testing to determine what type of mold is present is usually not necessary and is expensive. If any mold growth is present it should be removed and the cause fixed. 6. DETERMINE THE SOURCE OR CAUSE OF THE WATER PROBLEM AND FIX IT. This is the single most important method to deal with mold. You must fix the water leak or eliminate the excess humidity. If the problem is a moldy shower enclosure, leave the shower curtain open between showers and use the bathroom vent fan to remove humidity while showering or bathing (especially in the humid summer months). Most types of mold need relative humidity values of 70% or higher to actively grow. Because of this fact, almost all serious household mold problems in semi-arrid West Texas are caused not by high humidity, but by plumbing or roof leaks. Again, these must be fixed. 7. Clean up small mold problems on non-porous surfaces, (tile walls for example), by cleaning with detergent and water. Bleach is usually not needed. If it is used, mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water, and never mix bleach with any cleaning product that contains ammonia. Doing so produces toxic fumes. 8. Water damaged and moldy porous materials such as drywall, ceiling tiles or carpet will likely need to be removed and discarded in sealed plastic bags. Wear your PPE. 9. Throughout the process, consult qualified professionals if necessary.
For detailed information on mold and remediation check out this website document from the EPA: http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has published a guidance book dealing with preventing occupational respiratory disease in damp buildings. You can find it here: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-102/ - Kim Christensen