What is Mold?

What is MoldWhat do you think of first when you hear the word “mold”?  The piece of bread with the greenish tint you saw or felt when you reached in the bread bag to make a sandwich?  Or the wedge of cheese with the growth on it that startled you when you removed the wrapper?

Well, nobody wants to find the remnants of what looks like your 7th grade science experiment growing in your refrigerator.

But the truth is, all kidding aside, you don’t want to have mold growing anywhere in your house because it is unhealthy for you and your family and can eventually destroy your house as well.

That is not an exaggeration and to fully comprehend the extent of mold’s damage, you have to understand its origin, and, if you are lucky enough to rid yourself of the mold problem, then you should be proactive going forward as to mold growth, so you never have to deal with it again.

Mold is especially prevalent in the basement or in a crawl space.  Once it starts there, it can quickly spread to wood products, ceiling tiles, and continue right through your home’s insulation, drywall and eventually furniture and fabrics… anything in its damp path is subject to destruction, leaving you and your family subject to mild to severe health problems as well.

What is mold?

Mold occurs as a result of moisture.  It is a fungus.  You usually think of a fungus as a mushroom, especially those clusters that grow in your grass when it rains alot in the Spring.  The key word here is “moisture”.  Those mushrooms can spring up overnight if the grass is wet and soggy.  Not only do mushrooms grow and attach themselves to your lawn, but did you know that the little spores that cause mushrooms to… well… mushroom… not only multiply amongst themselves but they also go airborne?  These moisture-laden spores are floating around the outdoor and indoor air all the time.  You breathe these minute particles in.  You even carry them inside on your clothes or your shoes, then you track them through your home.

Once those little spores are inside your house, they must find a place to attach and grow.  They seek moisture and warm temps to thrive.

But, even if you don’t bring those pesky little spores into the house, you, on your own, can also create mold.

Think of the dehumidifier you might run in your basement.  It collects water in a drip pan all the while breeding harmful organisms, until someone takes that pan and empties it into the downstairs laundry tub.  Here those harmful bacteria splash all over the sink, onto the floor and maybe right onto the tap handles as well.

Perhaps you have a faucet with a leak – it’s just a little leak you tell yourself.  Under the bathroom or kitchen sink you have a small pail and you empty it out once or twice a week.  No reason to hire a plumber to deal with such a small inconvenience.  But… though it is a trivial water problem, it is a place, nonetheless, where water collects, and it is unhealthy, especially for a person who suffers from allergies, or debilitating respiratory ailments, like asthma or COPD.  Did you know exposure to mold causes different reactions for different folks, ranging from a sneeze or cough, or a runny nose resembling the symptoms of a cold, to sinus problems, headaches and severe skin or eye irritations?

Mold dangers

Mold growth and its after affects do not concern humans only.  Mold is also very destructive to buildings and property.  As mold spores grow and multiply, they will destroy, by decomposition, the very surface on which they are growing.  This in turn results in damage to buildings, discoloration of furniture, rugs, draperies or other miscellaneous items.

Types of mold

Unbelievably, there is not just one type of mold – there are actually over 1.5 million different species of mold in the world; to date only about 100,000 have been identified.

The three most-common types of mold found in the home and their particular health hazards are as follows:

  • Cladosporium – This is a very common outdoor fungus that can find its way indoors where it will grow on textiles, wood and other damp, porous materials.  This type of mold is olive green to black in color and may trigger hay fever and asthma symptoms.
  • Penicillium  – This is a very common mold found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation.  It comes in many colors – white, blue/green or green.  Penicillium mold spores are easily airborne, common and thrive indoors.  It is known for causing allergies and asthma.
  • Stachybotrys – This is extremely toxic black mold that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs.  This mold can be found on wood or paper.  In general it is slimy or shiny in appearance.  It needs alot of water to grow and thrive and it is considered the deadliest of the molds.

How to prevent mold

One cannot see moisture, but it is certainly felt on a hot humid day when we feel listless and drenched before we even leave the house.  The fans are cranked to the “high” setting or AC units are set to a lower temperature to keep the home cool.  It is the moisture which wreaks havoc with your comfort.  Moisture comes into your home, in either a liquid or air state.  Moisture in the air is called “vapor” ; water vapor enters your house through any opening such as doors, windows or cracks and crevices.  It is invisible, that is – until it turns into liquid.

Humans create alot of moisture in the home just by living in it.  Each person in a home produces approximately three pints of water daily just by breathing.  We additionally create indoor moisture in our homes through simple tasks such as taking a shower or bath, cooking, doing dishes or doing laundry.  All this water usage creates a build-up of humidity.  That moist air has to go somewhere or else it will seep into your walls, under tiles or wallpaper, into the floor coverings or into cracks.  Consider using a fan or cracking a window open (unless there is more moisture outside than in) to permit excess moisture to exit the room as quickly as possible.  It does not take long for mold, or mildew, to form.

Also consider using a dehumidifier or desiccants (tubs or bags of materials like calcium chloride that absorb moisture) placed in the corners of the room or basement to absorb excess moisture.  Mold is less of a problem in the Winter months when the heat keeps the house warm and the moisture at bay.

Mold in the home

If you suspect you have mold in your home, consult with a licensed mold inspector  in Essex County as soon as possible.  This expert will come and conduct a mold inspection, take a swab sample of the mold(s) and test the air quality in the home.  Because mold spores are not visible to the naked eye, any samples collected must be sent to a laboratory where they can be inspected to determine the exact type of mold in your home so that a plan to counter-attack the mold, or mold remediation, can be arranged as soon as possible.

Mold is not something to be trifled with.  You are armed with the facts of how mold is formed and how quickly it can take over your home.  You also now know how to be proactive and try to thwart mold in the home because it can destroy your health and home in record time.