What is Mold – The Basics

What Is Mold?

Mold is a general term used to refer to many types of fungi that can be found almost everywhere. The term mildew may often be used to refer to some types of mold especially white or grayish indoor mold. Active growth of mold happens mostly in warm, damp and humid environments, such as your toilet. Indoor mold has been related to cause some unpleasant health issues in humans such as fungal infections and allergies.

Mold is composed of multicellular thread-like filaments known as hyphae. The hyphae, in turn, are arranged in groups called mycelium which gives the fungi a hairy look.

Similar to all fungi, mold is heterotrophic in that it gets its nutrition from other organic substances by secreting hydrolytic enzymes which break down complex food structures into smaller absorbable substances. Molds reproduce by means of minute spores which spread through the air.

The spores are mostly harmless. However, they will start to grow if they land on damp surfaces such as laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, crawl spaces and so on. Mold causes biodegradation in organic materials which eventually lead to food spoilage and property damage.

Molds are mostly visible to the unaided eye when they have already formed large colonies. Some common molds include Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, Stachybotrys (also known as black mold), Rhizopus, Mucor and Acremonium among others. Two notable benefits from fungi include penicillin, yeast, blue cheese, and mushrooms.

What Are Health Effects Caused By Mold?

Prolonged exposure to mold may cause respiratory tract infections like wheezing, coughs, skin irritation and other asthma symptoms. People diagnosed with asthma or with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) are prone to a higher risk of symptoms and infections further caused by mold. Extensive studies have shown that an improvement in housing conditions in efforts to control moisture can greatly lower morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies. Elderly persons and infants are generally more vulnerable to flu-like symptoms imposed by mold exposure.

Persons diagnosed with immunodeficiency conditions like AIDS or those undergoing cancer treatments are usually more prone to fungal infections as compared to healthy persons. Some indoor molds may produce strong toxins which are readily absorbable by airways, skin and intestinal lining. The risk is even higher for persons with artificial joint, catheters or heart replacement valves.

Some molds may lead to toxic effects stretching from short-term mild irritations to immunological disorders and even cancer. Other severe symptoms that could come from prolonged exposure to indoor mold include neurotoxicity, hepatic, endocrine toxicities, hypersensitivity, pneumonitis and cardiac conditions. For instance, during the unprecedented outbreak of pulmonary hemosiderosis in babies in 1993/4 in Cleveland, OH, it was discovered to be related

For instance, during the unprecedented outbreak of pulmonary hemosiderosis in babies in 1993/4 in Cleveland, OH, it was discovered to be related to the presence of Stachybotrys atra (black mold) in the victims’ homes.

The biggest challenge in determining the health risks posed by exposure to mold is that there is no proven method to determine the amount of mold a person is exposed to and its actual effect on the person’s health. This is in addition to the fact that mold is found everywhere in the environment whether indoors or outdoors. Even though health and environment policy bodies lack a set standard on tolerable mold levels it is recommended across the board that control of moisture indoors will go a long way in alleviating the health risks.

10 Tips On How To Prevent Mold

Mold spreads very fast and can be extremely hard to get rid of entirely. It can grow almost everywhere plus it has allergenic properties that can cause even fatal symptoms. Below is a compilation of top 10 ways to prevent mold in your home.

1. Monitor humidity levels in your home

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that the indoor relative humidity is kept below 60 percent and preferably between 30 and 50 percent.

A humidity meter can help in regular tracking of the moisture levels in your home. However, indicators like condensation on pipes, walls, and windows is a clear sign of high humidity levels and check for toilet mold.

2. Ensure there is proper ventilation and air flow

The fact that low temperatures hold less moisture proves that good airflow and proper ventilation will keep moisture at bay.

Most daily activities like cooking, doing laundry or taking a shower, causes a buildup of moisture in your home which in turn encourages mold growth.

Ventilation systems may also be the cause of high humidity levels if the AC units or dehumidifiers are producing moisture themselves. A regular checkup and cleaning of the vent appliances as directed by the manufacturer will not only increase their efficiency but also improve air circulation.

All combustion and vent appliances must be properly vented to the outside, and not to the attic or the garage. Moving furniture away from the walls, opening up a window or a door between rooms also helps in improving airflow.

Musty basements can benefit from the building of a foundation drain, running of a dehumidifier and generally getting more air circulation into the space.

3. Identify and address potential risk areas in your home

Seepages, burst pipes or leakages should be identified and fixed as soon as possible. The water leaks will have far-reaching effects including rusting the pipes and promoting mold growth.

Replacing the old pipes will ensure no moisture is collected and hence no mold growth. Leaking roofs, condensing water pipes, and leaking fire-protection systems should be replaced or repaired quickly.

4. Avoid household plants

Household plants are a haven for mold due to the moist soil. If getting rid of the plants is not an option then you can add Taheebo tea when watering them.

The oil in the Taheebo tea has been found to make it withstand fungi even in the wettest climatic regions like rain forests.

5. Install and use mold-resistant products

Mold-resistant products like mold inhibitors for paints and moisture-resistant drywall are a first defense to preventing moisture absorption and mold growth.

Traditional drywall is made of a gypsum core sandwiched between plies of paper making it very susceptible to moisture absorption.

On the other hand, mold-resistant drywall has the gypsum covered by fiberglass making its surface highly water-resistant. Surfaces like floors and sinks are also easy targets for mold growth thus should be made of non-porous materials like laminate, tile or stone.

6. Ensure you have a proper drainage system

A good drainage system (indoor and outdoor) that ensures water is directed away from the home will help prevent water seepage into basements or crawlspaces.

This can be an issue especially in homes where the ground isn’t sufficiently sloped further away from the building’s foundation, in which case a qualified contractor can help.

7. Understand the climate

Different regions experience diverse climatic conditions with varying moisture responses. Thus educating yourself on your region’s conditions can help in determining how to control moisture levels in your home and more so prevent mold growth.

8. Repair and regular cleaning of roof gutters

Regular inspection, repairing and cleaning of roof gutters and downspouts where necessary will improve in preventing dampness on the given surface. This practice will ensure you address water stains, leaks or paint peeling before they become an issue.

9. Drying wet surfaces and materials quickly

Mold will grow within two days given the right conditions therefore to prevent this it is highly advisable to dry all wet material and surfaces immediately after use.

You should always dry the bathroom floor and walls after every shower and also never leave wet clothes in the washing machine for too long instead hang them outside to dry preferably in areas with good air circulation. An exhaust fan can help in reducing moisture in bathrooms.

If you have pets, make sure you clean up the pet dander and hair. Keep in mind that mold can affect your pets too. Damp pet hair on your floors and cushions provides an environment that encourages mold growth. Invest in a pet hair vacuum like these here to keep your living space clean.

10. Unclutter your basement

Having many items in the basement blocks air circulation regardless of the use of an AC unit or even dehumidifier. Avoid storing books, clothes, wood among others in the basement as they become a home to mold growth. To improve ventilation try your best to unclutter the space and also avoid storing items in direct contact with the walls.