Toxic Mold

Toxic mold was a hot topic a few years back and continues to be a concern for homeowners and office dwellers.  News reports of this black mold were common and frightening.  Just what is toxic mold?

Mold is found nearly everywhere, including inside homes and offices.  Mold spreads via spores and given the correct set of conditions, including food and moisture, it can set up housekeeping rather quickly.  Not all black molds are toxic.

Some people are hypersensitive to mold, and react with symptoms that mimic hay fever.  Mold can exacerbate asthma and cause coughing and wheezing.  A mold problem can often be smelled if it is not yet seen, and this odor is generally recognizable and referred to as “musty.”  According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), some molds, such as Stachybotrys chartarum are not toxic in and of themselves, but may release mycotoxins, which can cause symptoms and illness.  It may be that levels of these mycotoxins must be quite high before they can make people sick.  There is much debate about that; however, there have been cases of people becoming sick and even dying as a result of exposure to extreme levels of mycotoxins, but this is rare.  There is also speculation that mold-related illness is actually a result of a body’s prolonged immune response to the presence of mold.  More common mold-related illnesses are fungal infections, which often develop in immune-compromised individuals. Not all mycotoxins are bad. Penicillin is a mycotoxin.  Conversely, some can be very bad, such as aflatoxin, which can cause cancer.  In any case, it is best to keep mold to a minimum where possible, and to prevent the conditions that exacerbate its growth.

Homes and other buildings should be checked for damp areas and leaks.  Humidity should be kept low, and ventilation should be improved.  In case of flooding, steps should be taken too dry the structure as thoroughly and quickly as possible before mold, which can grow very rapidly, establishes itself.  It will probably be necessary to remove rugs and padding so that the subfloor is able to dry. Remediation would include repair of any leaks, installation of a dehumidifier, and the use of fans or other means to keep air circulating.    Mold can be cleaned from hard surfaces with detergent, borax, bleach, vinegar, ammonia or tea tree oil, but combinations of these products should be avoided so as not to produce gases that are more harmful than the mold being cleaned.  Bleach and ammonia should never be mixed.

When mold problems are extensive, when inhabitants are showing symptoms of mold exposure, or when mold is occurring within walls or any other place not easily reached for do-it-yourself removal, it is a wise decision to contact a professional mold remediation service to rectify the problem and restore the structure to a healthier environment.

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