How To Avoid Mold Spores
Darkness, dampness, and drafts are the three D’s to remember in the war against mold spores. Conditions which favor the growth of molds are low-level light, humidity and lack of ventilation. These microscopic organisms can be found indoors and out. They are a necessary part of our environment and are responsible for decaying other organisms that have died. Outdoor levels peak in the late summer and fall months.
How Common Is Mold In Buildings?
Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture. The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria. We do not have accurate information about how often Stachybotrys chartarum is found in buildings and homes. While it is less common than other mold species, it is not rare.
How do molds get in the indoor environment and how do they grow?
Molds naturally grow in the indoor environment. Mold spores may also enter your house through open doorways, windows, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to people and animals, making clothing, shoes, bags, and pets convenient vehicles for carrying mold indoors.
When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery, commonly support mold growth.
Potential Health Effects Of Mold In Buildings And Homes
Mold exposure does not always present a health problem indoors. However, some people are sensitive to molds. These people may experience symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, or wheezing when exposed to molds. Some people may have more severe reactions to molds. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. People with chronic illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
How do you keep mold out of buildings and homes?
As part of routine building maintenance, buildings should be inspected for evidence of water damage and visible mold. The conditions causing mold (such as water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) should be corrected to prevent mold from growing.
- Keep humidity level in house below 50%.
- Use air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
- Be sure home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans in kitchen and bathrooms.
- Use mold inhibitors which can be added to paints.
- Clean bathroom with mold killing products.
- Do not carpet bathrooms.
- Remove and replace flooded carpets.
Diagnosing & Treating Mold Allergies
Mold “season” is less clear-cut than the various pollen seasons because they are present year-round with fluctuations in levels based on the conditions. The most accurate way to diagnose mold allergies is with the allergy skin tests.
When the diagnosis has been made, the first line of treatment is avoidance. Exposure to mold spores is affected by a variety of conditions outside the home including:
- Very well shaded yard with little direct light
- Dense vegetation
- Standing water.
Inside the home, the following conditions are an invitation for trouble:
- Carpet in the bathroom
- Water leaks or flooding into the home
- Vegetation (such as Christmas trees or flowers) sitting in water and potted plants.
- Mold infestation in a wall or ceiling will usually leave a color on the surface.
The mold-allergic patient may benefit from keeping humidity between 30-50% by using dehumidifiers.
However, if avoidance and medications do not completely relieve symptoms, there is still hope. Immunotherapy can be an effective treatment in lowering the body¹s sensitivity to a specific allergen, by introducing that allergen into the body in tiny amounts over a period of time.
How Hazardous Are Toxic Molds?
The hazards presented by molds that may contain mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. There are very few case reports that toxic molds (those containing certain mycotoxins) inside homes can cause unique or rare, health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxic mold and these conditions has not been proven.
A common-sense approach should be used for any mold contamination existing inside buildings and homes. The common health concerns from molds include hay-fever like allergic symptoms. Certain individuals with chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression may be at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. For the most part, one should take routine measures to prevent mold growth in the home.
People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections.
What is Stachybotrys chartarum (stachybotrys atra)?
Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.
Does Stachybotrys chartarum cause acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants?
To date, a possible association between acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants and Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) has not been proved. Further studies are needed to determine what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage.
If your child has acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage, parents should ensure that their children get proper medical treatment.
What To Do If You Have Stachybotrys Chartarum
Mold growing in homes and buildings, whether it is Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or other molds, indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture. This is the first problem that needs to be addressed. Mold can be cleaned off surfaces with a weak bleach solution. Mold under carpets typically requires that the carpets be removed. Once mold starts to grow in insulation or wallboard the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement.
We do not believe that one needs to take any different precautions with Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), than with other molds. In areas where flooding has occurred, prompt cleaning of walls and other flood-damaged items with water mixed with chlorine bleach, diluted 10 parts water to 1 part bleach, is necessary to prevent mold growth. Never mix bleach with ammonia. Moldy items should be discarded.
Should People Vacate A Home Or Other Building Because Of Mold?
These decisions have to be made individually. If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in a building, you should consult your physician to determine the appropriate action to take.
Contact for Appointment
March 10, 2000: MMWR Update: Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis Among Infants Cleveland, Ohio, 1993-1996
Report to the CDC Working Group on Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis – June 17, 1999
Some additional information on fungi and fungal diseases at the CDC Web site:
CDC/NCID Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases: Fungal Diseases
NIOSH publication: HISTOPLASMOSIS: Protecting Workers at Risk
Emerging Infectious Diseases article: “Emerging Disease Issues and Fungal Pathogens Associated with HIV Infection” by Neil M. Ampel, M.D. University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Emerging Infectious Diseases article: “Coccidioidomycosis: A Reemerging Infectious Disease” by Theo N. Kirkland, M.D., and Joshua Fierer, M.D., Departments of Pathology and Medicine, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego, California, USA
California Department of Health Services
Indoor Air Quality Info Sheet
Mold in My Home: What Do I Do? March 1998