Currently, there are no recognized, acceptable levels of mold exposure or standards. Because of this, there are no certifications being offered.

The earliest mention of mold is found in the Bible, in the Book of Leviticus. Mold is fungi, that helps decay the organic matter around us. It is attracted to damp, decaying natural materials, containing cellulose. Some of these are: natural materials, such as paper, wallpaper, plywood and wood, ceiling tiles, the paper portions of sheet rock, clothes and leather to mention, but a few. We find mold and decay in the woods, when we turn over a log or look below the top layers of fallen leaves, on the ground. Some variety of molds can be found in all homes, in the United States today. Mold is a natural part of life.

There are more than 100,000 species of fungi or mold. Two of the most familiar types of fungi are mushrooms and mold or mildew. Mold splits, reproduces and releases spores that float through the air. Mold has been found in the atmosphere at altitudes of 60,000 feet. If we listen to the weather forecast in the spring, summer and fall, weather men will give mold spore counts. They are air samples, gathered to determine the mold allergens that are present in the air. The spores are seeds that float in the air, and then enter our homes, when we open a door or window. When a single spore finds the basic elements that it needs to survive, it reproduces and multiplies.

The Three Main Classifications of Mold
We use/consume, or are around a bi-product of mold every day. For instance, mold can be found in beer, wine, cheese, and, most important, in antibiotics. Mold falls into these three main classifications:

  1. Bread Mold;
  2. Yeasts, powdery mildew, blue, green, red, and brown molds, morels and truffles;
  3. Fungi-mushrooms and toadstools.

Mold can affect us in three ways
The effects of mold on humans depend on their physical receptivity to it.

  1. Allergenic: In certain people, contact with mold, either by breathing it, eating it or touching it, can cause an allergic reaction. Reactions include red eyes, runny nose, skin rash, hay-fever type symptoms, coughs and fevers. This may happen whether the mold is dead or alive. Dry mold may cause as many reactions as active mold.
  2. Pathogenic: This type of mold is very harmful. It is defined as an agent that can cause disease and perhaps kill. It can invade human tissues. Pathogenic mold thrives in persons with suppressed immune systems or those taking chemotherapy.
  3. Aspergillus Toxic: This type of mold can produce fatal results, as well. While certain types of molds are toxigenic, that is, they can produce toxins--mycotoxins, they, are not toxic, or poisonous, themselves. Like pathogenic mold, its toxicity depends more on the individual’s immune system.

There are 15 species of Stachbotrys. Stachbotrys mold produces a mycotoxin. This type of mold is rarely found in homes and represents a very small percent of the many varieties of mold. Stachbotrys mold is black and slimy, in appearance, with white edges possibly present. It needs large amounts of water, high levels of humidity, cellulose, and low nitrogen levels to survive.

Nine Things You Should Know About Mold:

  1. Potential health effects include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
  2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold. The way to control the mold is by controlling the moisture source that the mold needs to grow.
  3. If mold is a problem; first locate and eliminate the source of the moisture, then clean up the mold.
  4. Reduce indoor humidity to between 30 to 60% by: Vent all bathrooms, exhaust fans, clothes dryers, and other moisture generating sources to the exterior of the house. Reduce in-door air humidity by using air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
  5. Clean and dry all damp or wet building materials within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  6. Clean mold from hard surfaces and then dry the surface. Absorbent materials like ceiling tiles should be replaced.
  7. Prevent condensation on cold surfaces like windows or cold water supply pipes by insulating the surfaces.
  8. In areas of perpetual moisture do not finish the interior walls or store items that mold may be able to grow on.
  9. Molds can be found almost anywhere. They can grow on virtually any surface where levels of high humidity, moisture, and a food source are present.

Those at highest risk
Infants, the elderly, immune-compromised individuals, Pregnant women, and those with respiratory problems are highly at risk.

According to the American Lung Association, between 30 to 50%, or 27.8 million structures, have damp favorable conditions for the mold growth. Approximately 9.0 million homes (25%) have true mold problems.

When a moisture problem occurs and is not cleaned up and dried out with in 24-48 hours, there is the possibility of mold growth. In homes, mold is a symptom of a problem! As an inspector, my job is to find the source of the problem.

What mold needs to grow and multiply in homes

  1. Moisture
  • Wet damp conditions caused by any of the following: Water leaks in the attic, an improperly vented or unused bathroom exhaust fan, a dripping clothes washer connection, or leaks in the foundation of the house;
  • High Humidity—mold growth will occur in humidity higher than 55%;
  • Temperature--mold growth will occur when temperatures are above 36 degrees.
  1. A Feeding Source--mold growth will occur where there are cellulose containing products, such as ceiling tiles, newspapers, wallpaper, some paints, plywood, paneling, particle board. It can be found also in natural fabrics, leather, glues, draperies and potting soil;
  2. A surface or place to grow on;
  3. Limited ventilation.

    Note: It takes only one mold spore to create a problem.

Mold Problem Awareness
Today, people are more aware of the problem of mold and concerned with its effects on their health. This is due to the following:

  • The 1973 Oil Embargo resulted in houses being better insulated and less ventilated. (We move less air.);
  • There exist greater technological advances to identify health problems;
  • Improvement in communication has increased awareness of these issues.

What the inspector needs to detect
As an inspector, I look for the following:

  • Visible signs of mold;
  • Moldy musty smells;
  • Evidence of water penetration leaks;
  • Something or someplace where a leak may occur;
  • Dirty and poorly maintained Force Hot Air Heating Systems;
  • Improperly vented bathrooms and kitchens.

To reiterate, mold is a symptom of a problem. We need to discover what is causing its growth in the home and eliminate favorable conditions.

Possible Conditions or Locations for Mold to Grow
Favorable conditions or locations for mold to grow are as follows:

  • Soil at the exterior foundation, that is not graded properly;
  • Improperly maintained roof, flashings, or gutter system;
  • Leaks, damaged areas below sinks and tubs;
  • Improperly maintained or operating heating systems;
  • Leaks behind clothes washer and dish washers;
  • Bathrooms under sinks and around toilets;
  • Areas behind refrigerators;
  • Crawl spaces.

Cleaning Mold
Mold releases more spores when it is disturbed. When cleaning surfaces the spore counts are typically 10 to 1,000 times higher than undisturbed mold.

Most problems experienced in cleaning mold, come from the bleaches used and not wearing proper protection. If mold gets on the clothes, it is merely transferred from one surface location to another. What follows are some preventive measures to clean mold and eliminate its transfer:

  • Wear gloves;
  • Mix 10% household bleach and water;
  • Avoid excessive amounts of runoff and standing bleach.

If it exists in less than a 10 feet square, the contact mold sample should be performed with a cotton swab. The following measures should be taken:

  • Each separate area should be sampled;
  • If there are distinct or different types of mold, examine each growth

Air Sampling
In sampling the air, the following procedures should be observed:

  • A trap, to rely on spores falling directly onto a sampling medium;
  • Air Impaction, to suck air samples into a canister;
  • Take samples of indoor and outdoor air.

Vacuum Sampling
A vacuum sample of spores in the carpet should be taken as well.

  • Collect spores in the carpet pile

It is important to remember that mold growth is the byproduct of proper conditions. It is vital to eliminate the original source or the mold will return.

Additional information about Mold provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Animated Gif - Mold Growing

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