10 Mold Facts for Homeowners, Landlords, Tenants, & Employers
- Airborne mold spores are everywhere both indoors and outdoors. Resident and employee health is at serious risk if there are elevated levels of mold spores indoors, as compared to an outdoor mold control test.
- The most dangerous indoor molds are Alternaria, Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys. Mold testing and mold laboratory analysis are required to identify specific mold species.
- Molds spores can cause serious health problems even if the spores are dead or dormant (inactive while waiting for more moisture to resume growth). Even the smell of dead or dormant mold can make some mold-sensitive persons ill.
- It is impossible to get rid of all mold spores indoors. Some mold spores will always be present in house dust and floating in the air.
- The mold spores will not grow into mold colonies if there is insufficient moisture. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If organic materials are wet for more than 24 hours, mold growth can begin.
- Mold grows by eating and destroying organic building materials and other cellulose-based materials such as carpeting, upholstery, and clothing. The longer that mold grows, the more mold damage to the building.
- Cellulose is the main substance in the cell walls of plants (and thus of wood), and it is used in the manufacture of many organic building materials such as drywall, plasterboard, plywood substitutes, and ceiling tiles.
- Mold can grow hidden and undetected inside wall and ceiling cavities; beneath wallpaper, paneling, and carpeting; and inside heating and cooling equipment and ducts, attics, crawl spaces, and basements.
- Mold growth is often the result of a structural or construction defect, or of maintenance neglect, that allows moisture to enter the building.
- The owner or employer must first fix the water problem (roof leak, plumbing leak, high indoor humidity) that enables the mold to grow. Effective mold remediation requires killing the mold with an EPA-registered fungicide, removing it, and treating the cleaned area with an EPA-registered preventive fungicidal coating.
What Causes Indoor Mold Growth?
Mold can grow on virtually any organic substance or building material comprised of wood, wallpaper, drywall, carpet, paint, adhesives, fabrics, ducting and insulation. Mold is in the air everywhere and when it lands on a damp indoor spot with little or no UV light, it begins digesting and growing. This produces thousands of microscopic spores that are released into the air while the destructive organism eventually damages the materials on which they feed and grow.
Mold infestation and rampant growth usually occurs whenever water damage or other moisture problems in indoor environments go unaddressed or are treated improperly. Typical problem situations encountered are:
- Natural weather disasters
- Equipment malfunctions in a building
- Poor facility design or maintenance
- Improper cleanup after a problem
- Delayed remediation after an event
Visible mold is typically only the tip of the iceberg, and usually a sign that the problem may already be extensive. It is not uncommon to find 10 times or more mold growth out of sight inside the crevices of a wall or within an HVAC system.
Q: What is Radon?
A: Radon is a radioactive element that is part of the radioactive decay chain of naturally occurring uranium in soil. You can’t see, smell it, or taste it. Unlike carbon monoxide and many other home pollutants, radon’s adverse health effect, lung cancer, is usually not produced immediately. Thus you may be exposed to radon for many years without ever suspecting its presence in your home.
Q: How does it get into a home?
A: Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water. In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.
RADON GETS IN THROUGH:
1. Cracks in solid floors
2. Construction joints
3. Cracks in walls
4. Gaps in suspended floors
5. Gaps around service pipes
6. Cavities inside walls
7. The water supply
Q: What health problems are caused by radon?
A: When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the SECOND leading cause of lung cancer in the United States causing about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels your risk of lung cancer is especially high