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Mold’s primary function is to break down dead organic material and recycle nutrients back to the earth. There are at least 1,000 varieties of molds common to the United States, and mold exists in virtually every environment, indoors and out. Mold becomes a potential problem when it begins growing inside homes and occupied spaces. Newer construction techniques, meant to improve comfort and energy conservation, contribute to mold problems. As homes become increasingly airtight, fresh air exchanges are reduced, potentially leading to a buildup up excess moisture and mold growth. In addition, modern construction materials (drywall instead of plaster, for example) are often more conducive to mold growth.

Moisture (water or even elevated humidity) is the crucial ingredient for mold growth. Mold can grow on just about any surface, but prefers to feed on porous, organic materials. Certain molds are particularly fond of cellulose materials such as wood, drywall, ceiling tiles, and can cause structural problems.

Not all types of molds are toxic; however, certain molds can create health problems; and some people are more sensitive to mold exposure than others. Infants, children, the elderly, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, and persons with respiratory conditions all appear to have greater risk for adverse health effects to mold. Many health symptoms have been commonly linked with exposure to mold, including sneezing, coughing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, skin rashes, sinus headaches, and difficulty breathing.

How to Prevent Excessive Mold Growth in Your Home

Leaks from plumbing, foundation water intrusion, roof damage, etc. can all lead to unwanted mold growth and should be repaired as soon as possible. In the event of some water issue, wet materials that are porous and organic should be dried out within 24-48 hours. A dehumidifier should be used in basements, to help maintain relative humidity below 50-60%. Simply put, less moisture and better ventilation will help reduce the chance of indoor mold growth.

How to Identify Mold Growth in Your Home

In a home with a history of water intrusion, leaks, or elevated humidity, it may be advisable to contract a professional mold inspector. If there is significant visual evidence of indoor mold growth, an experienced inspector may be able to develop a protocol for mold cleanup (often referred to as remediation or abatement). Air testing is often helpful in identifying a mold problem, especially when there is insufficient visual evidence (in finished basements, for example) or when a known mold problem in one area is suspected of affecting another area.


EPA Mold Basics
CDC Mold Protection
Mold and Your Health


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