What Is Mold?
Molds and fungi are found in nature and are necessary for the breakdown of leaves, wood and other plant debris. These micro-organisms can enter a building directly or by their spores being carried in by the air. In a home or building, molds and fungi are usually found growing on wood, drywall, plaster/gypsum, upholstery, fabric, wallpaper, drapery, ceiling tiles, and carpeting.
The key factor is moisture because molds and fungi need it to grow. As a result, molds and fungi are most often found in basements, kitchens and bathrooms.
In modern buildings, moisture may be present as the result of:
- Leaks in the roof/basement or plumbing
- Sealed buildings that do not allow excess moisture to escape.
- Sources such as cooking facilities, showers, bathtubs, etc.
- Excess humidity.
How Does Mold Effect Your Health?
The presence of mould does not always means that health problems will occur. However, for some people the inhalation of the mould, fragments of the moulds, or spores can lead to health problems or make certain health conditions worse.
In addition, many of these moulds make “mycotoxins”. Mycotoxins are metabolites or by-products from the moulds that have been identified as being toxic to humans. These toxins can slowly wear down the immune system and can lead to allergic or respiratory problems.
In general, the most commonly reported symptoms include:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation.
- Cough or congestion.
- Aggravation of asthma.
- Difficulty concentrating.
Moulds can also exacerbate (make worse) the symptoms of allergies including wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath as well as nasal congestion and eye irritation. People who are immuno-suppressed, or recovering from surgery are usually more susceptible to health problems from moulds.
How Do You Get Rid Of Mold?
A visual inspection is the most reliable method of identifying mould problems. The most common signs of water damage will be discolouration and staining. Moulds will most often appear as dark spots, stains or patches.
While conducting the inspection, be sure to look at, in, or under the following places:
- Ceiling tiles.
- Walls including wallpaper, and condition of drywall.
- Cardboard or paper.
- Window sills.
- Furniture (condition of fabric, upholstery, etc.).
If possible, look behind duct work and walls (a mirror will help).
Also look for standing water – puddles of water around and under sinks, tubs, drip pans for dehumidifiers, air conditioners, and refrigerators that can be contributing to the moisture in the building and provide conditions where mould can grow.
Surface sampling can be done by scraping or swiping suspected spots if needed for medical evaluation but this should be done by a trained professional. Air monitoring is also possible, but it is not considered routine. (New York City Department of Health, 2008)
Monitoring devices are available which can measure the moisture level of drywall, wood, etc. These devices will help indicate whether or not moisture levels exists that would promote the growth of mould.