What can you do about mold, and what you need to know.
People are exposed to more than 200 species of fungi that live indoors and outdoors. Things like mold-like fungi, yeasts, and mushrooms. We use terms like mold and mildew as a non-technical name for fungus that is growing in our building environment. Mold colonies might look like cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery; they may be white, gray, black, brown, yellow, green, or even other colours. Many of these fungi reproduce by producing and dispersing spores into the air. For the most part, they feed on dead organic matter that have sufficient moisture. They can live off many of the materials we use to build our homes, such as wood, cellulose, insulation, wallpaper, glue, and everyday dust and dirt.
Some molds can cause adverse health effects that include allergic reactions and immune responses, infections diseases, and toxic effects. The Institute of Medicine found evidence that exposure to mold or other agents in a damp indoor environment and the following conditions: coughing, wheezing, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, asthma, to name a few. There was another study that supported the associations between fungal allergen exposure and asthma exacerbation and upper respiratory disease. Mold toxins can cause direct lung damage that could lead to pulmonary diseases as well.
Over the last decade or two, mold has received more attention from the public. It has been in many news segments focusing on the problems associated with toxic mold or black mold where they are referencing a toxin mold call Stachybotrys chartarum. These stories give the impression that it is a new thing that is happening in our homes – but there does not appear to be any real scientific data to support this. It is possible that modern construction is more susceptible to this because the building envelop is tighter – making it difficult for internally generated water vapor to escape the building.
What are the allergic health effects?
The reason people are allergic to mold is that they create proteins or glycoproteins that can cause an allergic reaction in a person. Mold is suspected of playing a large role in asthma, they produce many potentially allergenic compounds and release many irritants that increases the potential for sensitization or release of toxins (mycotoxins) that affect immune response.
For more information on Asthma, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/asthma.html
For more information on the Health effects of air pollution, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/health-effects-indoor-air-pollution.html
What causes mold to grow?
If there is excess moisture, mold can grow there. Common sources include leaky roofs and wall joints; surface and groundwater leaks due to poorly designed or clogged rain gutters and footing drains, and basement leaks; plumbing leaks; stagnant water in appliances (like your dehumidifiers, dishwasher, refrigerator drip pans, and condensing oils and drip pans in your HVAC system.
It can also be caused by water vapor migration and condensation, for example: uneven indoor temperatures, poor air circulation, soil air entry into basements, contact of humid unconditioned air with cooled interior surfaces, and poor insulation. Moisture problems can also be created by the production of excess moisture inside the home from humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, overcrowding, etc. Finished basements seem to be particularly susceptible to mold problems because of a combination of poor moisture control and mold supporting materials like carpet and paper-backed sheetrock.
How do I know if I have mold problems?
The easiest way is to perform a visual inspection for active or past microbial growth, detection of musty odors, or signs of water staining or damage. The problem is that fungal elements are spores which are microscopic, and their presence is not often noticed until there is major growth, in addition, this growth can happen in hidden spaces.
Moisture meters and infrared thermal imaging tools can be used to pinpoint areas of high moisture, where mold tends to grow. Most mold spores are settled in dust and contaminated building materials and only a relatively small amount is airborne at any given time.
For residential indoor air quality guidelines, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/residential-indoor-air-quality-guideline-moulds.html
How do I mitigate mold?
These are some of the ways that you can combat mold in your home:
· Maintain your HVAC system
· Change your HVAC filters frequently or as recommended by your furnace manufacture/HVAC specialist
· Keep your gutters and downspouts clear and in working order, and ensure they drain at least 2m from your foundation
· Routinely check, clean, and dry drip pans in air conditioners, refrigerators, and dehumidifiers
· Increase ventilation by using exhaust fans or opening windows
· Venting your clothes dryer outside, avoid using accordion type vent pipes which are easily damaged
· Keeping a relative humidity level of 40% to 60% in your home
· Control dampness, humidity, and repairing water leaks
· Clean or remove mold-contaminated materials
· Remove materials with severe mold growth
· Using high-efficiency air filters
Moisture control, how do I control it?
Moisture is one of the most important factors attributing to mold growth, controlling it is particularly important to stopping or slowing mold growth in your home.
Some simple measures can be taken to control moisture in your home, I have already listed several methods above, but you can also help mitigate moisture problems in your home by reducing the number of indoor plants, using your AC when it is very humid outside, heating all your rooms during the winter, adding heating to outside wall closets, sloping surrounding soil away from building foundations, using a sump pump in basements that are prone to flooding. Vapor barriers, sump pumps, and above ground vents should also be installed in crawlspaces to help prevent moisture intrusion problems.
For more information on moisture intrusion please visit https://avelarhomeinspection.com/how-does-moisture-get-into-your-home/
How do I remove mold, or mold-contaminated materials?
For materials like metals, glass, and hard plastics (non-porous materials), and even wood and concrete (semi-porous materials) that are still structurally sound can be cleaned with a bleach/water solution. But in some cases, if the material cannot be easily cleaned it may need to be replaced.
Things like ceiling tiles, wallboards, and fabrics that cannot be cleaned should be removed and discarded. Sometimes, the cleaning and removal process of mold uses several methods that are like those used for other hazardous substances like asbestos. If the colonization is greater than 100 square feet, extreme precautions are required.
For more information on addressing moisture and mold in your home, please visit https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/addressing-moisture-mould-your-home.html