Mold is natural to the environment and found everywhere. There are hundreds of thousands of species of mold and fungus, but not all are bad. In some cases, mold is beneficial. Penicillin for example, is a potent, lifesaving antibiotic that was created by accident in a petri dish in 1928. Egyptians used molded bread to treat infections in Ancient times. And of course who doesn’t like a little blue cheese with their chicken wings? But in all seriousness, if you have a type of mold/fungus that is harmful, too high of a concentration or it’s growing in a place that it shouldn’t be, then that’s where you need to reach out to an expert.
Mold can form and thrive on any type of organic material where moisture is present. It needs food, (substrate), water and time. Common household materials are wood, drywall, carpet, plywood, paper, fabrics and dust. Molds can also enter your home via crawlspace, windows, door and air ducts through air current. Mold is universal, however some can produce mycotoxins and cause serious health risks. The most common effects from exposure are:In extreme cases, some exposure can be carcinogenic or fatal.
So how do you identify it? And who is capable of doing so?
Mold in your home or business is tricky. Sometimes easily identified or it can be hidden from plain view. Testing, sampling and mold inspections from an experienced and qualified inspector could be the key to solving the mold riddle. Depending on symptoms you are experiencing and or what you are seeing, there may be several different ways to proceed. Molds are so numerous and they come in a multitude of colors and textures. Determining friend from foe requires a seasoned technician. Water intrusion correction and mold remediation recommendations from different contractors can vary drastically. They are generally estimated on a case by case basis therefore a company with proper training is imperative. Since this is an industry that is largely not regulated, anyone can claim to be an expert. However with some knowledge and asking the right questions, you should be able to locate a bona fide, experienced, professional company.
How do you prevent mold? The secret to prevention is to control the moisture. Here are some basic ways to prevent having a fungus among us:
• Thoroughly dry wet areas as soon as possible. After a water event, mold can grow in as little at 24-48 hours.
• Waterproof or re-direct water and moisture away from your home. Make sure your gutters are properly functioning and clear of debris/clogs. Make sure that water is not pooling near your foundation.
• Check basements and crawlspaces after heavy rains, and at the turn of each season. If there is a musty smell or any dampness, that could be a problem. Typically mold does not flourish in the cold, dry winter, however it still may in crawlspaces and other areas that remain warm and moist during winter months.
• Keep things properly ventilated. Running the exhaust fan during and 30 minutes after bathing/showering will help remove the humidity. Also turn the fan on when using the cooktop on the stove and make sure your clothes dryer is properly ventilated and clear of lint and debris.
• Your air conditioner acts as a
dehumidifier, and it’s important to keep it running; especially when outside temperatures and humidity are higher than normal. Make sure the fan is set in the “AUTO” position, rather than the “ON” position. If only the fan is running,then the fan may be reintroducing moisture from the condensation back into the environment.
• Use Mold Resistant materials in your home when you can. Building products have come a long way and now offer resistant drywall and sheetrock. Several companies also offer mold resistant paints and lacquers as well.
• Inspect indoor plant leaves and its soil. Damp soil is a perfect breeding ground for growth. Add some Taheebo Tea Oil to the water when watering them. It has natural anti-fungal component to keep fungus at bay.
• 80% of molds can grow on dust. Clean and vacuum on a regular basis and use a vacuum with a HEPA filtration system (High Efficiency Particulate Air). HEPA is a type of air filter that captures dust mites, mold, pollen, dander and even smoke. Clean non porous surfaces with a mixture of 50/50 white vinegar and water to eliminate using harsh cleansers and bleach. White vinegar is also a natural antimicrobial and fungicide. Add half a cup to each load in the washing machine to keep clothes fresh and inhibit growth inside the machine itself. This is an inexpensive way to combat that icky, musty smell you may struggle with especially if you have a front loader.
• Increase circulation and let the sun shine in! Fresh air and circulation is always a great option when it can be warranted and UV light kills bacteria, which can hinder mold growth. So open blinds, shades and curtains and let some natural light in.
Mold situations can be delicate and need to be handled by trained, certified and experienced professionals. Remediation can be costly and you want to have it done correctly the first time and hopefully not ever have to deal with it again. High relative humidity or a water source is often what creates the mold/ fungus. Then they need a substrate (food source) to thrive and rapidly reproduce. When spores are airborne, this is when people can be affected by its health effects. Respiratory issues, headaches, fogginess, skin infections/rashes and malaise, just to name a few. There are many molds that area considered toxic to humans and pets. In some instances they can be carcinogenic.
If you discover mold, you need to find and hire a professional. There are is no agency in North Carolina that registers, monitors or issue licenses for mold remediation. Therefore if a company says they have a mold license, skip to the next one, it doesn’t exist. Qualified companies generally acquire certifications by National Associations, such as NAMP (National Association of Mold Professionals) and IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification). There other organizations that certify firms in associated fields such as NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association). The proper certifications are issued to companies who have the training, knowledge and have passed a series of tests and classes.
Some contractors know just enough to make them appear like experts. While their heart may be in the right place, you donít want to pay for inexperience. Here are some things to be mindful of:
1. Get multiple estimates and compare services.
2. Are they properly addressing the moisture issue and/or water intrusion? If that isn’t remedied, it will just return.
3. How many remediations has the company performed?
4. Check on certifications and ask for credible references.
5. Inquire about insurance.
6. Is there a guarantee or warranty with the work?
7. Ask what kind of methods and chemicals are used to remove the mold. According to the EPA, there is not a product that you can spray on a surface and the mold disappears. It has to be physically removed from what it’s attached to. There are several industry methods and they can vary depending on each situation. Bleach is never ever used in mold remediation. Only antimicrobial and fungicide products should be applied.
8. Are they capable and familiar with insurance companies and claims if that is the route is even an option for the client/homeowner?
Mold/fungus issues can always be remedied. Whether you have water intrusion, high humidity, visible growth, it can all be addressed and properly corrected.
Danyelle Holland is the President of Atlantic Corporation of NC