Mold is a naturally occurring part of a healthy ecology. It is common to find mold spores in the air both outside and inside your office or home. In fact, most of the mold that you find indoors comes from outside. The spores are carried in by the air currents and some are deposited in the interior of the building, while the bulk of the spores are carried out of the building by the same air currents.
Generally, as long as the indoor mold spore levels are no higher than outdoor levels there are few adverse reactions to the mold. However, according to the California Department of Health Services, as the amount of mold becomes more extensive or mold spore levels become elevated, it can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems. Mold can also cause structural damage to homes.
First of all, if you see mold growth you should look for the water or moisture source and try to stop or prevent it. By preventing an accumulation of moisture or water, you prevent mold growth. Where there is minimal or no visible mold growth, but there is a musty or moldy odor, the investigation of where it's coming from becomes a little more difficult. Again look for any area of moisture.
If there is a concern about elevated mold spores, then air sampling maybe required. A trained and experienced environmental consultant should do the sampling. Sampling can also be very expensive. Depending on the environmental consultant, the rates for services can range from $75.00 to $300.00 per hour plus expenses and lab costs.
Mold spores are everywhere. In order for mold to grow, moisture must be present. The necessary moisture can simply come from prolonged high humidity or from more catastrophic events such as floods, sewer backflows, leaky roofs or plumbing leaks. Once the structure gets wet, if it does not dry out or dries out slowly, mold spores can germinate and begin to grow on surfaces that provide a food source.
Have you been exposed?
That's a difficult question to answer. It's like asking how much sun it takes to cause sunburn. It varies from person to person. For some it takes very little exposure to cause an adverse reaction. I recently read an article about a little girl that could not be in direct sunlight. To do so would result in severe blistering. On the other hand, some people can be in the sun for long periods of time without any adverse reaction. Also, when someone is severely sunburned, he or she becomes more sensitive, in other words, it takes less exposure the next time to create the same reaction. Likewise, exposure to mold can make someone more sensitive to it. Once a person is removed from the exposure, the reactions tend to diminish. While sun is primarily a dermal exposure issue, with a potential for heat stress, adverse reactions to mold exposure can be dermal or internal due to ingestion or respiration. As a general rule, when you see mold the moisture problem needs to be resolved and the mold removed.
Who’s at risk?
High levels of mold are not healthy for anyone inside a building. Those individuals that appear to be at higher risk are infants, elderly, immune compromised (those with HIV infection, liver disease or undergoing chemotherapy), pregnant women and individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity and asthma.
If you have concerns about your health, you should consult a physician for advice.
According the California Department of Health Services, the most common symptom is an allergic reaction. Other reactions may include one or a combination of the following: respiratory problems, such as wheezing, and difficulty in breathing; nasal and sinus congestion; eyes-burning, watery, reddened, blurry vision, light sensitivity; dry, hacking cough; sore throat; nose and throat irritation; shortness of breath; skin irritation; central nervous system problems (constant headaches, memory problems and mood changes); aches and pains; and possible fever.
What are Mycotoxins?
The reaction to the amount and types of molds in a home will vary from person to person. Some molds will produce mycotoxins, or toxins produced by molds. Simply spraying a mildewcide on mold will not remove or inactivate the mycotoxins that have already been produced. An adverse reaction from dead mold or mold spores can still happen. Not all molds produce mycotoxins all the time. And it may take a lot of mold to produce enough of a dose of mycotoxin to produce a poison. The amount of mycotoxin required to create a reaction has not clearly been established. Tolerance to these mycotoxins again varies from person to person.
Is asbestos harmful?
Asbestos is in and on virtually every home and building in the United States. Asbestos is commonly found in: linoleum type flooring, vinyl floor tile, texturing compounds, textured paints, caulking, gaskets, pipe insulation, construction adhesives, acoustic tiles, spray applied insulation, plaster, stucco, wall board, roofing materials, exterior sidings, concrete shingles, appliances, protective clothing, etc.