Mold Allergies.

Mold has well-known associations with human disease. People can develop fungal infections of various types, especially those with poorly functioning immune systems. Fungi are also known to produce toxins, which have been blamed for causing various diseases.

Molds can also cause severe immune reactions as a result of colonizing (living in, but not causing an actual infection) the lungs (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) and the sinuses.
There are thousands of types of mold, however, only a few of these are currently available for allergy testing. The following are the most likely causes of allergic disease based on the types of mold spores collected in the air:

 

Asthma-Allergen

 

  • Alternaria. A common outdoor mold; allergy to this mold can be associated with severe asthma.
  • Cladosporium. The most common airborne outdoor mold.
  • Aspergillus. A common indoor and outdoor mold; also associated with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
  • Penicillium. A common indoor mold; allergy to which is not associated with antibiotic allergy.
  • Helminthosporum. More commonly found in warmer climates.
  • Epicoccum. Found in grassland and agricultural areas.
  • Fusarium. Commonly found on rotting plants.
  • Aureobasidium. Common outdoor mold, commonly found on paper, lumber and painted surfaces.
  • Phoma. An outdoor mold, especially common during wet periods.
  • Smuts. Abundantly found in areas of agriculture.
  • Rhizopus and Mucor. Commonly found on decaying leaves and damp indoor areas. Airborne forms of these molds are less common.
  • Yeasts. Commonly found in the air during wet periods in agricultural areas. Allergic disease to Candida albicans is controversial, despite some people having positive allergy testing to this type of mold.

In colder climates, molds can be found in the outdoor air starting in the late winter, and peaking in the late summer to early fall months (July to October). In warmer climates, mold spores may be found throughout the year, with the highest levels found in the late summer to early fall months. While indoor molds can occur year round and are dependent on moisture levels in the home, indoor mold levels are higher when outdoor mold levels are higher. Therefore, a common source of indoor mold is from the outside environment, although can also be from indoor mold contamination.

Here are some ways to help prevent mold growth:

  • Prevent outdoor molds from entering the home by keeping doors and windows closed and using air conditioning equipped with allergen-grade air filters
  • Control indoor moisture with the use of dehumidifiers
  • Fix water leaks in bathrooms, kitchens and basements
  • Ensure adequate ventilation of moist areas
  • Clean (or replace) contaminated surfaces with diluted a chlorine bleach solution (one part household bleach in 9 parts water), while using proper protective gear (mask and goggles)
  • Utilize HEPA-filters on vacuums or as a stand-alone air filter
  • Limit indoor houseplants, and ensure those that are present are free of mold on leaves and in potting soil.
  • mold-testing_clip_image001

 

 

Daniel More, MD. “Which Molds Are Known To Cause Allergies?” Web blog post. Allergies, Asthma and lung Allergies. Very Well, 7 Sep. 2016

Images provided by Google.

Hidden Places You Might Find Mold.

Information about how hidden mold in our homes can make us sick has been well documented by the media and contractors who make a living removing mold from buildings. We all expect that mold might be lurking in the moist and dark places in our homes, such as in basements or crawl spaces. But there are many other places mold could be growing in your house that you might never find out about unless you do a little exploration. Let’s take a look at some of the places mold spores can thrive so you know what to look for.

 

1. Window Sills

We don’t often spend a lot of time examining our window sills, but they are a prime place for mold to start and spread. Window sills are frequently exposed to moisture from condensation, and they only get decent air flow during the summer months if the windows are open.

2. Refrigerator Drip Pans

The pans used to collect condensation for our refrigerators are rarely seen, so they are easy to forget about. There is not a lot of air circulation under the fridge in most homes, and what is out of sight usually is out of mind. Sometimes, food from spills collects in there as well. This creates a perfect breeding ground for mold spores.

3. Wallpaper

Unless you are removing paper from your walls, you are unlikely to know if mold spores are growing behind it. If the paper is older or has peeling edges, it’s possible mold has begun spreading where you can’t see. If you suspect you might have a mold problem, it’s best to just get the paper removed and replaced. If you know for a fact that there is a great deal of mold behind the paper, don’t remove it yourself. Instead, hire a trained professional to get rid of it and sterilize the area.

4. Air Conditioners

Again, condensation is the culprit here. In addition, the air that AC units suck in from the outside contains dirt and pollen–attractive materials for mold. Machines that sit without use for long periods are likely to contain mold spores.

5. Washing Machines

The popular new front-load washing machines may be great for high efficiency, but they are notorious for off odors as a result of mold growth. The gasket around the door is wet all the time when the washer is running and doesn’t get to dry out because the door is usually closed when the machine is not in use. This creates a perfect atmosphere for mold to grow.

6. Carpets and Pads

Moisture from concrete floors or wet crawl spaces can easily make its way into your carpet pad and, eventually, the carpet. If you have pets who occasionally have accidents on the carpet, this can increase the potential for mold spores to grow there. If your carpet starts to smell odd or seems damp, unfortunately it might be too late–mold is probably already growing.

 

Allergy & Air. “Top 8 Hidden Places You Might Find Mold” Web Blog Post. Indoor Air Quality. Allergy and Air. 27 July 2015

Dealing With Mold In Winter.

Mold can grow at any time of the year. Although, it you might think it can grow more during summer days mold can still grow in the winter.

The climate and activity changes during colder months can actually increase the likelihood for mold growth in winter. Our indoor and outdoor environments can create conditions that foster increased spore activity. We tend to close up our homes once it starts getting colder; and with all of the latest energy efficiencies we have today, our homes become too tightly sealed. This can trap moisture and raise humidity levels. Mold growth in winter and fall seasons can be commonly found on the exterior of drywall, sheet rock and other surfaces of rooms located in ceilings and corners of the home. Due to corner rooms being exposed to significantly colder air than their adjoining rooms, they have higher relative humidity levels.

Turning up our thermostats creates warmer air that is often unable to escape; and if your home’s indoor environment is too tightly insulated, the likelihood of mold or mildew growth in winter months dramatically climbs. Additionally, warm condensation and trapped moisture from humidity levels tends to dwell in homes for longer periods of time.

The fall and winter outdoor environment provides the ability for mold spore activity to be higher. Mold’s job in nature is to break down dead plant matter. When leaves fall and plants die, the decaying plant matter releases mold spores in the air.

The easiest way to prevent mold growth is to reduce or eliminate moisture that may accumulate in your home. Here are some solutions to common moisture problems.

Here are some helpful tips on what you can do to prevent mold growth and damage in the winter months:

  • If you notice a musty odor when you first turn on the heat in the winter, you might have mold in your heating ducts. If you smell that musty odor, we recommend having a certified mold tester come out to check your home for mold as soon as possible, since mold in heating ducts can quickly spread to other areas of the home, especially when the heat is turned on. The warm air blowing through the heating ducts blows mold spores into all the rooms in your home.
  • If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the ground in the crawl space with a waterproof tarp. This helps keep out excessive moisture.
  • Make sure windows close securely and do not leak. Watch for condensation around windows, which can lead to the development of mold.
  • Cold air outside and warm air inside often lead to condensation on walls, especially in attics and basements. Good insulation helps prevent this, but you can also install a dehumidifier to help reduce the amount of moisture in the air.
  • Placing a dehumidifier in the room can lower moisture enough to prevent mold growth. Keep the humidity of your home below 60%. It should be between 35-45% if possible.
  • Set ceiling fans in reverse. Running them at night will help increase air circulation near windows. This helps to prevent moist air from becoming stagnant and condensing on your windows.
  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris, so rainwater will flow away from your foundation and your roof. Extend your downspouts if necessary. Make sure the ground slopes away from your home.

 

“Winter Tips to Prevent Mold in the Home” Web Blog Post. Black mold Guide. 

 

Mold and Allergies.

If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. This triggers a cascade of reactions that lead to allergic symptoms. Like other allergies, a mold allergy can make you cough, make your eyes itch and cause other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms.

Mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Mold allergy symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Watery eyes

Molds are very common both inside and outside. There are many types, but only certain kinds of mold cause allergies. Being allergic to one type of mold doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be allergic to another. Some of the most common molds that cause allergies include alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium.

If you have a mold allergy, the best defense is to reduce your exposure to the types of mold that cause your reaction. While it isn’t always possible to avoid mold allergy triggers, medications can help keep mold allergy reactions under control.

To reduce mold growth in your home, consider these tips:

  • Eliminate sources of dampness in basements, such as pipe leaks or groundwater seepage.
  • Use a dehumidifier in any area of your home that smells musty or damp. Keep your humidity levels below 50 percent. Remember to clean the collection bucket and condensation coils regularly.
  • Use an air conditioner, and consider installing central air conditioning with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter attachment. The HEPA filter can trap mold spores from outdoor air before they’re circulated inside your home.
  • Change filters on your furnace and air conditioners regularly. Have forced air heating ducts inspected and if necessary, cleaned.
  • Be sure all bathrooms are properly ventilated, and run the ventilation fan during a shower or bath and immediately after to dry the air. If you don’t have a ventilation fan, open a window or door while you’re showering or bathing.
  • Don’t carpet bathrooms and basements.
  • Promote groundwater drainage away from your house by removing leaves and vegetation from around the foundation and cleaning out rain gutters frequently.
  • Keep organic plant containers clean and dry, such as those made of straw, wicker or hemp.
  • Toss or recycle old books and newspapers. If left in damp places, such as basements, they can quickly become moldy.

 

Image result for mold spores

 

Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM. “The Dangers of Mold & Mildew in your Home or Office” Web blog post. Global Healing Center, 27 Feb. 2016.

Images provided by Google.

Mold And Your Health.

Having mold in your home can cause a number of health problems, and mold sickness can be avoided by cleaning the mold up as quickly as possible if a problem occurs. Toxic mold related illness must be treated immediately, because there are many long term health complications that can occur if a person continues to be exposed to mold spores that are present in their environment.

Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth.

Types of Indoor Mold:

  1. Cladosporium
  2. Penicillium
  3. Alternaria
  4. Aspergillus

How can these m0lds affect your health?

  • AllergiesOne of the most common forms of mold sickness that occurs is allergies. Most people begin to experience a runny nose, breathing problems, sinusitis, and hay fever. Even though these symptoms may be associated with pollen or other external factors, the symptoms may actually be coming from your own home if there are untreated mold problems.
  • Respiratory IllnessesWhen mold is present in a home, the inhabitants will be breathing in microscopic mycotoxins that are in the mold spores, which can cause respiratory problems and lung problems. These symptoms may be as minor as a stuffy nose, but when left untreated they may lead to more serious problems such as bleeding in the lungs which can actually lead to death.
  • InfectionsToxic mold related illness can present themselves in the form of infections. These infections are caused by pathogens such as fumigatus, aspergillus, and histoplasma.
  • Reproductive ProblemsOne form of mold sickness that most people do not consider is that mold may cause fertility issues in some people. Exposure to mold may cause a disruption in the hormonal balance within the body, which can make it difficult to reproduce or prevent a woman from having a healthy pregnancy.
  • Digestive IllnessesExposure to mold may result in the body having a hard time removing waste, which can cause digestive issues. Some people experience diarrhea, vomiting, and even internal bleeding as a result of these problems. Additional complications can occur when the liver begins to be diseased because it is overworking to remove the toxins that the person has been exposed to.
  • Life Threatening IllnessesThere are various other life threatening illnesses that may occur as a result of mold exposure, such as: fibromyalgia, lupus, sudden infant death syndrome, cancer, and tuberculosis.

Staying in a mold-infested environment for a long period of time can result in these symptoms, which are often the result of not seeing a doctor in time, or choosing to remain in an area with mold, without taking steps to clean it. At this stage, mold sickness may be incurable. These symptoms include blindness, long-term memory loss, bleeding lungs, brain damage, cancer and, in rare cases, death.

 

 

“Moisture and Mold Problems: Preventing and Solving Them in Your Home” Web blog post. DIY home health and safety. WebMD. 23 Oct. 2014

What To Know About Mold & Humidity.

mold on ceilingA lot of people believe that temperature and mold go hand in hand. They feel that the warmer the temperature is, the more likely there will be mold. If this were the case, why isn’t there mold in saunas? Saunas average around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason is because saunas consist of dry heat. Mold must have moisture in the equation to grow. The moisture doesn’t have to be in liquid form either. It can be in vapor form, commonly referred to as humidity. Mold can grow when humidity levels exceed 60%. If humidity levels are maintained below 60%, mold simply cannot grow and becomes dormant. It can stay dormant for many years. When another source of moisture is introduced to the dormant mold, it immediately begins to grow again. Mold doesn’t just die on its own. The only way to eliminate it is by either killing it with chemicals such as biocides or antimicrobials or by physically removing it. This is known as remediation.

So how do you make sure that your home or business isn’t taken over by mold? Remember moisture must be present in order for it to grow. Don’t give it the right conditions and it can’t thrive. Many people turn their thermostats down in hopes to deter mold growth. Does this work? Do a/c units actually deter mold growth? They do but they only dehumidify while they are running. Thermostats are preset to a temperature that is comfortable for the individual.  Once the thermostat reaches that temperature, it shuts off, regardless of indoor humidity levels. Let’s say the thermostat is set for 75 degrees. One day it can be 75 degrees with a humidity level of 80%. The next day it can be 75 degrees with a humidity level of 20%. It is called relative humidity. It is relative to that particular temperature at that particular time it was tested. There are a few options available for maintaining indoor humidity levels.

 

Mold on rug

A dehumidifier can be installed in the interior. A dehumidifier works on moisture only. It doesn’t care what the temperature is. Its only concern is to maintain humidity levels at the pre-set level. Many people believe that they run constantly. They only run when the humidity level exceeds the preset limit. They are also cheaper to operate than an HVAC system. Most dehumidifiers run on 110 volts while most HVAC systems require 220 volts. There are a few downfalls to dehumidifiers. They do emit some heat when they operate. The longer they run the more heat they would emit. Run time will vary by region and weather conditions. They also purge periodically. Most dehumidifiers have the option of adding a drain hose to the unit. When it is time for the unit to purge the excess water that has accumulated, it drains thru the hose into whatever drain system you choose (tub, sink, condensate drain line etc.). If a drain hose in not an option then the reservoir inside the dehumidifier must be dumped manually as needed. There is a float switch that will shut the unit off when the reservoir becomes full. This will keep the unit from purging water onto the floor. This method is not recommended if you will be gone for extended periods of time. Once the dehumidifier shuts off it is no longer able to maintain humidity levels. The water that has collected in the reservoir then begins to evaporate into a vapor form, becoming humidity once again.
Changing the temperature on a digital thermostatThe other option would be to install a dehumidistat in conjunction with the existing thermostat. Let’s say the thermostat is set at 78 degrees and  the dehumidistat is set at 55%. If the interior temperature is 74 degrees the thermostat will not kick on. But if the humidity level reaches 56%, the dehumidistat will over-ride the thermostat and turn the HVAC system on. This uses the HVAC system as the actual dehumidifier. The downfall to this is higher electric bills. Remember that the HVAC system requires 220 volts.
Think of mold like a plant. Plants need water to survive. So does mold. Plant a seed in the ground and water it once. It will not grow. Water it on a regular basis and the seed will sprout. If mold is present and you feed it moisture (liquid or vapor), you will have your hands full. No moisture = no mold.
Images provided by Google.

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality.

Most people spend over 90% of their time indoors, not knowing that the air they are breathing may be more polluted than the air outside. The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that indoor air pollution levels can be 100 times higher than the air outdoors.

Breathing contaminated air puts the health of you and your family at risk. In fact, the American College of Allergist says that 50% of illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air. So take control of your indoor air quality by reducing pollutants that can contribute to headache, lung irritation and fatigue as well as more long-term conditions such as asthma, allergies and infectious diseases.

There are so many machines available today for the sole purpose of helping us breathe easier indoors. But simply having an air filter doesn’t mean your home air quality is perfect. Mold, dust, and other allergens can accumulate in your air conditioner, humidifier, and air filter to make the air you’re breathing more polluted than ever.

Air ConditionersImage result for air conditioner

What they do: As anyone who lives in a hot-weather climate knows, air-conditioning is a must-have summertime comfort. But did you know that air conditioners do double-duty by cooling the air and also removing moisture so you feel less hot and sticky?

How to use them effectively: To cool down the entire house, central air-conditioning is usually the most effective way to go. Be aware, though, that a central air conditioner that’s too powerful for the size of the house will cool the air down quickly, but won’t have a chance to remove moisture from the air adequately if that’s a concern. If you just want to cool a single room, a less-expensive option is a window-mounted air conditioner.

Air Filters

What they do: Air filters remove irritants like mold spores, pet dander, candle and cigarette soot, and even skin cells from the air, making it easier to breathe, especially for people who have allergies.Image result for air filter

How to use them effectively: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters generally cost more than ionic filters, but HEPA filters are more efficient at removing all of the airborne particles, says Dr. Portnoy. The best way to filter air for the whole house is with a filter that’s placed in the furnace, he says. Be sure to leave the system’s fan running even if the heat is not on to allow the filter to do its job.

Humidifiers

What they do: Does walking on your carpet give you an electric shock? Those sparks are an indicator that the humidity level in your home is too low. A humidifier can counteract this by adding moisture to the air.

How to use them effectively: Most people rely on stand-alone humidifiers to add moisture in individual rooms, which is fine if you can’t attach a unit to the furnace. However, according to Dr. Portnoy, the most effective way to humidify the whole house is usually with an evaporative model that can be placed in your central furnace. To give the humidifier enough time to work effectively, you may need to leave the fan running even when the heat is off.

 

 

Lisa Lewis. “How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality” Web blog post. Eco friendly. Better Homes & Gardens. March 2005

Images provided by Google.

Most Common Types Of Mold.

Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth. There are said to be over 1.5 million species of mold in the world, yet only 100,000 have been identified.

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The five most common types of mold are:

  • Alternaria– commonly found in your nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract and can cause allergic reactions.
  • Aspergillus– usually found in warm, damp climates. It produces mycotoxins which is a poisonous chemical compound. This type of mold causes lung infections and aspergillosis.
  • Cladosporium– common outdoor fungus that can find its way indoors and grow on textiles, wood and other damp, porous materials. This mold triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms.
  • Penicillium– commonly found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation, especially areas that have been damaged by water. It is known for causing allergies and asthma. Some species produce mycotoxins, commonly known as the antibiotic, penicillin.
  • Stachybotrys– commonly found on wood or paper, this mold is known as “black mold” and is extremely toxic. It produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs.

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Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to people and animals, making clothing, shoes, bags, and pets convenient vehicles for carrying mold indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Less toxic molds can be removed by a simple cleaning, however toxic molds, such as Stachybotrys, needs professional attention as soon as possible.

 

 

Sanjay Gupta. “Mold Facts And Information.” Web blog post. Asbestos Mold Connecticut. 5 June 2015

Images provided by Google.

 

Humidity In Your Home.

Humidity is an issue year round in Florida and it’s a key component in the growth of mold. Ideal indoor humidity should ideally be between 30 percent and 50 percent. Low humidity may also help discourage pests such as roaches and also dust mites. In Florida the weather alone is to blame for high indoor humidity levels, but there are other causes such as the use of  humidifiers, clothes dryers, cooking and showering. You can measure the humidity in your home with a hygrometer, which you purchase at hardware stores. This hand held instrument displays the relative humidity in doors. Simply go room by room to measure the humidity in your entire home.

High humidity feels uncomfortable, why is that?  Your body keeps you cool by sweating. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, it causes a cooling effect.When humidity is very high it means the air is saturated with water and cant hold much more, therefor it doesn’t evaporate from your skin as quickly. High humidity makes us feel muggy and much warmer than if the room was at a lower relative humidity level. High humidity also can affect our breathing and make it difficult to sleep.

There are steps you can take to keep humidity levels in your home under control:

  • Increase airflow by using ceiling fans
  • Run the bathroom and kitchen exhausts when you shower and cook
  • Only open windows when outdoor humidity is low
  • Run a whole house humidifier

Mold growth from indoor humidity may not be as apparent as from water damage, for example it may be growing in the dry wall in on your clothing hung up in closets. If you do find that you have mold in your home due to high humidity call a qualified profession such as P.R.S. who can not only rectify the problem.

 

Joseph Lstiburek. “Relative Humidity” Web blog post. Reports. Building Science Corporation. 23 April 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mold Warning signs

Mold is an extremely small, dangerous element that belongs to the family of fungi. It can thrive on almost any surface especially cellulose-based objects.

Molds are present almost everywhere. Though they maybe harmful at times, molds are a big part of the ecological balance in the environment, as they play a major role in breaking down organic substances. Molds are the original recyclers.

According to some recent studies, approximately 50 percent of homes have unknown moisture problems. And as we all know, molds thrive best in moist places.

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To a large extent, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold are present or whether they can produce toxins. Awareness and sanitation should be observed to prevent the spread of molds in your home.

Look for these warning signs of mold:

  • A strange odor: Mold has a pungent smell. When it is confined to one area of your home, you may notice an unpleasant odor when you are in that area. Mold can sometimes live within the walls or behind wallpaper, and so you might not immediately associate the smell with mold. If you do notice an unusual persistent odor in your home, the culprit may be mold.
  • The appearance of mold: In your shower stall or bathtub, its easy to distinguish normal soap scum from mold. However, in the basement or cellar you may have to investigate a little further to find the mold. Mold will take hold of damp areas, so if you have a wall or floor where dampness collects, mold could very well be there as well.
  • Health symptoms: Because mold is not always visible, it can be difficult realizing that you do indeed have a mold problem. If you feel listless, congested and experience watering eyes while in your home, these can all be signs of the presence of mold.Its not uncommon for a person who lives in a home that has mold to feel better while at work or out shopping. Their health problems begin the moment they step through their front door. Mold can often be the cause of this.

images (1)It can be difficult to stay in a home where the mold is causing an odor or is visible. You may feel very uncomfortable; however, for most people a small amount of mold will not cause serious health problems. If you do suffer from allergies and find it is causing breathing problems it might be wise to find a temporary place to stay until the mold problem is addressed.

 

If you do think that you may have a mold problem, you’ll need to put on your investigator hat and get to work. Check all moist areas of your home first. If that doesn’t turn up any mold consider calling in a professional.

 

Joslyn. “Mold Warning Signs: How to Tell if You Have a Mold Problem.” Web blog post. Mold Information. Mold Blogger. 25 Mar. 2016