Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Molds produce microscopic cells called “spores” to reproduce. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. Mold spores act like seeds and when they land on a damp spot, they may begin growing and forming new growths or colonies.
Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply:
Suitable place to grow of these, controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth.
Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.
Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as cough, nasal and sinus congestion, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may include fever, shortness of breath and upper respiratory infections. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, type of mold exposed to and from person to person.
If mold is suspected or conducive conditions are found, testing is recommended. There are two types of testing that are generally recommended; Air sampling and sterile swab sampling.
Screening by air sampling (one of the most reliable, quick and cost-efficient mold tests available today) is recommended if, during an inspection or otherwise, conducive conditions or evidence of mold are discovered. This sampling method requires that at least two samples be taken, one outside and one inside the property (more may be necessary depending on the size of the home and the number of air conditioning zones). Air samples should be taken inside in any of the rooms where indications of mold are discovered. Only one sample is taken outdoors, called the reference sample, and it is used for comparison to all the other samples taken inside. Indoor/Outdoor mold ratios are often the primary evidence suggesting the likely presence of mold growth within the property. The air samples are sent to a laboratory specializing in mold analysis.
Screening by sterile swab sampling or tape lifts can be performed when there are visible signs of mold growth. An individually packaged, sterile swab or tape is used to collect a sample from the surface of the mold. A separate swab is used for each area of mold found in the property. The swab samples are sent to a laboratory specializing in mold analysis.
Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed.
The key to mold control is moisture control. It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth and fix leaky roof, plumbing or other sources of water.