Healthy Homes – Simple Steps to Reduce Mold


Mold isn’t a toxic chemical like the others we’ve discussed, but it can make your home unhealthy and negatively impact your home’s air quality. Molds can cause health problems. Mold exposure to a range of adverse health effects, from minor allergic reactions to brain damage. One in 5 asthma cases in the U.S. is attributable to dampness and mold exposure.

Molds are found everywhere. They can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as food, moisture and oxygen are present. They play an essential role in nature, for example, breaking down dead organic matter, such as fallen leaves, and are also useful to us, such as penicillin, which is obtained from a specific type of mold.

Molds reproduce by releasing tiny, invisible spores. If the spores land on a surface with the right conditions, they can start growing and forming mold colonies. Many materials in our homes, including wood and sheetrock, provide enough food to support mold growth. In fact, even the dust settling on building materials or furniture can be a sufficient food source for molds, if moisture is also present.

Molds are always present in your home and you cannot eradicate all molds, nor should you even try. But excessive mold growth should not be permitted. Mold can cause adverse health effects, most typically allergic type responses. It is generally accepted that a greater risk of health effects is associated with a higher concentration of mold spore counts over background levels.

Mold growth is usually indicated by signs of water damage or water intrusion, discoloration, a musty or earthy smell, or visible mold growth. Key to mold growth is water. Moisture makes mold happy. Without water, mold growth cannot start. Water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, flooding, and water intrusion are all conditions that can lead to conditions that foster mold growth. If you see signs of water damage or water intrusion, such as bubbling paint around a window sill, or staining at a ceiling corner, signal conditions that are likely to lead to mold growth and you should take action. It has been estimated that almost 50% of US homes have dampness or mold problems.

Molds can colonize quickly. Some molds germinate in four to twelve hours. Left undisturbed, a mold colony can start forming within 24 to 48 hours after a water leak or water intrusion problem. A quick response to water intrusion, including fixing the source of the water, can stop mold from growing.

You will never eliminate all mold and mold spores from your home. But, you can control indoor mold growth. Here are some simple steps to reduce mold exposure in your home.

Fix water problems. Fix water problems quickly to eliminate the environment that molds need to thrive.

Control humidity. In your home, keep humidity levels below sixty percent (60%) or even below fifty percent (50%) if you can.

Use your eyes and nose. Your eyes and nose can tell you a lot. Musty odors and/or water damage signs indicate mold is present.

Ventilate. Make sure you have and maintain adequate ventilation in “wet” rooms, such as the bathroom.

Remediate mold. The appropriate remediation of mold will depend on the area covered by mold growth and the material(s) involved. Check the EPA’s website or your state’s health department’s website for guidance on mold remediation.

Be safe, not sorry. All molds should be treated in the same manner in terms of health risks and removal.

Dry completely. If you do have a water intrusion problem, then make sure you fix the problem, remediate the mold, and dry out damaged areas completely. Porous and semi-porous materials may need to be disposed of if they get moldy or wet.

Change filters. If you use an air condition or dehumidifier, make sure you change the filter regularly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Discard moldy items. Don’t be a packrat! If you have moldy books, magazines, newspapers, clothing or other items, then appropriately discard them.

Limit houseplants. Houseplants, especially if overwatered, can contribute to dampness. Mold can grow in the soil and on the bark and leaves.

Non Toxic Mold Killer. Need a non toxic option for cleaning mold in the bathroom? You can mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil in a spray bottle with two cups of water. You can also use undiluted vinegar or undiluted lemon juice. Now, this isn’t for a large mold problem, but those small mold spots that you see in bathrooms.

Jennifer Taggart

Jennifer Taggart is a passionate advocate for children’s environmental health, trying to educate and inform so that we can all make the world a little bit safer for the next generation.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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