Mississippi State Department of Health
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Mold can infest areas of your home that are constantly damp, or grow in materials like sheetrock, flooring or cabinetry when they are exposed to storm or floodwaters.

Serious mold problems may require professional removal services. The Mississippi State Department of Health does not perform these services. Check your local Yellow Pages for suitable professional removal.

About Mold: General Information

What is mold?

Molds are simple, microscopic organisms, found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Molds can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves, and other organic material. Molds are needed for breaking down dead material. Mold spores are very tiny and lightweight, and this allows them to travel through the air. Mold growths can often be seen in the form of discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. When molds are present in large quantities, they can cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.

Should I be concerned about mold in my home?

Yes, if the contamination is extensive. When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems for people. Exposure to high spore levels can cause the development of an allergy to the mold. Mold can also cause structural damage to your home. Similarly, when wood goes through a period of wetting, then drying, it can eventually warp and cause walls to crack or become structurally weak.

What does mold need to grow?

For mold to grow, it needs:

Can mold become a problem in my home?

Yes, if there is moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. The following are sources of indoor moisture that may cause problems:

CAUTION: If you see moisture condensation on the windows or walls, it is also possible that you have a combustion problem in your home. It is important to have sufficient fresh air available for fuel burning appliances, such as the furnace, water heater, stove/range, clothes dryer, or fireplace. A shortage of air for these appliances can result in back drafting of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide into the home. To prevent back drafting of air, you need either open vents or a ventilation system that brings fresh air into the home to replace air that is exhausted out. Have your local utility company or a professional heating contractor inspect your fuel-burning appliances annually.

Health Effects

How am I exposed to indoor molds?
Mold is found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. It is common to find mold spores in the air of homes and growing on damp surfaces. Much of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. Therefore, everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without evident harm. Mold spores primarily cause health problems when they enter the air and are inhaled in large number. People can also be exposed to mold through skin contact and eating.

How much mold can make me sick?
It depends. For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For other people, it may take many more. The basic rule is, if you can see or smell it, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to cleanup and remove the mold.

Who is at greater risk when exposed to mold?
Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone inside buildings. It is important to quickly identify and correct any moisture sources before health problems develop. The following individuals appear to be at higher risk for adverse health effects of molds:

People with these special concerns should consult a physician if they are having health problems.

What symptoms are common?
Allergic reactions may be the most common health problem of mold exposure. Typical symptoms reported (alone or in combination) include:

Are some molds more hazardous?
Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to amount and type needed to cause reactions. In addition, certain types of molds can produce toxins, called mycotoxins, that the mold uses to inhibit or prevent the growth of other organisms. Mycotoxins are found in both living and dead mold spores. Materials permeated with mold need to be removed, even after they are disinfected with cleaning solutions. Allergic and toxic effects can remain in dead spores. Exposure to mycotoxins may present a greater hazard than that of allergenic or irritative molds. Mycotoxins have been found in homes, agricultural settings, food, and office buildings.

Detection

How can I tell if I have mold in my house?
If you can see mold, or if there is an earthy or musty odor, you can assume you have a mold problem. Allergic individuals may experience the symptoms listed above. Look for previous water damage. Visible mold growth is found underneath materials where water has damaged surfaces, or behind walls. Look for discoloration and leaching from plaster.

Should I test my home for mold?
The Mississippi State Department of Health does not recommend testing as the first step to determine if you have a mold problem. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and requires equipment not available to the general public. Residents of individual private homes must pay a contractor to carry out such sampling, as it is not usually done by public health agencies. Mold cleanup is usually considered one of the housekeeping tasks of the private citizen, along with roof and plumbing repairs, sweeping and house cleaning. Another problem is that there are few available standards for judging what is an acceptable quantity of mold. In all locations, there is some outdoor levels of molds. If sampling is carried out, an outdoor air sample needs to be taken at the same time as the sample indoors, to provide a baseline measurement. Since the susceptibility of individuals varies so greatly, sampling is at best a general guide. The simplest approach is: if you can see or smell mold, you have a problem. Once you know the problem exists, follow the procedure given next. Unless the source of moisture is removed and the contaminated area is cleaned and disinfected, mold growth is likely to reoccur.

Clean-Up Procedures

Serious mold problems may require professional removal services. The Mississippi State Department of Health does not perform these services. Check your local Yellow Pages for suitable professional removal.

If mold is a problem in your home, you need to clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.

What can I save? What should I toss?
Substances that are porous and can trap molds, such as paper, rags, wallboard, and rotten wood should be decontaminated and thrown out. Harder materials such as glass, plastic, or metal can be kept after they are cleaned and disinfected. Ultimately, it is critical to remove the source of moisture first, before beginning remedial action, since mold growth will return shortly if an effected area becomes re-wetted.

Removal of Moldy Materials
After fixing the moisture source and removing excess moisture, the cleanup can begin:

CAUTION: Spores are easily released when moldy material is dried out.

Soap Cleanup
Before disinfecting contaminated areas, clean the areas to remove as much of the mold (and food it is growing on) as possible.

Disinfect Surfaces

CAUTION: Bleach fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and damage clothing and shoes. Make sure the working area is ventilated well.

Can cleaning up be hazardous?
Yes. Exposure to mold can occur during the cleaning stage. Mold counts are typically 10 to 1000 times higher than background levels during the cleaning of mold damaged materials. Take steps to protect your health during cleanup:

CAUTION: Never use a gasoline engine indoors (e.g. pressure washer, generator). You could expose yourself and your family to dangerous carbon monoxide fumes.

Can air duct systems become contaminated with mold?
Yes. Air duct systems can become contaminated with mold. Duct systems can be constructed of bare sheet metal, sheet metal with an exterior fibrous glass insulation, sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner, or made entirely of fibrous glass. If your home's air duct system has had water damage, first identify the type of air duct construction that you have. Bare sheet metal systems, or sheet metal with exterior fibrous glass insulation, can be cleaned and disinfected. If your system has sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner, or are made entirely of fibrous glass, the ductwork normally will need to be removed and discarded. Ductwork in difficult locations may have to be abandoned. If you have other questions, contact an air duct cleaning professional, or licensed contractor.

After I've cleaned everything as thoroughly as possible, can I still have mold odors?
Yes. It is possible that odors may persist. Continue to dry out the area and search for any hidden areas of mold. If the area continues to smell musty, you may have to re-clean the area again (follow the cleaning steps given in this sheet). Continue to dry and ventilate the area. Don't replace flooring or begin rebuilding until the area has dried completely.

How can further damage to my home be prevented?
Check regularly for the following:

If you see any of the above, seek out and take steps to eliminate the source of water penetration, as quickly as possible.

Can ozone air cleaners help remove indoor mold, or reduce odor or pollution levels?
Some air cleaners are designed to produce ozone. Ozone is a strong oxidizing agent used as a disinfectant in water and sometimes to eliminate odors. However, ozone is a known lung irritant.

Symptoms associated with exposure include cough, chest pain, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Ozone generators have been shown to generate indoor levels above the safe limit. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that ozone is not effective in controlling molds and fungi, even at high concentrations far above safe health levels. Also, ozone may damage materials in the home. For these reasons, the Mississippi State Department of Health strongly recommends that you do not use an ozone air cleaner in any occupied residential space.

Find out more

More information about the health effects of mold is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Links referenced
carbon monoxide    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/43,0,230,330,html

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