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Mold FAQ's

What is Mold? Mold, sometimes referred to as mildew, is microscopic fungi. Mold is found year round, outdoors and indoors. Mold can be seen in a variety of colors from white to orange to green, brown and black.

Mold can appear fuzzy or slimy. Mold is naturally occurring and an important part of our environment. Its purpose is to decompose or break down dead organic material, such as, food, plants, leaves and wood. Mold produces microscopic seeds called spores to reproduce. Mold spores are spread easily through the air and act like seeds to form new mold colonies under the right conditions.

How does Mold Grow? Mold needs three things to grow.

  1. An organic food source, such as, wood, drywall, paper, latex paint, carpet, dust (dust mites) or food;
  2. Moderate temperatures some molds can grow in temperatures as low as 2 C; A
  3. moisture source some common moisture sources include roof leaks, plumbing leaks, wet basements, unvented clothes dryers and condensation due to excess humidity

Why is Mold Growing in my Home? All homes have some level of mold inside. The source of most, if not all indoor mold is from outdoors. There is no established safe (or unsafe) level of mold.

Generally, mold becomes a problem when it grows indoors. If the level of mold indoors is higher than the level outdoors, there is a high likelihood that mold is growing in the house and needs to be addressed.

Most, if not all indoor mold growth is due to a moisture source in the home. As noted above, mold needs three things to grow, food, temperature and moisture. In a typical home, plenty of food sources and moderate temperatures not only exist, they are desirable.

Therefore, the only element that we can control (and is desirable to control) in a home is the moisture source. By controlling moisture or humidity levels in a home, we can eliminate or arrest most mold growth in our homes

Can Mold Cause Health Problems? Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold.

People with immune suppression are more susceptible to mold infections. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and other immunological effects have been documented in humans with inhalation exposure to molds and mycotoxins.

Research on mold and its health effects is ongoing. Not all potential health effects related to mold are discussed here. For more detailed information, consult with a health professional or your state or local health department.

How do I know if I have Mold in my Home? Mold can commonly be detected by sight and smell. If you see discoloring on your walls, ceiling, floors, roof sheathing in attic, below cabinets, on window frames or in tub or shower enclosures, you may have mold.  If you smell a musty or earthy odor, you probably have mold.

If you detect mold in your home, you should do two things. First, find the source of the moisture or excess humidity and correct the problem.

Second, clean the mold. If you have a small amount of mold, it is generally considered typical homeowner maintenance.

If you have a large amount of mold, you should hire a professional to assess the extent of the mold activity and write you a Mold Remediation Protocol so that trained professionals in mold remediation to do the clean up.

Additional information and sources regarding mold remediation are listed later in this document. If you do not see or smell mold, generally testing is not recommended. If you detect a small amount of mold in your home, generally testing is not recommended.

Regardless of the type of mold, you should find the source of the moisture causing the mold to grow, correct the moisture problem and clean the mold Mold testing is recommended if a large amount of mold is detected or present.

When a large amount of mold is present (greater than 9 square feet), a qualified Indoor Environmental Consultant should prepare a Mold Remediation Protocol so that a mold remediation company could be hired to clean the mold.

Prior to remediation, the house should be tested for mold by a qualified independent Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant to establish the level of mold present. After the remediation, the house should be tested again to verify that the mold has been removed and has not spread to other areas of the house. This type of test is often referred to as clearance testing.

Mold testing is also recommended when any amount of mold is suspected or detected in a property during a real estate transaction. Due to limited time and access and the fact that multiple parties have an interest (which is not necessarily mutual), testing is recommended which may not necessarily be needed in other situations.

A mold test can verify whether or not a stain, discoloration or bad odor is mold. It can also determine if the mold levels in the home are elevated (compared to the outdoor air). Mold testing should also be considered if a person living in or moving into the house has a high risk from mold.  

People with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold. People with immune suppression (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy and people who have received an organ transplant) are more susceptible to mold infections.