Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children. Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies, but more research is needed in this regard.
Molds are found in virtually every environment and can be detected, both indoors and outdoors, year round. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Outdoors they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors they can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements, showers or areas of the structure compromised by water intrusion.
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.
Currently, there are no Federal or State laws or regulations that regulate the presence, exposure levels, or removal of mold. However, in the mold testing and removal industry, there are recognized standards and guidelines that exist that provide a “standard of care”. Some laws are in effect that mandate full disclosure in real estate transactions with regards to water damage and/or the presence of mold in a home or office to potential new buyers.
Stachybotrys is a greenish black mold that, when active and growing in a wet environment can look black, shiny, glistening and/or slimy.
Stachybotrys grows on material with a high cellulose content or such as hay, straw, wicker, and wood chips, as well as building materials such as ceiling tile, drywall, paper vapor barriers, wallpaper, insulation backing, cardboard boxes, paper files, fiberboard, the paper covering of gypsum wallboard, particleboard, jute, dust, and wood when these items become water damaged.
Stachybotrys mold requires very wet or high humid conditions for days or weeks in order to grow. Most mold spores can begin growing after just 24 hours of wetness, whereas Stachybotrys spores take at least 48 hours of sustained wetness to begin growth.
Thus, Stachybotrys survives and grows best in a continually wet environment such as a slow water leak in a wall, or in a building suffering from ongoing high humidity levels. Excessive indoor humidity resulting in water vapor condensation on walls, plumbing leaks, spills from showering or bathing, water leaking through foundations or roofs may lead to growth of many types of mold, including Stachybotrys.
Because Stachybotrys spores are rarely airborne (unless Stachy mold growth is dry and disturbed or the mold spores are attached to airborne dust or other airborne particulates), Stachy is usually identified by direct swabs, or lift tape samples of the mold itself with laboratory analysis of the collected physical samples.
For the general population, the most common reports of exposure involve water-damaged buildings, including homes, office buildings, courthouses, hospitals, a hotel, and schools. Exposures leading to stachybotrytoxicosis have been reported among farmers, workers at facilities processing malt grain or reprocessing moldy grain, textile mill workers using plant fibers, and workers at binder twine factories.
Stachybotrys mold growth produces trichothecene mycotoxins known as satratoxins, and these toxins may lead to pathological changes in animal and human tissues, resulting in serious health and medical problems.
This allows a mold professional to track and evaluate the progress of mold abatement activities. If the current levels are unknown, it is difficult to establish that progress has been made.
Many remediators and insurance companies will not authorize or undertake mold remediation if the presence of mold growth is not scientifically demonstrated.
Many remediation companies will not initiate an abatement project without the input of a testing company to define the boundaries of the affected area needing remediation.
In many cases, residents are interested in the types of mold present and the possible relation to medical symptoms they may be experiencing. Certain mold species may cause serious illness in the elderly, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to chemotherapy or AIDS. Testing can assure the indoor environment is free of mold species that may cause infection in susceptible persons.
Although mold is mold, and its presence calls for remediation, it is useful to know if the ambient airborne levels are in a range of thousands, or hundreds of thousands. For example, this may affect decisions regarding the timeliness of remediation, and the continued occupancy of the premises.
Mold growth may often not be visible in a house, but known water intrusion or a moldy odor provides cause for concern. Air sampling will identify if there is a mold problem, even when there is no visible mold growth.
Often, mold remediation will miss a mold-contaminated area. Testing of the air in the contained work area will assure that the levels inside the work area are reduced to ambient levels. This also provides documentation for future real estate transfers that the mold was properly and effectively removed.
Sometimes a home buyer will have concerns about mold when purchasing a new home. This may be as a result of a bad experience with mold in their previous residence. Mold testing can provide the peace of mind that there are no problems with elevated airborne mold in the new house.
Floods in homes and offices can occur due to breaks in plumbing lines, or failure of plumbing fixtures. After the cleanup and drying, it is useful to test for mold to assure occupants that mold has not grown as a result of the flooding.
A lawyer or plaintiff usually needs to have objective evidence of the presence or absence of mold and mold exposure to support a legal action. Testing can show scientifically that mold was, or was not present.
The key to mold control is moisture control.
Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold (see discussions: What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas).
Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration are commonly listed in phone books. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations.