Mold. The very word of it should send shivers down your back. Why? Because if you are exposed to mold in your home, your health, and the health of your family is at risk.
The effects of exposure to mold run the gambit from simple nasal irritation to full-borne lung problems such as obstructive lung disease. A 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine discovered a link between a person’s exposure to indoor mold and that person’s subsequent development of respiratory tract symptoms including coughing and wheezing in otherwise healthy individuals. They also found that for people that already had conditions such as asthma, the presence of mold exasperated the condition. In addition, more dangerous health effects, including memory loss, lethargy, and even acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage have been linked to children’s exposure to mold at an early age. So, mold in your home is not something to be trifled with.
When we talk about mold, we’re really talking about the presence of one or more different strains of mold.
Alternaria is one of the more common molds out there. It’s typically found in house dust buried in carpeting and drapes, as well as window frames and showers. This also found on fruit. Exposure to Alternaria causes cold-like symptoms for some including coughing and sneezing.
Another common mold found in many homes is Aspergillus. In fact, Aspergillus is so common that it’s probably in the air you’re breathing right now, because it’s often found in house dust. But the good news is that for most healthy people, this mold doesn’t affect them. However, those suffering from weakened immune systems can have allergic reactions or develop chronic infections from this mold.
If you’re thinking this one sounds like the antibiotic, you would be correct. One species of Penicillium (Penicillium chrysogenum) is responsible for this wonder drug. But there are over 300 species of this mold, and some of them can cause health problems. You can find Penicillium in places like wallpaper, homes with water damage, soil, decaying vegetation (they are one of the main causes of fruit spoilage), and even fiberglass insulation. Species containing mycotoxins can cause nasal allergies and asthma in certain individuals.
Cladosporium is typically an outdoor fungus, but it often ends up indoors, coming in through HVAC systems and open pathways. Once inside, it deposits itself on wet building materials such as damp wood, gypsum board, and wet insulation found in air conditioning duct work amongst other places. Cladosporium can cause similar health issues to those mentioned above—namely allergic reactions, and asthma attacks.
Now we move on to the worst offender, Stachybotrys. This is commonly known as “Black Mold.” If you haven’t heard of the dreaded black mold, this is the one to be really concerned about. Why? Because it can cause more serious health issues including memory loss, hearing loss, dizziness, breathing difficulties, and even bleeding in the lungs. You would find this mold living in moisture-rich places such as wet drywall, carpeting, insulation, and in the case of crawl spaces, on damp wood joists and support posts.
Often, the first signs of mold aren’t found by finding mold growth. They’re typically discovered by the effects they produce. These include musty smells and allergic reactions (sneezing and coughing.) If you are experiencing these issues, the first thing to do is attempt to discover its source. You can do this by inspecting your home top to bottom. This means going into the scary places like your attic and crawl space. Once you feel like you’ve discovered the source for it, the next thing to do is figure out what you’ve got.
Since many mold types can look similar, it’s best to hire a professional to identify which strain or species you might have. Dr. Crawlspace can come out and inspect your crawl space for mold. If we find it, we’ll put you in contact with a mold identification specialist to identify the strain you have and determine the best method for removal.
More often than not, mold growth is caused by excess moisture. In the crawl space, a solution for removing moisture would be to install a crawl space encapsulation system, including an impermeable vapor barrier, sump pump, and commercial dehumidifier. Call Dr. Crawlspace to have us come out and inspect your home’s crawl space. We can give you peace of mind in knowing your family is well taken-care of.