Mold is a very common issue faced by millions of homeowners every year. Unfortunately, many of us are completely unaware that our home is infested – as mold often grows in hidden spots. Mold will grow anywhere in a home that is exposed to damp air or moisture and is poorly ventilated. It will often grow in crawl spaces, bathrooms, and even on your personal belongings such as the clothes hanging in your closet.
What is even more alarming is the fact that the long-term effects of mold exposure can be quite harmful to your health.
Thankfully, treating the issue quickly can prevent the problem from causing any real long-term damage. But unfortunately, far too many homeowners fail to identify and treat it as fast as they should, which can lead to major consequences.
Keeping on top of the situation is a priority for all. Here’s everything you need to know about the effects of mold exposure and how to prevent it.
1. There’s More Than One Type of Dangerous Mold
Molds can fall into many different categories, but the three harmful classifications are:
This is the type of mold that produces allergens and can spark allergic reactions. Indoor mold can cause an array of respiratory allergies and irritations to people who are vulnerable to airborne allergens.
Symptoms that can arise from allergenic mold include:
- Eye irritation
- Runny nose
- Skin irritation
- Sore throat
- And more
Pathogenic molds can worsen symptoms of acute illnesses. This can cause severe infections, even to people who are in good health. If pathogenic mold is inhaled by someone, they might develop a lung infection, such as pneumonia.
Toxigenic molds are the most common types found in homes. This mold produces airborne toxic particles like Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (mVOCs), which can potentially be deadly. This mold typically hides in the darkest parts of your home and can spread rapidly, causing a great deal of stress on your body.
If left untreated, certain toxigenic molds can even give off cancer-causing poisons, such as Aflatoxins (a type of Mycotoxin), which have been linked to liver cancer.
Although it’s rare for death to occur from mold exposure, it can happen. The CDC has stated that it can cause serious illness and death in at-risk individuals like young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions.
Continued exposure to any of those three mold classifications can potentially cause major and ongoing health problems.
2. Health Issues That Are Caused by Mold Exposure Include
Most people know that inhaling mold isn’t great for your health. However, you probably don’t realize just how many issues can be linked to mold exposure.
Asthma is the most common health problem associated with long-term mold exposure. In fact, mold exposure is believed to be a contributing factor to Americans suffering from asthma. If you or a family member live in a home exposed to damp air and start showing any of the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor to see if it’s asthma-related.
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest Tightness
Asthma isn’t the only type of allergy to be worsened or even brought on by mold exposure and inhaling mold spores. Wheezing, watery eyes, coughing, and rashes are all common symptoms. An estimated 25 million Americans have asthma, which means that their respiratory systems are more susceptible to mold symptoms and illnesses.
The effects of long-term mold exposure can gradually decrease your lifespan. However, in severe cases of toxigenic mold, inhaling the airborne particles can make death come far sooner. While this is an extreme circumstance, it does happen. Children, babies, seniors, and people with low immune systems are at the greatest risk.
According to a report from ScienceDirect, there is a correlation between living in mold exposure and depression. While it is suggested that this is largely due to the physical ailments and other conditions that surface due to the long-term exposure, the fact that it can harm your mental health is a significant finding.
In addition to depression, mold exposure can also cause these symptoms related to poor mental health:
- Mood Swings
- Word Recollection Issues
Mold exposure makes the body work harder to fight off illnesses, even when the allergies aren’t visible to you. In turn, this consumption of energy will often leave sufferers feeling tired or exhausted without ever realizing why. This is especially true when asthma and other breathing problems are involved.
In addition to being a side effect linked to allergies and asthma, mold exposure can lead to headaches on its own. This is because poor air quality is essentially polluting your body. While commonly linked to the other issues, then, even isolated headaches can be a sign that mold is growing in the home.
Long-term mold exposure can have a negative effect on memory, specifically short-term memory. Mold exposure can cause issues with concentration, judgment, and overall brain function.
Luckily, memory loss caused by mold is often reversible once the mold is eliminated from a home. Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Amen found that memory loss from mold is often misdiagnosed as dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, it can be reversed by taking the individual out of a moldy environment, unlike memory loss diseases.
Mold exposure affects the lungs, and the respiratory system can reduce lung function. An estimated 70% of homes in the United States are affected by dampness and mold. Lung problems are one of the more common issues to surface, particularly if the home (or individual rooms) isn’t well ventilated.
3. Toxic Mold Syndrome
Toxic mold syndrome is described as “a legal construct, rather than a medical diagnosis, involving unidentified disease processes, a constellation of disparate symptoms.” As such, it is a term that covers a range of unidentified and unquantifiable poisonings that are unquestionably linked to mold exposure.
You may be more vulnerable to toxic mold syndrome depending on your genetic code. An estimated 24% of the world’s population has a gene called HLA-DR. This gene prevents your immune system from properly identifying and removing mold toxins from your body, resulting in illness from mold.
Given that we often spend the majority of our day at home, all of the above issues can grow at a rapid rate. Therefore, mold identification and removal require your full attention.
4. Your Health Isn’t the Only Thing at Risk
Nothing is more important than your health, but you should also know that mold can damage your home. Whether you’re a tenant or a homeowner, the financial consequences can be huge.
Depending on property size and affected areas, the average cost of mold remediation services is around $2,000. While this may feel like a big expense, it’ll save you a lot of money in the long run. Left untreated, mold can damage your home in several ways, including:
- Collapsed Ceilings
- Broken Window Frames
- Caved in Floorboards
- HVAC Contamination
- Broken Walls
- And more
This is because mold literally eats away at the wood, drywall, tiles, and other household materials. In severe cases, replacements can easily surpass the $10,000 mark. Frankly, rectifying the issue immediately is vital for your finances as well as your health and peace of mind.
5. Identifying Mold
The first step to treating mold is to identify it. Mold most commonly thrives in rooms with moisture exposure such as bathrooms, en-suites, and kitchens. However, it can appear in any room and may also affect external areas.
Knowing the difference between mold and general dirt and grim is key. The most frequent offenders are:
- Penicillium – Green/blue color, fuzzy, likely to appear on wallpaper and fabrics
- Alternaria – A black, fuzzy plant mold that often appears under sinks and other damp areas
- Aspergillus – Yellow/green color with red/brown underneath. Found near damp and dust
- Cladosporium – A green/brown outdoor mold that can enter the home on wood and textiles
- Stachybotrys – Toxic black mold that is an oily-black can appear green and has a musty stench
In total, though, there are over 100,000 types of household mold species. So, if you’re worried that the symptoms of mold have surfaced, an extensive check from a Building Biologist who is also a mold remediation specialist is advised.
Signs of Mold in A Home:
Toxic mold can be hiding in any home that has been exposed to damp air. Sometimes it’s found in the places you would least expect such as your drywall, crawlspace, carpets, and more.
Mold spores are often invisible to the naked eye until they start to rapidly spread. Even if you cannot see mold in or around your property, there are still signs that indicate that you should inspect for mold.
Indoor Leaks or Floods:
It only takes 24-48 hours for mold spores to start growing on a damp surface. If your home experiences a pipe leak, flooding, or even a spill that is not fully cleaned up- mold can start to grow. It’s best to conduct a mold test within 48 hours of water exposure in your home since mold grows rapidly.
Sudden Illness or Health Troubles:
If someone in your household is experiencing sudden health troubles, it may be a sign of mold. When left unchecked, mold can cause severe illnesses, especially in children and people with compromised immune systems. Sudden coughing, skin irritations, and difficulty breathing are potential symptoms of mold and a good reason to properly test your home.
How to Test and Remove Indoor Mold:
There are many ways in which you can test your property for mold, including:
- ARMI testsThe American Relative Moldiness Index (ARMI) test is cost-effective; however, it is not the most thorough as it can only detect a select few types of mold.
- ERMI testsThe Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) test was developed by the EPA and can detect up to 36 different types of mold within a home. Despite being able to identify more molds than ARMI tests, an ERMI test does not provide information on the source of mold production.
- Mold clearance testingThis is a series of tests conducted by professionals to make certain that the areas of your home where mold was removed have returned to normal conditions.
- MSQ/PCRThese tests can help homeowners identify the genus and species of mold.
- Petri dish testsPetri dish tests are common and often sold in hardware stores. However, homeowners should be wary of the accuracy of these tests. There have even been numerous instances where at-home petri-dish test results have been wrong. Some unopened test kits have even been moldy upon purchase.
- Presence Absence:These are simple swab applicators that detect mold in a home. If the swab comes back as green, then there is mold present in a home. However, these tests do not give homeowners an idea of the level of toxicity/classification of the mold or the moist area of the home that caused it to grow.
- Visible mold tests (bulk, tape, or swap tests)If you can see signs of mold in your home, use a visible test on the areas that you suspect may have the mold to determine whether you’re correct.
Professional Testing is The Best Route to Take:
It’s important to note that not all mold tests are created equally. Typically, the best course of action to fully identify and eradicate mold is to have it professionally tested and removed. With a mold inspection, professionals will test the entire home including the common hiding spots for mold.
Green Works Professional Mold Detecting Process:
GreenWorks is a professional mold detection and removal company in New Jersey that uses the following process to accurately test for mold:
1) Mold Testing
For families who have no apparent health effects or illnesses from mold, testing may not be required. However, for those who have children or individuals with allergies or immuno-compromised systems, mold testing should be conducted by professionals.
2) Client Interview
The mold test starts with an interview of the homeowners or current occupants. This gives our experts a better understanding of the structure of the home and any mold-related issues that the family has come across such as health issues, water damage, or past repairs. The interview helps our team decide whether or not mold testing is necessary.
3) Olfactory Investigation:
Trained mold investigators are sometimes able to identify actively growing mold through smell. This is helpful, especially when the mold is not visible. However, olfactory investigations may be affected by the weather, air transfer, or other factors that dilute or overpower the aroma of indoor mold.
4) Mold Inspection (Visual)
Our experts will conduct a comprehensive visual inspection of your home. This helps to determine if there is mold growth in moist areas of your home such as bathrooms, under sinks, basements, crawlspaces, and more. Molds often hide in dark, hard-to-reach reach places, which our team is trained in inspecting.
5) Mold Inspection (Tech. Supported)
In cases where the mold is less obvious, we use technology to aid our mold investigation. Tools such as moisture meters are used to find areas of the home where mold might be growing. Plus, thermal imaging devices are used to find colder areas of the home that might have resulted from water leaks or damp air.
6) Hydrology Inspection
Hydrology inspection helps to identify the source of moisture intrusion in a home. Mold remedies require that experts know where the damp air is arising in a home and that it is resolved. Otherwise, the mold will simply return after removal.
7) Mold Inspection Report
A mold inspection report will summarize the extent of mold found in a home and where it’s stemming from. This report will include recommendations of how to proceed with mold removal and remedies, which Green Works can provide for clients.
If Your Home Has a Mold Infestation, Act Now!
Mold can be hiding in your home, putting you and your family at risk of illness and allergic reactions from poor indoor air quality.
Whether it’s allergenic, pathogenic, or toxigenic mold, you must regain control of the situation today by removing the mold and getting your health checked out. While only a medical professional can handle the latter, our team of professional mold removal technicians is perfectly positioned to help with the former.
Take control today by contacting Green Works today.
First published: Feb 27, 2019
Updated: May 11, 2021