Molds (Fungi), are everywhere on our planet, both indoors and outdoors. Fungi are found in every ecological niche, and are necessary for the recycling of organic building blocks that allow plants and animals to live. Included in the group "fungi" are yeasts, molds and mildews, as well as large mushrooms, puffballs and bracket fungi that grow on dead trees. Fungi have to have an external organic food sources and water/moisture to be able to grow.
Mold cannot use inorganic materials such as concrete or rock for food, but it can consume anything organic, or carbon based, that lands on these surfaces. Mold can grow on dust, fruit, paper, cotton, soap, oil, paint, and wood. In buildings, many of the materials mold grows on (such as wood framing, wallpaper, fabrics, drywall, and cardboard boxes) contain cellulose, a plant substance.
An example is, when a mold spore lands on damp wood, the hyphae elongate and grow through the hollow tubes of the wood structure, breaking down the cellulose, metabolizing the sugar, and destroying, or “rotting” the wood. When the wood dries out, the mold stops growing and may even die. What is left behind consists of, among other things, mold growth (including spores and hyphae), partially digested cellulose, and the undigested lignin. When the wood gets wet the mold may start to grow again.
Mold is in my home, should I be concerned?
Yes, if indoor mold contamination is extensive, it can cause very high and persistent airborne spore exposures. Persons exposed to high spore levels can become sensitized and develop allergies to the mold or other health problems. Mold growth can damage your furnishings, such as carpets, furniture and cabinets. Clothes and shoes in damp closets can become stained and soiled. Unchecked, mold growth over a period of time can cause serious damage to the structural elements in your home.
Do you suspect mold in your home?
You may suspect that you have mold if you see discolored patches or cottony or speckled growth on walls or furniture or if you smell an earthy or musty odor. You also may suspect mold contamination if mold-allergic individuals experience some of the symptoms listed when in the house. Evidence of past or ongoing water damage should also be a trigger for a thorough inspection. A through inspection may find mold growth underneath water-damaged surfaces or behind walls, floors or ceilings.
Some common sources of indoor moisture that may lead to mold problems:
• Leaky roofs
• Damp basement or crawl space
• Plumbing leaks
• Overflow from sinks or sewers
• Sprinkler spray hitting the house
• Steam from shower or cooking
• Wet clothes drying indoors or clothes dryers exhausting indoors
Warping floors and discoloration of walls and ceilings can be indications of moisture problems. Condensation on windows or walls is also an important indication. You should have fuel-burning heating equipment or appliances routinely inspected by your local utility or a professional heating contractor.
How can I prevent mold problems in my home?