Mold and Its Consequences

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By Energy Circle Staff - August 18th, 2009

Ew! What's that you're breathing?

As we discuss in Air Quality I, we recommend an energy audit to determine where and how your house loses energy. The truth is, however, that you don't have to wait for a clever human carrying a certificate and an infrared camera to notice that you've got leaks in your walls, or unhealthy air in your house. One of the primary culprits? Mold.

What is mold?

The terms "mold" and "mildew" denote a whole range of microscopic, multicelluar fungi.  That is, there are a bunch of types of mold, and they're all found in nature.  Out there, they undertake the important job of breaking down dead organic matter.  They reproduce by means of tiny, invisible spores that float around the air - inside and outside, all the time - and are pretty much harmless.  The problems start when mold starts to accumulate, when these spores land on a wet or damp surface and the microscopic fungi start to reproduce...indoors.  For homeowners, the key is to make sure that you don't have any wet or damp surfaces that the spores can land on and start doing their thing. 

What kind of damage can mold cause?

Mold can cause serious health problems, and can cause long-term damage to your house too.  Mold releases allergens, irritants, and sometimes even potentially toxic substances.  Allergies to mold are common, and a lot of people who aren't technically allergic can still be affected and show symptoms including fever, congestion, skin rash and sneezing, to name a very few.  Mold can also trigger asthma attacks in people who have asthma.  To top it off, mold's natural function is to break down dead organic matter.  You want to do your best to prevent it from breaking down your entertainment center, coffee table, and the rest of the "dead organic matter" that we call a house.

How do you prevent mold, and how do you clean it up if you find it?

Mold is apt to grow in any wet or damp area, so the only effective way to prevent mold is to eradicate any source of unwanted moisture.  Spills or leaks, large or small, should always be cleaned up within 24 hours, and excess humidity in the air should be controlled with an adequate ventilation system, supplemented if need be by an air conditioner, dehumidifier or air purification system If you do find mold accumulating in your house, deal with it as soon as possible.  If it's a small area - the EPA sets the limit at 10 square feet - you can probably go ahead and take care of it yourself.  If you have a larger problem, or if you have a history of serious allergies, hire contact a company with experience and safety equipment. Companies specializing in asbestos abatement may be willing to tackle a serious mold problem.

Taking it On

The DIY Approach: if the mold is on a hard surface, scrub it off using soap and water or another cleaner. Be sure to dry the surface completely before moving on.  If you find mold growing on a curtains, carpets or other soft, porous materials, you may have to bite the bullet and throw them away, as it's often next to impossible to remove the mold completely from porous surfaces.

Mold can also grow in hidden areas - behind wallpaper or drywall, for example.  If you suspect you've found a "mold-hideout," hire a professional to deal with it. Disturbing an area like this could potentially release a huge number of spores into the air, a situation best avoided.

If you've had mold problems in the past, you can take some extra precautionary measures to make sure the hydra-headed beast doesn't return.

Make sure your HVAC system is clean, so it's not spewing mold spores throughout the house.

Clean out your air conditioner's drip pan, your outside gutters, and any other area that would be apt to remain wet or damp for an extended period of time - and do so regularly. 

Make sure your house is well-ventilated.

Run the exhaust fan in the bathroom when you shower, the range hood fan when you cook; or just open a window (if seasonally permitted, of course) when the air starts to feel damp.


i have a question, we lived in a studio for 3yrs and it had mold in it, and it affected us, we tried the allergy pills, but it is still not working, for this past 4 - 5 days i havent be able to eat well, cuase the flame or allergy is in my throat, so i dont know what to do? Posted by daniel cornejo on Aug 6, 2010 11:17am

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