Important information about mold for all homeowners. Sometimes we think that it only affects homes that are older, dirty or abandoned, but in the right climate, mold can be anywhere.
It's a growing risk, and exposure could be affecting your health, home and family without even knowing it's there.
It's gross, it's dangerous and it's common.
"You're never going to have a house that's free of mold or a building that's free of mold," said James Sigurdson.
Sigurdson is the vice president and laboratory director at Winchester Environmental Consultants. They find mold in about 100 buildings in our area every year.
"Anything that is or once was alive the mold can feed off of to grow on," said James Sigurdson.
That includes surfaces and materials like wood, fiber-glass, concrete and wallpaper. He says mold is natural and every home has a little. Yet, when you can see it or smell it, that's when the level inside your home in higher than the level outside. Then, you'll experience bigger issues like home damage and health problems.
"Congestion, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing," said allergy and asthma specialist, Dr. Robert McQueen.
Dr. McQueen says those are usually the first symptoms of unhealthy mold exposure.
"Depending on the type of mold, you may be looking at other illnesses, flu like symptoms that may occur. You may also be looking at again, hypersensitivity reactions which can lead to pneumonias," said McQueen.
The Asthma and Allergy Center of the Northern Shenandoah Valley says they see people with mold exposure frequently.
They'll do a skin test which only takes about 20 minutes. Dr. McQueen says when the results show positive numbers next to the type of mold, they have an allergy to mold. That means they've been exposed to it and it's affecting their health.
Places like basements and bathrooms are where exposure is most common. Mold buildup in a ceramic tub or shower is usually the easiest kind to get rid of. Even though it will come back, as long as you're keeping the area clean, it won't harm you.
Other areas are more problematic, yet there are things we can do to prevent dangerous levels in our homes.
Use a humidity gauge to check the humidity of each room in your house. The EPA recommends that it stay between 30 and 50 percent. Keep the inside temperature between 65 and 78 degrees, do your best to circulate air and allow sunlight. Consider buying higher end air filters and if you see mold or smell something unusual, don't ignore it.
"Even just a little bit of mold growth over the course of two to three weeks can suddenly become you know, 10 or 20 square feet of growth and it becomes a whole lot more difficult," said Sigurdson.
A small area, could turn into something much bigger if it goes untreated. That's when, sometimes, it's too late.
"Over time, mold will chew right through wood beams, support structures. I mean it takes a long time, but eventually you may get into structural components that are fatiguing and failing and you may have to put in a new foundation or wall boards. It can be a huge thing," said Sigurdson.
If you do suspect you have a mold problem or want to get your home inspected, shop around.
The Commonwealth doesn't regulate mold inspectors anymore, so checking qualifications and certifications is a must.
Sigurdson says to hire one company to inspect and another company to fix it so there isn't a conflict of interest.
For more important information concerning mold prevention and cleaning, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's fact page about mold.
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