Preventing Mold in Your Home
Mold Health Problems
Mold can cause health problems that can be felt immediately (acute) or can have a long-term effect (chronic). The acute conditions often associated with exposure to high levels of mold include:
- Mild to severe headaches
- Itching eyes and breathing difficulties
- Difficulty in concentration
By removing oneself from the mold source (usually referred to as a "sick building"), these symptoms are generally very quickly alleviated.
The chronic conditions associated with mold exposure are often quite difficult to diagnose. Mold exposure patients have often been accused of hypochondria. These chronic conditions include: asthma, allergic rhinitis, and pneumonia.
These conditions may not go away immediately, or ever, even after the person is removed from the mold source. In fact, their condition may even worsen. The mycotoxins emitted by mold spores have been postulated to be particularly toxic and research is currently underway to pinpoint the link between disease and the mycotoxins.
How do you know if you have mold?
A quick visual tour of your house will give you some clues.
- Are there any musty smells, especially in the basement?
- Is their any visible mold growing in bathrooms, windowsills, books, shoes or walls?
- Are there water stains on the ceiling or walls?
- Is there peeling paint? (This often occurs after intense condensation.)
- Are the wood floors warping?
Reduce your exposure to mold
While conventional wisdom recommends opening the windows to increase ventilation, this may not be enough to eliminate or prevent mold from growing. This is because the outside air may be more humid than the indoor air and, therefore, increase the indoor humidity. Additionally, the outdoor air at certain times of the year is laden with pollen or tree molds.
Here are some suggestions to reduce your exposure to mold.
- Keep the indoor humidity at about 50%, which is below the threshold where most molds are known to flourish. Monitor moisture levels with a hygrometer.
- Correct all roof, gutter, and plumbing leaks and fix any drainage problems.
- It is critically important to clean your humidifier, air conditioner and dehumidifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some humidifiers are more vulnerable to producing conditions favorable for mold spore growth, so choose carefully. We recommend the Air O Swiss humidifiers because of their self-cleaning cartridges.
- Use a low temperature dehumidifier in your basement to keep mold at bay. Basements are notorious as mold breeding grounds.
- Avoid using carpeting in your basement. Sooner or later, you will either have a flood from the outside or a water heater will break. Either way, you will end up having to throw that carpet out.
- We believe that bare earth basement floors are mold problems waiting to happen. At the very least, cover the area with a heavy plastic vapor barrier. Better yet, use a dehumidifier and put concrete on the floor.
- Use an exhaust fan in a crawl space or basement during warm weather, or better yet, use a dehumidifier. Also, install exhaust fans in bathrooms and the kitchen and keep those fans running for 10 to 15 minutes after cooking or bathing.
- Use a HEPA vacuum clean the house and remove allergens.
- House plants tend to have molds in the potting soil, so try to live without them.
- Replace insulation materials that have become wet with allergen friendly materials.
- When cooking, cover your pots to maintain low humidity in your house.
- It is important to heat all the rooms in your house during winter to prevent mold growth. This is especially true in the basement where condensation is likely to form on cold walls and floors.
- Mold in bathrooms can be kept at bay with the diligent use of a steam cleaner. We recommend a Ladybug steam cleaner or the WhiteWing II steam cleaner.