What are molds and where are they found?
Molds are fungi found both indoors and out, almost everywhere in the environment. They can grow all year long and grow best in warm, damp and humid conditions. Molds spread by making spores that can survive harsh environmental conditions that normally do not support mold growth.
In the home, mold is almost always present in the air and grows best in damp areas with high humidity levels, like bathrooms and basements. While there are perhaps thousands of species of mold, most common indoor molds include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria and Aspergillus.
How can I recognize mold?
Moldy walls and ceilings may be discolored or show signs of water damage. Green or black spots also may appear on walls. Mold has a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench.
How are people affected and what can be done to decrease exposure?
Allergy sufferers are usually most affected with mold exposure. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, wheezing or skin irritation. More severe reactions may include fever or shortness of breath. People with health concerns that could become worse as a result of mold exposure should contact a health care provider for treatment and advice.
To decrease exposure to mold in the home, keep the humidity level of the home between 40-60 percent. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can also help lower indoor humidity. Always use exhaust fans when showering and cooking. Mold retardants for interior house paint are available at most home improvement stores and, when mixed with paint, reduce mold growth on walls.
How can I test for mold in my home?
Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a residence. CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the reaction of individuals can vary greatly either because of the person’s susceptibility or type and amount of mold present, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold can be expensive and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have not been established.
How can I clean up mold in my home?
When mold growth is limited to a small area, most homeowners can clean up the problem themselves. It is important to take steps for your safety when cleaning up mold.
Protect eyes with glasses or goggles. Wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves and wear outer clothing that can be washed afterwards.
Be sure the area is well ventilated before beginning. Remove and dispose of all porous items that are wet or previously had been wet for more than 48 hours that cannot be cleaned and dried. This includes carpet and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, clothing, paper, wood and food. Hard surfaces may be cleaned using soap and water.
For more serious flooding and where mold infestation is severe, consider contacting a mold remediation consultant. Be sure when hiring a consultant to check references from previous work.
How do I keep the mold from coming back?
The key to mold prevention is moisture control. For flooding damage, ensure that the home is properly cleaned and dried out using the steps above. For small spots, remove the source of moisture. Mold cannot grow without a source of water. By removing the water source, the homeowner can ensure mold growth will not return. If mold growth persists, consider contacting a mold remediation professional for further advice. Moisture also can be hidden in the home and become a source of mold.
What is toxic mold?
The term toxic mold is incorrect. Certain molds may produce toxins called mycotoxins, but the molds themselves are not toxic.
The bottom line with mold contamination is that all mold should be removed from the home, regardless of what type it is. Any mold has the potential to cause negative health effects if left unchecked.
What does the government do?
Kentucky has not established laws or regulations concerning mold contamination. Currently, no federal standards exist for permissible exposure limits. With no statutes in place for mold exposure or remediation, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has no authority over such issues. To receive an informational packet regarding mold, please see the links located on the right of this webpage or call our office at (502) 564-4856.
Sarah Wilhoite, Environmental Health Program Evaluator