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There’s no doubt that just about everyone has heard of mold and how bad it can be for your health. Certainly, you’ve come across some old food that has brown, green, or grey fuzzy spots or you’ve left a damp towel in the corner too long and found that it had an awful musty smell and was caked with the stuff. You may have seen it and heard a lot about it before, but many people don’t know exactly what mold is, how it can affect your health, and most importantly – how to get rid of it.
Mold is a type of fungi that is able to grow both outdoors and indoors. When it grows outdoors, it actually plays a desperately important role in our ecosystem. Mold helps to break down things like dead trees, fallen leaves, and other compounds. However, when mold makes its way inside, it is generally considered a complete nuisance. Not only is it extremely unsightly, but it can actually be dangerous. One of the biggest dangers that mold poses, that many people are actually unaware of, is that it causes damage to whatever it is growing on. This can lead to structural instability, which could prove to be very dangerous and therefore all mold should always be removed as soon as it is found or noticed. In addition to causing damage to your home or belongings, mold can also negatively impact your health.
Mold starts from mold spores. These mold spores are microscopic and are invisible to the naked eye. You may be surprised to learn that these mold spores are pretty much all around you. They are abundant both indoors and outdoors. They travel through the air, so they can come inside your home through doors, windows, or vents. It is also completely possible for humans and pets to unknowingly carry them inside from the outdoors.
These mold spores are basically everywhere, but mold requires moisture to actually grow. This is why mold is often most common in places like basements and bathrooms where moisture tends to be more abundant. To help reduce the chance of mold growth, take steps to reduce moisture such as by cleaning up spills immediately, fixing leaks as quickly as possible, washing and drying anything in the home that becomes wet, and keeping air circulating in areas like the bathroom, especially when the shower is running.
While mold can definitely have a negative impact on your health, it is not typically as bad as it is often made out to be. Often times, mold is seen as being extremely hazardous to even the healthiest people, but in general, that isn’t usually the case. There are many different types of molds that all come with different characteristics. Mold in and of itself is not toxic, but there are some types of mold that do, sometimes under the right circumstances, produce toxins. For example, stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as black mold, does sometimes produce these toxins.
Black mold, however, is not nearly as commonly found indoors as other types of mold that do not produce the toxins that black mold can produce. The most common health threat of mold is to have an allergic reaction to it. In other words, many people may have no negative health impacts due to mold, while others may react to them similarly as one would to any common allergen. With an allergic reaction to mold, common symptoms include watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, runny nose, and sometimes irritation to the skin such as a rash.
People with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or a weakened immune system may have more severe reactions to mold. It is possible to get a fungal infection from mold exposure, but this is not common. Since everyone is so different in the way they react to mold and since each different type of mold is so different as well as how the amounts of mold and the severity of mold growth vary so widely, there are few health guidelines on mold exposure. The safe amount of and length of exposure to mold in humans has yet to be determined due to all of these varying factors. In any case, mold should always be removed for health, structural stability, and even for quality of life since mold is unattractive and often associated with an unpleasant, musty smell.
Depending on the situation and severity, mold may be very easy to get rid of or extremely difficult to get rid of. If you are just trying to get rid of a small amount of mold, you can likely do so on your own. However, if you have a large mold problem on your hands, your best bet to ensure safety and efficiency, is to call an expert to remove the mold. When dealing with smaller amounts of mold, how you will remove it depends on the material that is affected. In the case of harder things like walls, you can scrub the area very well with water and soap and/or bleach.
After all of the mold is removed and the area is thoroughly cleaned, you then must ensure the area dries completely and try to reduce future moisture exposure to prevent regrowth. For things like clothing, rugs, and other soft materials, many find it easiest to simply discard the item. If you want to avoid that, you can make a mixture of bleach and water (3/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water or so) and wash the item thoroughly and allow it to dry completely. For health and safety purposes, always ensure that mold has been completely removed. However, the best method is to just take steps to avoid mold growth by doing your best to control moisture in the home.