Mold and Fungus In Your Home

Mold In Your Home

What are Molds?

Molds are actually a form of fungus. They are very good when they are outside in nature where they are supposed to be – breaking down fallen tree, helping things to decay. But they can be unhealthy and even life-threatening when they come into our homes.

Most molds are harmless to most people, but some are actually toxic, and all molds can be hazardous to people with mold sensitivities, weakened immune systems, allergies or asthma. They grow best in moist, humid environments, and they can grow on any surface, so not just on tiles and walls, but also wood, clothes, paper, food – just about anything.  


How Big Of A healthy issue is mold

Identification Of Mold

Molds are spread through spores, which float about in the air or hitch a ride on your clothes and shoes. The spores generally can’t; be seen. When indoor molds start to grow, however, they can be identified by their color and shape.  Molds can be green, white, purple, orange or brown. Black mold is usually dangerous and should be removed as quickly as possible. 


Common Indoor Molds (Alphabetically – not in order of nastiness) and the Health Problems They Cause

Alternaria

  • Round-ish - like flat, gross pan cakes. Grey, black or dark green, with a white or gray outer ring and can have long thin hairs. Grows in damp places (under sinks or showers).
  • Health issues:  Can cause asthma, respiratory irritations, or allergy symptoms.

​Aspergillus

  • Quick growing, round, flat fungus that comes in a rainbow of colors: grey, brown, black, white, or yellow. Usually found growing on dry, things, such as building materials. Can also grow in dust or even in powdery foods.
  • Health Issues: Releases aflatoxin, which is a carcinogen and obviously should not be inhaled. Can cause respiratory infections. Dangerous for people with weak lungs or compromised immune systems. 

Cladosporium

  • Powdery, fuzzy blobs. Dark green, black, gray or brown. Usually found on fabrics (so you may as well toss them) or on wood (which can be wiped away). Will grow in cool or warm areas, so it is a double threat.
  • Health Issues: Nasty allergen which can cause severe allergic reactions. Unsafe for people with compromised immune systems and especially dangerous for people with asthma.

    Memnoniella

  • Small, speckled, surface covering flat mold – generally looks like leopard- print fabric. Comes in black or dark green. 
  • Health Issues: Can cause allergic reactions including headaches, respiratory infections, coughing and sneezing

Penicillium

  • Round, wet-ish flat pancakes, usually green-ish or blue-ish, with a white outer ring. Occasionally all white. Thrives in watery places, or on surfaces that have had water damage.
  • Health issues: Penicillum is related toAspergillus (see above) and has many of the same health risks. Prolonged invasive expose to Penicillium, however can cause fever and chills, difficulties with breathing, bloody cough, lung hemorrhages and liver and/or kidney failure. 

    Stachybotrys

  • Slimy, yucky, black or green, smells musty, like rotting leaves or wet socks. Often you will smell this one before you find the source. 
  • Very dangerous. Produces the toxin mycotoxins. Causes respiratory infections and skin irritations. Prolonged exposure  can cause severe health issues

How does Mold Get in Your Home?

Molds are equal-opportunity invaders. Most  mold spores are microscopic and they float about wherever the wind will carry them. The can attach to your clothes, your shoes and your body. They play a major beneficial role in nature, but they are generally not so useful in our homes – and they certainly are not useful in our bodies. Any time you venture out into the world, you have the opportunity to bring mold spores back with you. But even if you stay at home 24/7 and do nothing but binge-watch you favorite TV shows, mold can come in through crevices in the wall- cracks around windows…Anyplace that has air will  have mold spores in it . 


Where Does Mold Grow? 

The sad truth is that mold can grow almost anywhere in your home. Mold mostly likes damp surfaces, but it can grow on fairly dry surfaces – like drywall, wood framing or plastic, or even in your pantry in flour and food mixes – as long as it has some moisture to keep it going.

Some of the common places you will find mold are:

  • Basements(washer/dryer hoses – sinks – damp corners- boxes of stuff)
  • Kitchens (on almost any surface, under the sink, under refrigerators and in refrigerator filters, in food stored in damp conditions)
  • Bathrooms (tubs, showers, under the sink, on soap, on grout, on sponges) 
  • Attics (where there roof may leak into insulation or at dryer or other types of roof  vents)

Some common places for mold that you never thought of:

  • Carpets and carpet pads
  • In your walls (if you have leaky plumbing, if the mold was there when your house was built, or if you do not have enough insulation)
  • Plumbing leaks that are in your house 
  • Humidifiers/dehumidifiers
  • Air conditioning units
  • Laundry that you dry inside
  • Children’s toys – especially bath toys
  • House plants
  • Stacks of old books and papers and in your  recycling bins

Heath Risks of Expsure to Molds

Usually, most “allergic” responses to mold will only produce hay-fever-like symptoms. These would include the usual: runny nose, sneezing, watery itchy eyes, headache, sore throat… None of this is fun, but it won’t kill you. Unless it’s prolonged and develops into something more severe. 

Some people, however, have a far stronger reaction to molds. For people with asthma, weakened immune systems and who have severe allergic reactions, exposure to mold can be life-threatening – even deadly. And some molds are so toxic that prolonged exposure can causelife endangering health issues in perfectly healthy people. These can include:   

  • Mold-induced asthma:  Healthy people can develop asthma, and people who are allergic to mold can have asthma attacks from breathing in mold spores.
  • Allergic fungal sinusitis: An inflammatory reaction from breathing in spores and developing fungus in the sinuses (yuck!). 
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis:  A reaction to fungus in the lungs (again – yuck!)..
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: An inflammation of the lungs caused by the body’s over-reaction to exposure to airborne particles and spores.

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Family?

There are many great Air Purifiers on the market these days, and the one you chose will depend on the health needs of your family.  There are small units that will be sufficient for one room – say a nursey or a child’s room- and others that will work in a larger area, like the kitchen and the living room. Some are small and portable, so you can move them from room to room as the needs arises, and they might be perfectly fine a normally healthy family. People who live in damp or polluted environment, however, may want to invest in a larger, whole-house unit – one that will clean the air several times a day. There are even units that will clean the air on an hourly basis. And there are even small, hand-held units that can travel with you anywhere you go. 

If you, or anyone in your family has health issues, is prone to asthma, or has a weakened immune system, then an air-purifier may actually be the difference between life a death. If you are purchasing an air purifier for health reasons, it would be advisable to find one with the following features:

  • A True HEPA filter – to trap mold spores, allergens and the smallest pollutants before  they get  recycled into your home
  • A Carbon filter  to remove nasty odors
  • A pre-filter –  the first line of defense ( you want one that can be removed and cleaned)
  • An ionizer – not a feature  in all units, but highly recommended as it negatively charges particles so they don’t float about and look for something to attach to – like your child or their favorite fluffy toy

There are several web-sites that will help you in your search for the perfect air purifier. They have done the research for you, so you can have one less thing to worry about in your quest to create the healthiest environment for yourself and your family. 

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About the Author Stacy

Personally, I have always been fascinated with home items. I’ve learned long ago that when buying these products, there needs to be a balance between functionality and creativity. Otherwise, they get old and boring, and I don’t get to use them as much.

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