Mold growth is a common problem in residential homes, schools and office buildings all over the country. Many times mold is easy to spot, occurring in areas, such as the bathroom or kitchen. However, mold also may form in hidden areas, such as behind wallpaper or in the basement. Mold growth can have serious health consequences for those exposed to it on a regular basis. Removing any form of mold growth is key to avoiding adverse health effects.
Mold growth is caused by fungi, which travel indoors and begin to grow. Mold fungi are present year round and are found growing in damp, shady areas. While there are many types of mold-causing fungi, the most common indoor molds are Alternaria, Penicillium, Aspergillus and Cladosporium. Mold reproduces by releasing fungal spores as it grows.
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Mold fungi must have moisture to grow and thrive, which is why mold usually is found in bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens and basements. To continue growing, the source of the moisture must be constant, such as a water leak. Humidity also provides a source of moisture that facilitates mold growth, especially in hot, humid climates.
According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), mold digests the material it grows on, gradually causing structural damage to your home. Mold growth also is associated with a variety of adverse health effects, especially in people with allergies or sensitivity to mold. Inhaling mold spores can cause runny nose, irritated eyes, nasal congestion, cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing and skin rash. Mold fungi can cause these symptoms even if the fungi are dead. People with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, may experience an increase in the severity of asthma attacks and those with immune-mediated diseases may suffer serious fungal infections of the lungs. Some molds produce dangerous mycotoxins that can cause serious conditions, such as pulmonary hemorrhage and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
Mold growth is prevented best by eliminating all sources of moisture inside your home. Repair all water leaks, such as leaky bathroom pipes or leaks in your roof. Installing ventilation fans in your kitchen and bathroom will help reduce humidity. Vent your dryer to the outside to avoid mold growth inside your laundry room. Running your air conditioner also can lower indoor humidity. Dehumidifiers also may help lower indoor humidity, preventing mold growth. Homes that flood commonly have mold growth. The Center for Disease Control recommends removing any material from your home within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth after a flood.