Mold

Molds are fungi that can be found everywhere. They reproduce by means of spores that are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air.  These fungi can grow on almost any substance where moisture is present. Molds can grow on ceilings, walls, under sinks, drywall, ductwork, furniture, and wood, among other materials. When there is a lot of moisture present, high humidity, and/or temperatures are above 65°F, mold spores become active and start to grow rapidly. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. Outdoors, molds can break down dead organic matter, such as fallen leaves and dead trees. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. The key to controlling indoor mold growth is controlling the moisture source.

NOTE: VDH does not have the capability to provide environmental testing or remediation for mold problems, or provide legal advice. Concerned citizens are advised to follow the practical advice given on this site, refer to additional resources, and if necessary, consult an environmental specialist.

General Information

Health Effects from Mold Exposure

Some people are affected by the presence of mold while others can live in places with a large amount of mold and not experience any symptoms. Allergic reaction is the most commonly reported health effect of mold exposure. If you cough, wheeze, or have difficulty breathing around mold, you may be sensitive to certain molds. If continuously exposed to mold, some people may develop symptoms such as watery, itchy, burning or red eyes; nose or throat irritation; sneezing; coughing or wheezing; constant headaches; memory problems or mood changes; aches and pains; and in some cases, hives, welts, or skin rash. Mold spores cannot be seen but can be inhaled, which can cause irritation or infection in the lungs and make it harder to breathe.

Those who are more likely than others to develop symptoms from mold exposure include young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.  People with suppressed immune systems (e.g. HIV/AIDs infection, organ transplant patients, chemotherapy patients) should avoid heavy mold infestations. If possible, susceptible individuals should not live in buildings where mold is growing, and should consult their family physician if symptoms develop or persist.


 
Black Mold

One species of mold (Stachbotrys chartarum), known as black mold, may cause more serious health effects to people who are sensitive to mold.  For more information, you can view our Freqently Asked Questions about Black Mold document here.

For Help With Mold

Rental Properties/Apartments

If you live in an apartment and you feel that your landlord/property manager has not promptly addressed your concerns, please contact the Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. The Office of Consumer Protection provides information to individuals on matters related to landlord-tenant issues, and can be reached at either 804-786-2042 or 1-800-552-9963.  Additionally, the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Sections 55-248.2 through 55-248.40 of the Code of Virginia) establishes the rights and obligations of residential landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth, but only the courts can enforce those rights and obligations.  To review the Act, please click on Virginia Residential Landlord & Tenant Act.


 
Homeowners

If you own a residential home, it is recommended to contact a mold assessment, remediation, or removal company that holds a certification from the American Industrial Hygiene Association  or follows guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) does not assess the credentials of, or make recommendations regarding, specific mold specialists.

For more information, follow the guidelines published by the EPA:


 
Schools and Commercial Buildings

Virginia Department of Health does not regulate schools or commercial buildings.  Any workplace concerns can be addressed to the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH).  For more information about filing a complaint, visit their website.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also has information and resources for workplace concerns at their website.

For more information about remediating mold in large buildings, please refer to EPA’s Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings


 
Tourist Lodgings

In case of mold in a tourist lodging such as a hotel, please contact the local health department. Contact information can be found by using the Health Department Locator.


 
Mold Remediation and Inspection

Mold remediation and inspection is an unregulated industry in Virginia.  Unlike asbestos and lead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate mold remediation and inspection, and does not provide regulatory guidance and standards.  However, they do provide guidance and best practices to clean mold and prevent mold growth.

For more information about mold regulation in Virginia:  http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/Boards/ALHI/Mold_FAQ/

For more information about mold clean-up and prevention:  http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html

Mold Cleanup and Prevention

Prevention

There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment, but you can prevent excessive mold growth by controlling moisture in your home.

  • Fix leaks promptly, eliminate sources of moisture, and clean up the mold
  • Clean and dry or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours of a flood or leak
  • Use air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers
  • Inspect and repair the ventilation system
  • Reduce humidity at (try to achieve 30 to 60 percent)
  • Use exhaust fans to circulate indoor moisture (from cooking, dish-washing, showering) to the outdoors; and remove carpeting in areas of excess moisture (from cooking, sinks, bathtubs and showers)
  • Add insulation to reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors)

NOTE: VDH does not have the capability to provide environmental testing or remediation for mold problems. Concerned citizens are advised to follow the practical advice given on this site, refer to additional resources, and if necessary, consult an environmental specialist.



Clean-up

For large areas covered with mold, it is best to seek help from a professional. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not require contractors to be licensed to inspect or remediate mold. Contractors should be able to provide a list of referrals and may also hold certifications from private industrial hygiene associations, such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Small areas of mold (less than 10 square feet) can be cleaned up from hard surfaces with detergent and water, or a mild bleach solution.

For more information consult the EPA's Guide to Mold and Moisture in a Home.

NOTE: VDH does not have the capability to provide environmental testing or remediation for mold problems. Concerned citizens are advised to follow the practical advice given on this site, refer to additional resources, and if necessary, consult an environmental specialist.



Clean-up After a Flood

Prompt cleanup after a flood is important to for preventing mold growth in your home.  For more information, visit EPA’s Flood Cleanup Guideline.