Molds are types of fungi that are found everywhere. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. Visible mold is an indication of excessive dampness; the source of moisture should be sought and corrected before the mold contamination is remediated. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.For more information on mold, go to: www.epa.gov/mold or www.cdc.gov/mold
What are ten things I need to know about mold?
How do molds affect people?
Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. For more detailed information consult a health professional.
What are the main ways to control moisture in your home?
Water in your home can come from many sources. Water can enter your home by leaking or by seeping through basement floors. Showers or even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. As the temperature goes down, the air is able to hold less moisture. This is why, in cold weather, moisture condenses on cold surfaces (for example, drops of water form on the inside of a window). This moisture can encourage biological pollutants to grow.
There are many ways to control moisture in your home:
Your humidistat is set too high if excessive moisture collects on windows and other cold surfaces. Excess humidity for a prolonged time can damage walls especially when outdoor air temperatures are very low. Excess moisture condenses on window glass because the glass is cold. Other sources of excess moisture besides overuse of a humidifier may be long showers, running water for other uses, boiling or steaming in cooking, plants, and drying clothes indoors. A tight, energy efficient house holds more moisture inside; you may need to run a kitchen or bath ventilating fan sometimes, or open a window briefly. Storm windows and caulking around windows keep the interior glass warmer and reduce condensation of moisture there.
Humidifiers are not recommended for use in buildings without proper vapor barriers because of potential damage from moisture buildup. Consult a building contractor to determine the adequacy of the vapor barrier in your house.
Who do I contact for help with mold removal?
If you live in an apartment and are not receiving the proper assistance from your Landlord/Property Manager, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Section can assist with these complaints. Please call the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area or from outside Virginia.
If you own a residential home, contact a mold assessment, remediation, or removal professional through your local yellow pages under the subject "Mold".
NOTE: The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is not a hospital or clinical facility; we do not see patients and are unable to diagnose your illness, provide treatment, prescribe medication, or refer you to medical specialists. VDH also 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, check out additional resources listed here, and, if still in need of further assistance, contract with a private environmental specialist. VDH does not assess the credentials of, or make recommendations regarding, specific private environmental specialists.