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Is Mold The Newest “Silent Killer“?

You have heard, high blood pressure, Diabetes, Cancer, heart problems… are “the silent killers”

Have you heard that mold is “The Silent Killer”?
Mold is known to cause many health related problems and “the silent killers“ may have a link to mold.

What is mold?

It is a microbe that is devoid of any chlorophyll and feeds as a parasite on any organic host living or dead .

Is there such a thing as a good mold or a bad mold?

No, all molds have their place in the environment, and also have the potential to make people sick. Some molds are in fact more toxic and more capable of causing severe illness.

What makes mold dangerous to humans?

As mold grows, it gives off toxic metabolic gases or VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) These gases are capable of penetrating building materials and of course absorbing and entering our bodies also. The gases that are given off become deadly in enclosed spaces. A few of the gases that are given off are Hexane, Methylene Chloride, Benzene, and Acetone. You can see how dangerous those gases are. (Just a side note; mold gases have the same chemical makeup as the man made counterpart). All mold gives off gases , and all mold gives off spores as they grow. The spores are the microscopic seeds. As mold grows, it produces millions of seed and sends them out into the air currents to disperse and proliferate. The spores are capable of making you sneeze and wheeze. They are looking for a moist place to grow, and when they find it, they will drift in and make a new home.

What is the intended purpose of mold?

Molds only purpose is to break down organic matter. If it were not for mold, (fungus, rust…) we would eventually be buried under mounds of trash and organic rubbish. The purpose for mold is to decompose organic matter.

If mold is here for good, then what do we have to worry about?

When mold is outside in the atmosphere, all of the gases and spores have room to disperse. It is when it begins to grow in an enclosed area that we have major problems. The concentration levels of the gases and the potential for the spores is obviously increased and will likely affect the people living in that building. When mold begins to grow inside a building it will in time become a sick building. Since every one has a different tolerance to toxins, their bodies will react differently. Some persons will have a minimal reaction to the mold and another person in the same building will become very sick. The quality of our immune system seems to be the determining factor.

Here are some basic questions to ask if you suspect mold.

Is anyone in the home generally run down without a reason?
Is anyone unnaturally tired?
Do allergies seem to be problematic?
Is there coughing or sneezing often?
Does anyone experience aches deep in the muscles?
Is anyone sick with flu like symptoms that seem to recur?
Is there anyone with acid reflux?
How about headaches often or even Migraines?
Unusual nose bleeds?
Eczema or athletes foot?
Sores that don’t seem to heal?
Depression?
Inability to sleep at night?
Respiratory problems?
Sinus infection?
Severe chemical sensitivity?
This is just a short list of health related problems due to mold.

What precautions can be taken to lower your risk of a mold problem?

Before mold begins to grow it is just dust like particles.
1. Vacuuming walls, floors, and ceilings thoroughly will remove many spores. The vacuum cleaner must be equipped with a HEPA filter or the spores that you are vacuuming will be blown back into the room.
2. Make sure that the HVAC, the window air conditioner, the evaporator pan in the refrigerator, the coils on the dehumidifier are kept reasonably clean. If you use a swamp cooler, keep it clean and properly serviced. Use a micro biocide in the pan water. A swamp cooler is a very likely source of mold in a building. If air conditioners are not maintained, the dust will get into the ductwork and the mold will have enough moisture to grow in the air conditioning system. Remember that mold spores look just like dust until they grow and show their true colors.
3. Keep the Relative Humidity in the home below 40%. Every home needs humidity gauges in strategic areas of the house..
4. Make sure none of your appliances or plumbing fixtures are leaking.
5. If you have a crawl space, make sure that there is a 6 mil plastic vapor barrier over the entire dirt surface. The moisture from the ground will affect the living space and cause a higher than normal humidity level.
6. Make certain that there is proper ventilation for the conditions in the crawlspace.
7. If you are aware of a leaky pipe, fix it immediately. A leaky sewer drain pipe is more dangerous than a fresh water pipe because it also provides food.
8. Make sure that there are no leaks from the roof. Check all the roof penetrations for leaks and make sure that the flashings and shingles are all in place.
9. Make sure that the windows and doors are all properly caulked and sealed to keep out the rain.
10. Gardens around a house are beautiful, but do present a moisture problem. The dirt around the foundation should be kept as dry as possible.
11. Rain gutters are essential and must carry the water at least 3 feet from the house.
12. If you want flowers or if you know that rain water hit’s the foundation, it is essential to install a vapor barrier under the dirt around the entire foundation.
13. If you have a basement, you must keep it below 40% Relative Humidity. Use an automatic dehumidifier if needed and equip it with and automatic drain system so that it is constantly drying the air.
14. If you have inside plants do not over water.
There are numerous sources of moisture that are beyond our immediate control.
Outside high humidity, heavy rains, natural disaster , broken water pipes, overflowing toilets, sinks, bathtubs , can cause damage to our home. If you experience a water or moisture problem, treat it seriously as it can have long term effects on your home. Dry the area as quickly as possible. If the water has gotten into the walls or under the sub floor, you will need to use a powerful dehumidifier and possibly heat as well.

How long does it take for mold to begin to grow?

In as little as 12 hours mold can begin to grow. It averages 24 to 36 hours.

If mold begins to grow, can it be killed by drying it out?

No, it will only slow the growth down or cause it to become dormant. The mold spores are capable of remaining dormant for hundreds of years. After mold begins to grow, unless properly treated it will continue to grow for years. It only takes a very small mold growth to make an entire building sick.

Where does mold like to grow?

Since direct ultra violet light kills mold, you will not usually find it right out in the open. It will usually be hidden in the shaded or dark areas of a building often times in the walls, crawlspace, or attic where it will be unseen, but it is very much able to affect your health.

What can you look for to find mold in your home?

Of course the most obvious would be if it is growing on the walls, ceiling, cabinets or floor coverings. It is usually not that simple. Mold has odors that relate to the gases that are being produced. The gases that mold gives off vary by species and the food that it finds to grow on, thus the different foods cause different smells (as mold grows it poops and farts). None of the smells are pleasant ones. Musty earthy smell, dirty laundry smell, raw sewage smell, urine smell, mildew smell, generally a sour smell, even an old house smell is often a mold related odor. Keep in mind you are accustomed to your home and its odors. Most mold problems take time to develop and you won’t think about the smell as being offensive. You may notice black or gray dirt around the HVAC vents, especially if they are on a light colored surface. There might be an unusual amount of dust in the building. Check the color of the dust. If it is gray, soft and fluffy it is mold dust, if it is gray or brown, and gritty, it is from outside dirt. Dust bunnies are an indication of mold and dust mites. They feed on each others feces and it becomes the fuzzy light rolling hair ball. A building that is free of any mold problems has very little dust and no dust bunnies.
If a family member has unusual medical problems, it can be indication of a toxic environment. If you see mold around the windows, bathtub, or kitchen sink you have a mold problem. If left out food or food in the refrigerator becomes moldy in a very short time it is indication you have a heavy concentration of mold spores in the house. If you were to have a high moisture problem at any time you would most likely encounter a serious mold growth in your home. If you find mold behind furniture or if you find items in your closet that smell musty or have mold growth you already have a substantial mold problem.
Rule of thumb; If you suspect mold, you probably have a small problem. If you smell mold, you have a large problem. If you see mold, you have a severe problem.

Why do we hear about mold more today than say 20 years ago?

A number of factors come into play with that question; We have better communications today, there are many more moldy buildings today and we will continue to see an increase, our lifestyle has changed, we air condition almost everyplace we live or go, We don’t open windows and doors to let out the damp air and allow the fresh, drier, ozone filled air in, air really does get stale, our environment and weather patterns have been changing, we don’t have the severe winter weather that we have had in the past, we have generally shorter, warmer winters. Just as weeds and insects are controlled by freezing weather, mold is also controlled by winter cold. Our construction methods have changed and have overlooked the inherent problems that have been created by making air tight, air conditioned structures. We have become energy conscious but have not yet realized the need for adequate fresh air ventilation. Residential HVAC systems do not use any outside fresh air, and have no means to purify the air. They have a fiberglass filter and usually nothing more. Many buildings today don’t have windows that open, and since we use air conditioning, we don’t open the windows anyway. Almost every home and commercial building utilizes carpeting. Most carpet cleaners use water to clean the carpet. Remember how long it takes for mold to begin to grow and how much humidity it needs to start to grow? Most carpets are wet enough long enough after cleaning to start mold or promote an already growing mold. Carpet traps dust. (mold spores)
New construction wraps the building with a vapor barrier on the outside to keep the wood from getting wet from rain. If installed with care, it is an excellent addition to the longevity of the building. If it is poorly installed, it is worse than nothing. It will trap the moisture from the areas that leak and cause mold and dry rot.
Buildings today are made air tight and do not have adequate ventilation to remove the hundreds of gallons of moisture created annually by the normal activities of the occupants. Houses can be constructed in 3 months. Many are built in damp or wet conditions, even kiln dried lumber is not always sufficiently dried, and the building will start its life well above 50% Relative Humidity.
Most buildings do not have an inside moisture barrier. Some utilize a moisture barrier type insulation, but it is never installed as though it were to keep moisture out of the wall cavities. The moisture from inside the building goes through the wall and is stopped just before it can escape out of the building. It hit’s the vapor barrier at a place in the structure where the temperature is always different most of the time. The temperature differences and the moisture collide to create enough condensation for mold to grow. There is generally no barrier in the ceiling or floor so most or all the moisture must pass through the insulation and out the crawlspace vents. That means that the insulation that is often organic will be at a high concentration levels of moisture much of its life. Water is heavier than air, so most of the moisture is likely to go into the crawlspace.

If you have a mold problem develop in your building will your homeowners insurance company pay to remove the mold and repair the damage caused from the mold?

If the mold developed because of an insured situation, (instantaneous water problem) your insurance company will most likely take care of the damage covered by your homeowners policy. If you neglect to find the problem and turn it into insurance later, you may not get coverage for the mold problem. Many insurance companies are being forced to rethink and rewrite policies because of the losses that they have sustained from mold related claims. Both the extremely high cost of mold repair and the lawsuits that are being awarded outrageous amounts of money are putting insurance companies at high risk. You must read your policy and check with your insurance company to be sure of your coverage. Major insurance carriers have stopped selling homeowners insurance in some states until the mold liability issues are addressed and under control. We have discussed many of the important issues for the prevention of mold in your home. This is not an exhaustive list, but only some of the most critical ones for the safety of you and your home. Keep this article as a handy reference guide for your household and loved ones.
Be diligent to protect your family from The Silent Killer.
For a free copy of our Mold Health Survey or for any questions or comments regarding this article, please contact; Art Wenholz Lifespan Systems (844) 640-5702 e-mail art@lifespansystems.com
Send correspondence to; Lifespan Systems 447 Rd. 23 NW Soap Lake, Washington 98851

There are many more factors about mold that could not be addressed in this article, but many important ones for the safety of your household and property have been discussed.

Remember, you don’t have to see it to have it in your house. The gases are first to absorb into the body and cause you to get sick. The spores may enter at the same time, but they take time to germinate and do not have the same immediate affect as the gases. The spores are like a cancer and are not necessarily noticed at first. Mold can grow in the sinuses, the lungs, the gut, and the blood.

Are we a likely perfect host for mold and its spores?
What does it take for mold to begin to grow, and sustain its life?

1. Mold needs oxygen.
2. It requires food. Organic matter, living or dead.
3. Proper temperature. About 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. It requires moisture. How much? As little as 50% Relative humidity.

That puts the human body at severe risk because we are the perfect host!
How can you keep mold from growing in your home?

Of the list of things that mold requires to begin to grow, there is only one of those items that we are able to control. It would be impossible to remove the food in a building since the largest part of it is built using organic materials. We can’t remove the oxygen. We enjoy about the same temperature that mold does. The moisture is really the only thing that we can control to keep mold from beginning to grow in our home or building. There are factors besides moisture that must be considered to keep our living space safe from mold. Since mold spores are so prolific and they are everywhere in our universe, (mold is the largest living organism on our planet) it is likely that your house will have enough mold spores to start a colony somewhere in your home.

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