Molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. Outdoors, molds help the breakdown of dead leaves, wood, and plants. Molds are actually living organisms but unlike plants, they lack chlorophyll and must survive by eating plants and other organic materials. Molds serve a very useful purpose decomposing plant and plant matter.
Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce, similar to the way plants produce seeds. These mold spores can be found in the air but they also can settle on indoor and outdoor surfaces. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they begin growing and eating whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Since molds gradually breakdown and destroy what they grow on, having them in your house is a situation that needs to be addresses as soon as possible.
Mold spores can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, plastics, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in homes, buildings or on building materials, mold growth will begin and get progressively worse if the moisture is not found and the cause addressed. It is virtually impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling the moisture indoors.
Moisture control is the key to controlling mold. Molds, like and living thing need food and water to survive and since molds can digest most anything, water is the one remaining factor that can limit limits mold growth. Common sites for household mold growth include bathroom tile, basement walls, areas around windows where moisture is present, and near leaky appliances or sinks. Common sources of moisture problems that keep molds thriving include roof leaks, condensation from high humidity, past flooding from plumbing issues or heavy rains, slow leaks in plumbing fixtures, and poor design or functionality of humidification systems.
Your Radon inspector or your home inspector can find mold for you. There are kits available to detect mold as well but a visual inspection is the best. However, if any of the following are present in a home you don’t need an inspector to tell you that mold has at least started to grow:
1. High Humidity
2. Water/Pipe Leaks
4. Mildewy/Musty Odors
5. Increased Allergy/Respiratory Symptoms
6. Signs of Toxic Poisoning
Toxic black mold and other fungi produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) during the process of decomposing things. The VOCs are the cause of the typical musty smell associated with mold contamination indoors. Exposure to high levels of VOC’s can cause headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness.
7. Leaky Roof
8. Use of Humidifiers without Relative Humidity Control
10. Condensation or Rusting
11. Lots of House Plants
12. Discoloration of Walls (Water Stains)
13. Cracked, Peeling Paint
14. Blocked Gutters
15. Warped Wood
16. Black Growth in Bathroom Tiles
17. Loosening of Drywall Tape
18. Visible Biological/Mold Growth
19. Clothes Dryers/Other Appliances Not Vented Outdoors
20. Poor Ventilation
21. Presence of Wet Materials Indoors
Some mold testing techniques can identify what species of molds are present. This can be helpful since some mold species pose a greater health risk than others.
For more information click on the link to the Black Mold Information Center.