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What is Toxic Mold & Symptoms of Toxic Mold

If you read our article on Aspergillus Mold, we mentioned Mold is a type of fungi with over 160 different types of species. Some of this mold is toxic and most other fungi are harmless. Toxic mold is a serious mold that makes human beings & animals sick because it produces Mycotoxin. A mycotoxin is a toxic compound that is produced off chemicals such as polypeptides, amino acids, phenols, or terpenoids. Fungi & mold species are known to use Mycotoxin in normal metabolism and physiology. Mycotoxins can cause short & long term health implications including skin rashes, headaches, blood in feces, depression, fever & nausea. Go here for a complete list of possible mold poisoning diseases. Mycotoxins are known to weaken even the strongest immune systems and more serious health consequences include Asthma, abdominal pain, loss of memory & lung cancer. You might wonder how does toxic mold cause lung Cancer? The reason is when mold spores are disturbed, they become airborne and are invisible to the eye. Human beings can breathe in mold spores that will be floating in the air & in this case, toxic fungi can invade the lungs leading to respiratory problems & possible lung cancer.

In order to prevent side effects from toxic mold, it is necessary to control moisture and humidity. Mold spores grow very rapidly in areas of excessive moisture including leakage that could have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or areas where flooding has occurred. Other products such as paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products that could be sitting in your garage or basement provide conducive growth environments for molds. Here are some tips to control moisture:

– Repair plumbing or water leaks immediately.
– Repair broken roof shingles immediately to stop the flow of water into the home.
– Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to control moisture. Read our tips on measuring humidity in your home using Sensors.
– Allow air to flow into your home by opening windows, doors & letting moisture out.
– Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and in the kitchen when cooking. This makes sure moisture does not accumulate in one area.
– Insulate the floor space of the attic to avoid moisture build-up. Read tips on remove mold from attic.

There are many symptoms & health risks associated with mold, including mold poisoning. The most frequent health risks associated with toxic mold are:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Dermatitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches and other flu-like symptoms
  • Immune system suppression (resulting in increasing numbers of infections)
  • Nose bleeds
  • Psychological depression
  • Pulmonary hemorrhage
  • Sore throats

What is Aspergillus Mold and How to Protect Yourself

Aspergillus is a group of fungus containing over 160 different species including black mold. Definition of fungus according to Wikipedia is any of a group of unicellular, multicellular, or syncytial spore-producing organisms feeding on organic matter, including molds, yeast, and mushrooms. Aspergillus fungus is known to grow on bread & vegetables that have rotten or plants & trees that have water-soaked on them. However, aspergillus mold can also grow inside homes & in areas such as the attic, basement, behind baseboards, roof, etc. Go here to learn about common places where mold growth can occur. Aspergillus fungus can cause human diseases and has common mold symptoms & allergies such as Asthma, Nausea, Diarrhea, Fatigue, etc. Aspergillus Mold can cause a very serious disease known as Aspergillosis. Aspergillosis is known to weaken a human’s immune system posing a serious threat to well being & good health. Aspergillosis infections can affect any part of the body but the biggest threat is to lungs & sinuses. As an example, Aspergillus fumigatus grows within the cavities of the lungs & can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, fever, chest pain & feeling of no energy. The image on the right is of Corn that has decaying aspergillus mold growing on it; as you can see, the mold is decaying the entire corn. Doesn’t it look nasty!?

To protect yourself from mold, get rid of any decaying organic materials in your home. Examples of decaying organic materials include dead plants & waste, wood soaked with water, leaves, stems, branches, moss, algae, etc. These contain carbon compounds & can typically be found in your garden or backyard. While removing decaying material, be sure to wear goggles, protective gloves & a mask. If you are seriously allergic to the mold of any kind, we recommend getting a professional mold removal company to do the job for you. The health implications of black mold are just too high, read about mold poisoning here.

  • Most fungi rely on moisture to live & thrive. Therefore it is important to repair any leaks in your home including the roof, shower leaks, bathroom leaks, etc. Also, make sure excess water does not enter into your attic or basement as over moisturization in these areas commonly leads to mold development.
  • Use dehumidifiers & exhaust fans to remove excess moisture from your home & reduce chances of fungus growth. Exhaust fans remove odor, smoke & moisture from rooms in your home thus making an important part of a heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems. Exhaust fans control humidity in a particular area ensuring it doesn’t get too wet or damp by pulling excess moisture from the surfaces. A good exhaust fan is the NuTone Ultra-Silent 110 CFM Humidity-Sensing Exhaust Fan that retails for $225 in change at the Home Depot. Read our article on practical tips to remove black mold to learn more about this air purifier.
  • Take steps to remove the aspergillus mold from your home. Read our article on how to clean a mold problem in your home to learn tips you could use.

Basic video informing you of what Aspergillus fungus is, the various kinds & how they can be spread in the environment including in soils, plants, and in decaying plant matter. It can also be found in household dust, building materials & food. The video talks about Invasive Aspergillosis which is a disease that affects people with immune system problems where the fungus invades & damages tissues in the body. A less serious version of Aspergillosis causes respiratory problems including wheezing & coughing, however, it does not damage the respiratory tract of the body.

How to Fix Mold from Water Damage

Mold resulting from water damage i.e. leaks, floods, storms can cause serious health problems if not dealth with right away. Some mold can cause allergies while others can lead to mold poisoning. One of the most common allergies resulting from mold exposure is hay fever which in turn leads to nose stuffiness, flu & irritation of the eyes. Other people may experience skin rashness from the mold. Mold is a micro-organism fungus that includes yeast & mushrooms. Mold from water damage usually occurs as a result of a pipe burst, roof leak, or a heavy summer storm. Mold from water damage needs the following properties to grow:

  • Source of moisture
  • Spores of mold present indoors & outdoors
  • Temperature range of 5 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius
  • Mold needs a structure to grow on i.e. wood, drywall, baseboards, shower curtains, books, carpets, etc.

To clean mold from water damage, follow the steps indicated on how to clean a mold problem in your home.

  • Identify the source of the moisture & stop it. For instance, if it is a window or a window frame that is broken, be sure to replace it immediately.
  • Wet items that cannot be salvaged should be removed & disposed of immediately.
  • Dry the mold affected area immediately or within 48 hours to stop mold growth.
  • Do not do any refinishing until all mold has been removed.

Here are some safety tips to follow if you decide to remove the mold yourself, or hire a professional mold removal company.

  • Mold infested area should be sealed off immediately from the rest of your house using plastic sheets.
  • Anyone removing the mold must be wearing goggles, long sleeve gear & other protective gear.
  • Place an exhaust fan to move air from the moldy areas to the outdoors to avoid clogging of moisture.
  • Use fragrance-free mold-approved detergents that are specifically made to kill mold.
  • Moldy materials should be sealed in plastic bags and disposed off in a landfill immediately.
  • Be sure to put the moldy materials outside of the home immediately and do not carry it around the home.

Here is a great educational video on areas damaged from water leaks & cleaning of mold. It shows you how to dry out buildings after floods, leaks & water damage. The video shows how to use an infrared camera that detects water behind walls & sources of mold growth. A simple moisture meter might not be able to detect sources of mold growth. Water appears as dark images on the infrared camera, hence large buildings & homes can be quickly inspected for sources of moisture & mold growth without spending huge sums of money. After locating all wet areas, install dehumidifiers & fans to dry off the wet areas. Also in case of a significant flood, carpets & walls may need to be removed to clean up the entire area.

Common Places for Mold Growth in your Home

In this article, we will go over common places in your home where mold growth occurs frequently. If you have mold problems, learn how to clean a mold problem in your home here. We also provide practical tips on how to remove mold in your home.

Any dark place where moisture builds up has the potential of mold development. Such is the case of cabinets especially those under the kitchen sink. If water leaks through the sink into the cabinet, this could spur mold growth.

We might clean our living rooms, bedrooms & the kitchen but often the back area of the refrigerator is ignored because it is inaccessible (you have to move the whole big fridge to get in there). Thus the drain pan beneath the refrigerator & back area is susceptible to mold growth.

When we shower, some of the dirt might condensate to shower curtains and as water builds up, they have the potential of mold growth on shower curtains, especially pink mold.

Just like how mold grows on ceilings & walls, mold can also develop beneath the flooring of a home. Carpet & tiles collect tons of dust when people enter into the home, and mold formation is very common beneath the flooring. Carpet also has higher chances of forming mold because it also holds lots of moisture.

Mold can develop rapidly in kitchen or bathroom sinks as they collect not only hot water (in the case of a leak in your sink) but also hot air & moisture.

Basements & Crawl spaces have the most potential of developing mold than any other area of the home because of their damp environments & moisture. Mold can develop frequently on wooden materials in the basement especially in the framing.

Mold development in the attic occurs often because the heat that rises from the floors of a home evaporate into the attic, from which they have nowhere to go. The humid moisture created as a result of this leads to the development of mold spores that grow & multiply rapidly. Go here to read about removing mold in the attic.

The space between walls & baseboards gathers lots of dust, dirt & nasty substances & is a common place where mold can grow. Since it is a tight place that is sealed, it traps lots of moisture & hot air. This is a conducive environment for mold growth.

Areas where there is water damage i.e. floods, water leaks, or damage are prime for the development of toxic black mold.

The window frame is the place where warm air intersects with cooler air from the outside, or vice versa (during the winter). This creates condensation which leads to the development of black mold. Mold commonly grows in the seal that attaches the window frame to the wall.

Mold Remediation Checklist

Mold Remediation is the practice of remedying or stopping environmental damage resulting from the growth of black mold spores in homes, buildings & schools. A mold remediator or inspector will evaluate the size of the moldy area, find hidden mold in surrounding areas, determine the cost of cleaning or removing mold, steps & procedures to prevent further mold growth, etc. In this article, we will go over a mold remediation checklist that all mold inspectors should follow in order to do their jobs successfully. You can also read our article on the roles & responsibilities of a qualified mold removal inspector.

  • Examine the size of the moldy area (in square inches or meters)
  • Find nearby hidden mold & possible sources of moisture
  • Fix small mold problems immediately before they grow to become bigger problems
  • Investigate areas that have a musty smell, high humidity, or possible causes of mold poisoning.
  • Identify sources of moisture & water problems.
  • Checklist type of materials damaged from water e.g. carpet, shower curtains, leaks in the attic, basement, wallboard, etc.
  • Check ventilation, air conditioning & HVAC systems of the home & all air ducts.
  • Input all this information in a mold remediation report to be presented to the homeowner.
  • Are there problems with moisture or water leak in the home currently?
  • Have home materials or building been wet for more than 48 hours?
  • Is the humidity level greater than 55%?
  • Are the homeowners reporting musty smell or mold poisoning?
  • Are there black stains or signs of damage to the home & building?
  • Has maintenance on the home been ignored or not done in a long time? E.g.s include cleaning air ducts, gutter cleaners, air conditioning & ventilation systems, etc.
  • What is the source of the moisture or water problem?
  • Use exhaust fans to remove moisture, odor & smoke from areas in your home.
  • Clean all air ducts & vents in your home that could have accumulated dirt, debris & fungi.
  • Remove water & dry the mold-infested area immediately. If the underlying area still remains wet, use hot heater fans or dehumidifiers to remove wetness off the floors.
  • Discard moldy porous items that cannot be extinguished. Do so by locking them in plastic sheet bags & ensure they don’t spread to other areas of the home.
  • Know that mold spores can be toxic & allergic even after they die.
  • Carpet cleaning should be done by professionals who exercise hot water extraction methods to dry out carpets within 24 hours.
  • Never mix ammonia detergents with bleach as it can release chlorine gas.
  • Use insulation in your attic & ensure it is in good shape. Go here to learn how to remove mold in the attic.

Role of a Good Qualified Mold Inspector

In our guide on practical tips to remove black mold, we mention if the mold is greater than 10 square inches or if the musty smell is too irritating & causes mold poisoning in your home, it is best to call a qualified mold removal company. They will do an initial mold inspection & recommend steps to take to remove the mold.

A good mold inspection company will follow these steps to find mold in your home. Note that this is not a comprehensive list, different mold removal companies may have different procedures, however, these are guidelines you should be aware of:

  1. Has the property ever experienced water damage problems including roof leak, water leak, flooding, water intrusion, etc? If so, the mold inspector should examine these areas carefully for signs of growing mold.
  2. Are there any trees, shrubs, or plants growing that are close to the home? Too many plants or trees block ultraviolet sunlight from shining on the home, which has the effect of killing mold growth. Also, dead plants & leaves provide food to the mold that can rapidly grow if they get food. The mold that is growing fast becomes airborne and can enter the home through windows, roof & open doors.
  3. Is the roof in good condition with no broken shingles, cracks, or holes that allow nasty fungi & air to flow into the home? Also, any broken plumbing vent pipes or air conditioning units can lead to mold growth. It is common for mold to grow in bathroom sink drains & get accumulated in the pipes. The best way to remove this mold is to mix bleach with water and flow it through the pipes. Follow our practical tips on black mold removal.
  4. Is there hidden water moisture found behind wall cavities, floors, below ceramic tiles, bathroom walls, tubs, showers, curtains, below bathroom kitchen or sink, in the basement or crawl spaces, in the attic, behind floor baseboards or behind window frames? The mold inspector will use his moisture meter to determine the degree of water that is hidden behind these areas, and if there is any mold growth. He should be able to tell you within accuracy if there is mold growing in such areas & if action needs to be taken. The image on the right is of Sonin digital moisture meter. Here are the specifications from the manufacturer:
    • Detects Moisture percentages 5-40%.
    • Easy to Read Large LCD Display.
    • Locate & trace roof leaks and water seepage and access the extent of mold growth, wet rot & hidden condensation.
    • Detect the level of moisture present in wood, sheetrock, carpets & more.
    • Find out if potentially damaging excess moisture is present.
    • Test hard or softwood, concrete, plaster, carpet, and more to determine the extent of moisture problems.
    • Check decks before staining or sealing.
  5. Is there mold growth or contamination inside the home’s heating, ventilation, or air conditioning systems? The mold inspector will take a piece of cloth or mold plate and stick it on a grill of each zone of the air conditioning system and run the system for 15 minutes. This procedure will spit out possible mold infestation spores on to the piece of cloth & tell the inspector if there is a possibility for mold growing inside the air conditioning system.
  6. Is the humidity level in your home exceeding 55%? Humidity is the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air and is expressed as a percentage of the maximum that the air could hold at that temperature. When the relative humidity in your home exceeds 50% – 55%, nasty substances such as Black mold, bacteria, dust mites, viruses & another fungus will accumulate & grow. Read this article on controlling mold growth in your home using humidity sensors.