Public awareness of indoor mold has risen dramatically in recent years. The factors that have contributed to the increases of indoor mold problems are: energy conservation measures, changes in building materials, the use of rapid construction techniques, failure of occupants to manage moisture intrusion, and increased indoor humidity levels. It is estimated that 50% of all homes contain mold problems.
Concern about indoor exposure to mold in Indianapolis has increased along with public awareness that exposure to mold can cause a variety of health effects and symptoms, including allergic reactions. Molds are simple, microscopic organisms, present virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Molds, along with mushrooms and yeasts, are fungi and are needed to break down dead material and recycle nutrients in the environment. For molds to grow and reproduce, they need only a food source – any organic material, such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt— and moisture. Because molds grow by digesting the organic material, they gradually destroy whatever they grow on. Sometimes, new molds grow on old mold colonies. Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the form of discoloration, frequently green, gray, brown, or black but also white and other colors. Molds release countless tiny, lightweight spores, which travel through the air.
Mold is everywhere in our environment and is the largest biomass on this planet. The human eye is unable to see a single mold spore without the aid of a microscope. Mold (Fungi) is very small, usually being between five and thirty microns in size. This means that two hundred thousand (200,000) spores can fit on the head of a pin, and three hundred million (300,000,000) spores can cover a one square foot area. When mold spore levels are high in the environment, any type of mold contamination can be hazardous to your health. Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillum are molds that can cause illness if elevated levels are left unchecked in the home or work environments. Each person will react differently to these toxins. Stachybotrys has made the news as being one of the most hazardous molds to humans. It has been attributed to the deaths of small children and the elderly alike. No matter your age, race, or gender, mold contamination can greatly affect your health.
Homes are like a smorgasbord for mold. It will grow on the wood framing of the home, sheetrock, furniture, clothing, carpeting and any other product that is made of cellulous and leather. However, water is the main ingredient mold needs to grow. Flooding of rivers and lakes, waterline leaks, toilet overflows, waterbed leaks, and rain penetration are a few of the areas of concern that a good mold inspector will have to investigate in order to determine the cause of contamination in a building’s structure.
Molds are part of the natural environment. Molds are fungi that can be found anywhere - inside or outside - throughout the year. About 1,000 different species of mold can be found in the United States, with more than 100,000 known species worldwide. Outdoors, molds play an important role in nature by breaking down organic matter such as toppled trees, fallen leaves, and dead animals. We would not have food and medicines, like cheese and penicillin, without mold.
Indoors, however, mold growth should be avoided. Problems may arise when mold starts eating away at materials, affecting the look, smell, and possibly, with the respect to wood-framed buildings, affecting the structural integrity of the buildings.
Molds can grow on virtually any substance, as long as moisture or water, oxygen, and an organic source are present. Molds reproduce by creating tiny spores (viable seeds) that usually cannot be seen without magnification. Mold spores continually float through the indoor and outdoor air.
Molds are usually not a problem unless mold spores land on a damp spot and begin growing. They digest whatever they land on in order to survive. There are molds that grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods and insulation, while other molds feast on the everyday dust and dirt that gather in the moist regions of a building. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth often will occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains uncorrected. While it is impossible to eliminate all molds and mold spores, controlling moisture can control indoor mold growth.
Molds can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and something to feed on. In the fall, they grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, especially in moist, shady areas. In gardens, they can be found in compost piles and on certain grasses and weeds. Molds grow in our homes in moist warm areas like damp basements, closets, and bathrooms, even after the moisture has dried up. Also, molds can grow in places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, or foam rubber pillows. The worst place that molds can grow, however, is inside wall cavities and flooring of our homes, wherever there may be cellulose materials they can feed on, such as wood, ceiling tiles, or plasterboard, even if they are not visible, and they have sustained water damage at one time or another. This is very common if there has been a plumbing leak or a defective or worn roof.