Vital Information About Mold

Equity Building Inspection provides comprehensive mold testing. Air, swab and carpet samples may be taken and sent to an environmental laboratory for complete analysis. Results will be provided within 24 hours from receipt of the samples. All samples are taken by a Certified Residential Mold Inspector with the experience and expertise to insure the safety of your home or business. Since we are Certified building inspectors, we can also help you track down the source of the moisture that is causing the mold issue.

Mold spores can cause adverse reactions, much like pollen from plants. Mold spores cause health problems when they become airborne and are inhaled in large quantities. Everyone is exposed to mold in some concentration in the outdoor air. Indoor exposure to molds is not healthy for anyone. In particular, people with allergies, existing respiratory conditions or suppressed immune systems are especially susceptible to health problems from mold exposure. Additionally, infants and children, pregnant women and the elderly can be sensitive to the effects of mold exposure. Some molds are more hazardous than others. For some people, a small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For others, it may take many more.

How can I tell if I have mold in my home?

Some mold problems are obvious - you will see it growing. Others are not so obvious. If you can see mold, or if there is a musty odor in your home, you probably have a mold problem. Areas that are wet, or have been wet due to flooding, leaky plumbing, leaky roofing, or areas that are humid (such as bathrooms and laundry rooms) are most likely to have mold growth. Look for previous water damage. Visible mold growth may be found underneath wallpaper and baseboards, behind walls, or may be evident by discolored plaster or drywall. If you don't have any observable mold, but are experiencing symptoms likely to be mold-induced, the mold could be growing in areas you can't see, such as the ducts of a heating/cooling system. In this case, the only way to know if you have mold spores is to test. Equity Building Inspection can conduct air sampling to detect the presence of these spores in your home. If you have obvious mold, Equity Building Inspection can conduct a swab test that can be analyzed to determine the molds that are present. Once again, the only way to know if you have a mold problem and what type it is, is to test. Take a copy of the laboratory report along with you when you visit your doctor or allergist. This will aid in determining a method of treatment.

If I have mold in my home, what should I do?

The first course of action is to determine why the mold is growing. Investigate any areas that are moist, and repair the source of the moisture. You could have a roof or plumbing leak. You could have groundwater leaking into your basement. Your air conditioning drip pan could have mold growing in it. Your air duct system could be contaminated with mold. If you see mold in your laundry room, chances are that your dryer is not properly vented to the outside. Clothes dryers generate humidity and should never be vented inside the house. Mold will grow on any surface that provides moisture and food. Substances that are porous and can trap molds, such as paper, rags, wallboard and wood, should be thrown out. After you have made all the repairs, it is time to clean.

Use the following pointers:

  • Use a non-ammonia household cleaner in hot water and scrub affected areas before sanitizing with the bleach solution.
  • Wear gloves when handling moldy materials. If you are sensitive to mold, you may wish to wear a particulate-removing respirator or facemask. Also wear protective clothing that is easily cleaned or may be discarded.
  • Hard, non-porous materials can be cleaned with a solution of bleach and water, 10% bleach to 90% water. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe the area clean. Never mix bleach with other cleaning products; it can produce a toxic gas! It is important to clean thoroughly. If you leave some mold behind, the spores will be easily released back into the air when the material dries out.
  • Remove porous materials such as ceiling tiles, carpeting or sheetrock (drywall) and dispose of them. They are nearly impossible to clean and will surely produce more spores when dry.
  • If mold is the result of flooding, remove all sheetrock to at least 12 inches above the high water mark. Visually inspect the interior of the walls to ensure that you removed all contaminated sheetrock.
  • Allow the area to dry for 2-3 days after cleaning and sanitizing with bleach.
  • Use a stiff brush to remove mold from block walls or uneven surfaces.
  • Have family members or bystanders leave the area while cleaning or abatement is being done.

How can I keep mold from damaging my home?

Repair water damage as soon as it is noticed.

Watch for signs of moisture, such as condensation on windows, cracking of walls, loosening of drywall tape, warped wood or musty odors.

Install bathroom fans that vent humidity to the outside.

Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.

Clean any moldy surfaces as soon as they are noticed.

Symptoms of mold exposure?

There are many symptoms of mold exposure. The extent of symptoms depends on the sensitivity of the exposed person. Allergic reactions are the most common and typically include: respiratory problems such as wheezing and difficulty breathing; nasal and sinus congestion; burning, watery, reddened eyes or blurry vision; sore throat; dry cough; nose and throat irritation; shortness of breath; and skin irritation. Other less common effects are: nervous system problems (headaches, memory loss, moodiness); aches and pains; and fever. If you have any of these symptoms, and they are reduced or completely gone when you leave the suspect area, chances are you are exposed to some sort of allergen, quite possibly mold.

Mold and the Insurance Companies

The following points related to typical residential insurance coverage of mold damage and current scientifically based information on molds and health effects should be considered:

If a homeowner has a covered loss, insurers will provide an estimate of the cost of repair or replacement and make payments as outlined in the policy. An investigation of the claim may require calling upon experts to determine the cause, origin and toxicity of the mold. They may also be asked to recommend the appropriate repair method. Each claim will be handled according to its own unique facts and the terms and provisions of the insurance policy. If a covered mold loss makes a dwelling uninhabitable, or if an extended loss investigation and evaluation is required, additional living expenses may be provided to the resident as outlined in the insurance policy. The cost of a single mold claim ranges from $10,000 to $100,000 for an investigation, additional living expenses and remediation, if necessary. Insurers estimate that anticipated claims resulting from mold contamination could result in at least a 30 to 40 percent increase in the cost of homeowners insurance in Texas.

Depending on the amount of exposure, and a person's individual susceptibility, health impacts - such as mild fevers and breathing problems can occur, but are very unusual. Many symptoms associated with mold exposure are common symptoms of other widespread illnesses such as colds, influenza, and other allergies. It is almost impossible to attribute these symptoms to just one cause. Mold exposure typically does not present a health problem. However, some people may be sensitive to exposure to molds. Though not proven, certain individuals with chronic respiratory diseases (i.e. chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma, etc.) may claim to experience some discomfort or increased symptoms of their disorder from mold. Individuals with immune disorders may be at increased risk for sensitivity to a variety of environmental factors. There are very few reports that molds may produce toxic compounds (those containing certain mycotoxins) inside homes that claim cause unique or rare, health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss.

There are so few actual case studies to date, that a proven link between the presence of toxic mold in a home or building, and the extreme health conditions listed, has not been proven. Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled. Stachybotrys chartarum and a related species Stachybotrys atra are known to produce mycotoxins under certain circumstances, and have received the most publicity related to claimed health impacts. Constant moisture is required for Stachybotrus and other molds to grow. Mold growing in homes and buildings, whether it is Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or other molds, almost always indicates that there is a water leak water or the presence of excessive moisture. The conditions allowing the mold (such as water leaks, excessive condensation, infiltration, or flooding) should first be repaired to prevent the mold from growing. Routine maintenance and common-sense repair measures taken by home and building owners will almost always prevent mold growth in the home and workplace. In most cases mold can be easily removed by a thorough cleaning with a solution of bleach and water.

The U. S. National Center for Disease Control has stated that they do not believe that anyone needs to take any different precautions with Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) than with preventing the growth of any other mold species. There is a surprising lack of scientific knowledge about the proven dangers that molds may present, and the many claims that are being made are the subject of great controversy. No scientific studies have been performed to date that establish a direct relationship between mold contamination and health impacts. As a result, no doctor or health official can establish what levels of mold are safe or unsafe in a home, school or office building. Currently there are no Federal regulations for evaluating potential health effects of fungal contamination and remediation. Any area with observed mold growth can easily be sampled by an environmental consultant. However the analysis to determine the species of mold present must be performed by a laboratory specializing in microbiology and these tests are very expensive - from hundreds to thousands of dollars. There is no simple and inexpensive way to sample the air in a home or building to find out what types of mold are present. Even if a dwelling is tested for mold, it is impossible to say at what levels health effects would occur.

The most effective way to prevent and treat for mold contamination is to correct the underlying causes of the moisture that is present, which allows the mold to thrive.

Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) are naturally occurring molds and are found nearly everywhere. At present there is no scientific test that has proven an association between Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and any particular health symptoms.

Among the many reasons excess mold forms are broken water lines, leaky plumbing and roofs, improperly vented bathrooms, and excessive humidity. Some of these causes may be covered by homeowner's insurance policies and some are not. The terms of insurance coverage usually require that a sudden and accidental loss occur before claims under the policy are payable. The insured should contact his or her agent immediately in the event they believe they have experienced a loss, so that investigation and the necessary repairs can be made as soon as possible.

ADDITIONAL MESSAGE POINTS:

In the courtrooms, homeowners, renters and office workers are squaring off against builders, contractors, and insurance companies in an attempt to assign blame to a problem that can cost tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per building to repair. In some cases, the costs can reach into the millions, and they may exceed the value of the buildings themselves.

Like any other right or safeguard, the civil justice system can be abused and distorted in claims cases. Uncontrolled misuse of the court system will only lessen its value to consumers and impose hidden, unwarranted costs on everyone. It is in no one's best interest when the civil justice system is distorted or used improperly. Litigation abuse will make needed insurance products and services much more costly, or even unavailable, to those who need them. The companies that provide these products or services must be allowed the opportunity to make a fair return on their investment without the unanticipated cost of excessive legal costs.

In addition, opportunistic lawsuits cause the courts to be so clogged with needless cases that it may take years to get a fair hearing on a valid claim.
Mold is being compared to asbestos in terms of abatement and remediation costs. The big difference between the asbestos issue and the mold issue is the lack of scientific knowledge about the health effects, if any, of mold exposure. In addition there is no way to determine when people should abandon a mold-contaminated building. These decisions are currently being made by unlicensed mold "experts" and remediators.

Jack W. Snyder, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, in written testimony to the Texas Department of Insurance, stated that "the biomedical community requires a set of generally accepted criteria to be satisfied before reaching a conclusion that mold or any other agent in homes, schools, or offices has the capacity to cause objectively verifiable human illness," and "the presence of mold in a room or office does not mean that mold has entered a person's body or that mold has caused illness." "Physicians and scientists do not validly or reliably reach diagnostic or causation conclusions when they simply attribute subjectively reported symptoms to the patient's being in the vicinity of mold." In addition, Dr. Snyder stated that "current speculation that the mold found in the nation's homes, schools, and workplaces represents a significant public health problem cannot withstand even the most rudimentary medical and scientific scrutiny."

Dr. Quade Stahl, the Director of the indoor air quality division of the Texas Department of Health said that there are over a thousand different mycotoxins that various molds produce and there is no way to determine the health effects on people and "it is impossible to set any type of standards."

However, lawyers are increasingly winning excessively large mold damage claims by focusing not on the scientific issues of these cases but by portraying affected homeowners as helpless victims against large, well-financed, insurance corporations. Instead of arguing science, they blame insurance companies with allegations that they failed to promptly pay for or adequately repair a mold infestation. They blame the insurance companies for not acting quickly enough when no one can currently say how quickly is enough. They are also blaming builders and contractors for faulty building construction when in fact it is a maintenance or repair issue.

John Marlow of the AIA was quoted as saying "...mold-related lawsuits are forcing the industry to pay for the problem." While it is still too early to say how much these claims cost the industry, Marlow said "the escalating numbers are bad news for everyone, especially consumers."

The presence of mold, water damage, or musty odors should be addressed immediately. In all instances, any source(s) of water must be stopped and the extent of water damage determined. Water damaged materials should be dried and repaired. Environmental sampling is then recommended to determine the type and extent of the existing mold. Mold is a structural, health and environmental problem. some mold defects can't be seen and will only be detected through sampling.

Types of Mold

Stachybotrys - This mold is a slow growing fungus. It grows well on high cellulose materials like straw, grass, saw dust, lumber and drywall plaster board or ceiling tiles. Like a fungi, it requires a moisture source. About15 species of Stachybotrys can be found worldwide, but it is most common in the Western U.S. Generally, this mold grows where the relative humidity is above 55 percent or the material is water-saturated. In studies conducted in North America, Stachybotrys was found in 2 to 3 percent of home environments sampled.

Disease - Stachybotrys atra spores are breathed into the lungs. Persons with chronic exposure to the toxin report cold or flu-like symptoms with sore throat, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, intermittent local hair loss and general malaise. The toxins may also suppress the immune system. Infants may be particularly susceptible to the effects of these inhaled mycotoxins because their lungs are growing very rapidly. Mycotoxins are lipid-soluble and are readily absorbed by the intestinal lining, airways, and skin.

How to Control Stachybotrys - Homes and buildings with water damage should be repaired, the source of moisture eliminated, and all moldy material should be removed. Reduce humidity in the home with adequate venting of appliances such as dryer vents bathroom and kitchen cooking vents, etc. Even "excessively sealed" homes with inadequate air exchange can cause high humidity inside from showers, cooking, laundry, etc.Although some molds can be killed by cleaning the moldy surface with chlorine, Stachybotrys oten has a germ, mycelium, that is buried inside the water damaged surface that may be inaccessible to chlorine. It is best to remove all of the water damaged material.

Aspergillus - A group of molds which is found everywhere world-wide, especially in the autumn and winter in the Northern hemisphere. Only a few of these molds can cause illness in humans and animals. Most people are naturally immune and do not develop disease caused by Aspergillus. However, when disease does occur, it takes several forms.

Disease - The type of diseases caused by Aspergillus are varied, ranging from an "allergy"-type illness to life-threatening generalised infections. Diseases caused by Aspergillus are called aspergillosis. The severity of aspergillosis is determined by various factors but one of the most important is the state of the immune system of the person.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) - This is a condition which produces an allergy to the spores of the Aspergillus moulds. It is quite common in asthmatics; up to 20% of asthmatics might get this at some time during their lives.

Aspergilloma - This is a very different disease also caused by the Aspergillus mould. The fungus grows within a cavity of the lung, which was previously damaged during an illness such as tuberculosis or sarcoidosis.

Aspergillus sinusitis - Aspergillus disease can happen in the sinuses leading to Aspergillus sinusitis. This happens in a similar way to aspergiloma. In those with normal immune systems, stuffiness of the nose, chronic headache or discomfort in the face is common.

Invasive aspergillosis - Many people with damaged or impaired immune system die from invasive aspergillosis. Their chances of living are improved the earlier the diagnosis is made but unfortunately there is no good diagnostic test.

Penicillium - Some Penicillium species are fairly common indoor fungi, even in clean environments. This particular specie of fungi can proliferate in abundance in indoor environments. P. species can be found at the sub-basement levels offices and rooms, in libraries, auditorium, storage room of paper materials and also in ventilation systems. Some P.species can produce small, nondescript conidia and complex mixtures of metabolites that are more or less toxic.

Like all other molds, spores have the highest concentrations of mycotoxin, although the vegetative portion of the mold, the mycelium, can also contain the poison.

Diseases - Exposure to the various penicillium toxin can result in the following ill health effects:

  • Patulin, a toxin from P. expansum: cytotoxic and/or carcinogenic.
  • Citrinin, a toxin from P. citrinum, - expansum & - viridicatum: nephrotoxic
  • Ochratoxin, a toxin from P. cyclopium & -viridicatum: nephrotoxic

Poria - Two major differences between poria and ordinary decay fungi are that ordinary decay fungi require the structure to provide the water (green wood, rain and plumbing leaks, condensation), while poria provides its own water through rhizomorphs connected to moist soil outside the structure, and poria dies quickly when deprived of water, while ordinary decay fungi usually just go dormant. These differences make both the detection and control of poria very different from those of ordinary decay fungi. An inspector who does not accurately diagnose poria infection can make a company responsible for repairing extensive decay, including that already repaired, within less than one year; or, in the extreme, razing and rebuilding the entire structure. This presentation provides illustrations of how to diagnose, evaluate and control poria infections and an opportunity to question two people with experience with this fungus.