We try to anticipate questions you might have about Mold and Mold Testing in homes, and provide the answers here. If you would like to request additional information about our services, pricing or to schedule an inspection please Contact Us.
1. What are molds and how would I come in contact with them?
Molds are microscopic organisms found virtually everywhere in our environment. Molds are part of a group of living organisms that are very common, and serve an important role in the environment. Penicillin, for example, is a derivative of mold that has saved many lives. Mold or Fungi have defined cell walls, lack chlorophyll and reproduce by means of spores.
The study of fungi (mycology) is by no means complete. Mycologists have described an estimated 100,000 species of fungi and many believe that this is only a fraction of what remains to be discovered.
2. If mold is a natural part of the environment, why should I be concerned with mold in my home?
There are different genera of molds and different people have different sensitivities to molds, inside or outside. With this in mind, the concern with mold inside your home is when mold settles and grows, it procreates by releasing microscopic spores into the air which travel on air currents. (Just by entering or exiting your home, you create an air current which mold spores may travel on.) When these mold spores are released into the air they can invade the human respiratory system, which, can become problematic for sensitive individuals.
3. Are there risks associated with having mold in a home?
Each individual person may have different thresholds or sensitivity levels to molds. Just as in the spring, for example, some people experience no health effects from the increased amount of pollen in the air, other people have serious allergic reactions. The same is true with mold spores, both inside and outside a home. Some people experience little or no reaction from high levels of exposure to mold spores. Other people exposed (even to low levels of mold) can have allergic-type responses, including asthma, stuffy or runny noses, eye irritation, hay fever-like symptoms, wheezing, or skin rashes*. In some instances people experience headaches. However, some people become very ill.
*These same symptoms can be caused by a variety of allergens. If you experience these symptoms, you should not automatically assume that your home has a mold problem.
4. What do molds need to grow inside my home?
Both inside homes and outdoors, mold requires moisture, oxygen and a food source to develop and multiply. Most molds absorb nutrients by attacking dead organic matter or, in some cases, by functioning as a parasite on living organisms. We often see mold on bread and other types of food, making it unfit to eat. People often refer to the dark green slimy stuff in their bathrooms as mildew, although the term also can apply to molds found outdoors.
Indoors, the nutrients -wood, paper, adhesives, acoustical fiber, paint, textiles, etc.- required for mold growth are readily available. If too much moisture is present in your home, mold can grow on the walls, floors or carpets, the ceilings of your home, stored items including your personal possessions, and much more. The more "obvious" sources of excess moisture may include:
- plumbing leaks
- leaky roofs
- seepage in the basement
- condensation on piping, water tanks, or concrete walls
- damp basements or crawl spaces
- spilled liquids on carpeted surfaces
- standing water
5. If my home has not had flooding or plumbing leaks, does that mean it is less likely to have too much moisture?
Not necessarily; when your home has not experienced "obvious" water penetration, high humidity levels [water in the air] can also cause a mold problem in your home. The not-so-obvious sources of excess moisture in your home may be the result of everyday activities such as:
- steam from a hot shower or bath
- boiling water or cooking
- washing dishes and letting them dry on a drain board
- hand washing clothing and hanging it indoors to dry
- operating certain types of appliances, such as a clothes dryer that is not vented to the outdoors
- having house plants
Or, we may inadvertently contribute to excess water by:
- over-saturating floors while mopping
- leaving around damp clothing or wet bathroom towels
- overfilling closets or storage areas
- not thoroughly drying spills or pet accidents
Just because some activities can increase moisture in your home, even by accident, doesn't mean you should stop taking hot showers or washing your floors. Simply make sure your living and housekeeping patterns do not result in an excessive amount of moisture in your home.
6. Why would I test for mold? How is mold testing performed?
Healthy individuals are not usually vulnerable to severe health problems from airborne mold exposure. However, some people test as a pro-active step when buying a house because they already know they are highly sensitive to [specific] molds. Other homeowners perform mold testing because they smell musty odors, but can't locate the source; or because their home has experienced excess water, and they want to be aware of any subsequent mold growth.
If you plan to have physical mold testing, Maida NH & MA Home Inspection Services encourages you to pursue this service after a home inspection. The method to this madness is that during your New Hampshire or Massachusetts home inspection, the inspector may identify areas of water penetration, condensation or high humidity levels you may not be aware of. In most cases, this is the most important step in a Mold Assessment and physical testing service because if moisture contributors exist and are not fixed, you will likely have a recurring mold problem after you remediate. Also during the home inspection phase, the inspector will likely identify anything that appears to be suspicious microbial growth (mold-like growth), thereby identifying areas in need of sampling.
It is Maida Services recommendation to perform a combination of sampling, at any property (e.g. air samples and topical samples.) This step is important because some molds may only be identified topically as they may not release spores (for an air sample to trap) unless they are physically disturbed. Since most companies services do not offer evasive testing, these practices are in place to give you as much information as this "type" of testing can determine. (The more samples you have performed; the more information you'll receive.)
7. Why do I have to spend money on mold sampling outside my house? Can I skip this sample?
Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Therefore, best practice is to perform an air sample outside*, to determine the molds in the natural environment. This sample is important because the outside air sample acts as a "control" sample, and is compared to the air samples performed inside the home. The idea behind this process is airborne mold concentrations inside should be similar or lower than the natural environment. If you skip this sample there is no comparison.
*substitutions may apply
8. Why aren't there any federal standards for mold/mold spores? Since there are no set Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) or acceptable levels for mold, how much mold is too much?
Regarding the first part of this question, one could safely conclude the reason there is no government standard, goes back to each individuals susceptibility. The government can't possible enforce a "standard" when there is such a dramatic difference in each individuals sensitivities.
Although there are no set federal standards, the EPA does acknowledge that allergenic, toxic and pathogenic molds can cause health problems. See EPA web page: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldresources.html
As for the second part of this question, and, as a general rule, indoor air mold concentrations should not be dramatically higher than the outdoor air concentrations. And, the growth of any type of mold in a home should be eliminated regardless of it's genera. In correlation, we need to consider mold's role in the environment; clinging onto dead organic matter, it eats and digests the material it's growing on. This means over time, if left unchecked, mold can cause structural damage to building materials.
9. If I see mold in my home, why wouldn't I go straight to mold remediation instead of mold testing first?
Your safest and most prudent course of action is to treat all molds with caution and to remove them from your home as soon as possible. With that, we have to consider...
If you plan to perform remediation yourself, its good to know what types of molds you may be handling. You need to take the appropriate steps to protect your health and the health of the occupants in your home. Laboratory results would not only identify some of the kinds of molds present, but differentiate between mold and soot or dirt. Otherwise...
One reason is (particularly if you have chosen not to have a home inspection - although we definitely recommend this step), sampling may help locate the source of mold contamination. Further, if an unknown water source exists and you choose to skip a mold testing/screening, it is likely that you will have spent good money on remediation only to have mold growth recur.
Mold sampling [independently] after remediation is highly recommended for determining whether remediation efforts have been effective.
9 Bartlet Street #261
Andover, MA 01810
PO Box 12
Hampstead, NH 03841