What is mold?

Mold is a microscopic organism that lives and grows on organic matter. Like all living things, mold requires the correct blend of environmental factors to grow and thrive.

The two factors that are most important for mold growth are moisture and a food source. Moisture can come from many sources including very high humidity levels, condensation, and plumbing leaks. Food sources for mold can be common building materials such as drywall, ceiling tiles and natural fibers.

Health Effects of Mold

Mold exposure may cause adverse health effects in some people, primarily those who have an allergic reaction to mold spores. The vast majority of the reactions to mold exposure are mild irritation to the eyes and upper respiratory system.

Serious adverse health effects due to mold exposure are rare and are typically associated with people that have severe respiratory sensitivity issues such as strong allergic reactions, severe asthma, emphysema, and suppressed immune systems.

Testing for Mold

No federal or state guidelines exist for mold exposure. Because of this, testing and sampling for the presence of mold is typically not performed. However, testing for the presence of excess moisture in building materials may be done since this condition is necessary for viable mold growth.

Moisture testing is not always necessary in order to determine if there is a problem. Any obvious visible presence of mold should immediately be cleaned with dilute bleach and water and the source of the moisture should be located if possible. If the source of the water is not obvious, moisture measurements can help with determining its location.

Controlling Mold Growth

Mold is everywhere. It is present in all buildings, vehicles and public spaces. Limiting the growth of excessive mold is the objective. In order to do this, one or more of the environmental factors involved in its growth must be controlled. Since mold feeds on most building materials, removing the food source is difficult. The best control measure is to remove the water source by drying large spills quickly, by reducing humidity, and by insulating cold surfaces to prevent condensation. Removing the source of water will effectively and efficiently stop mold from growing out of control.

See also Air Quality Links and Severe Weather Safety - Flood Safety.