While most people would rather not think about it, mold spores are everywhere in the environment. Mold is floating in the air, carried in the water, and lying in a dormant state waiting to explode into rapid growth when the right combination of moisture, heat, and food is present. There are thousands of known mold species and some are even beneficial. The antibiotic penicillin is a type of mold and some anti-cholesterol drugs are derived from mold. However, mold can be toxic when found indoors in high quantities.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “excessive exposure to mold-contaminated materials can cause adverse health effects in susceptible persons regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination.” Adverse health effects can include allergic reactions, asthma episodes, and sinus congestion. Severe reactions to mold may include fever and shortness of breath. Those with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, are susceptible to mold infections in their lungs. Molds also contain toxic compounds called mycotoxins which can be lethal to humans and animals if exposure is high.
Mold loves heat and high levels of water or humidity. Leaky roofs and windows, damp basements, plumbing leaks, and poor drainage provide perfect conditions for mold growth. Poorly ventilated kitchens, bathrooms, and attics are also mold magnets. And floods, hurricanes, and heavy rains can cause long-term mold problems for homeowners.
Hurricanes aside, the best way to reduce indoor mold exposure is to control humidity levels. Keep humidity below 50% with an air conditioner or dehumidifier to prevent mold growth. Improve the home’s ventilation by installing exhaust fans in the attic, kitchen, and bathroom. Cleanliness is also important. Scrub hard surfaces in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas with a cream cleaner or other cleaning agent. Keep carpeting out of damp rooms like bathrooms and basements and fix leaky pipes. Make sure to dust regularly to eliminate mold spores that might attach themselves to household dirt.
Most do not suffer adverse effects from low levels of mold but even the healthiest people should lower their exposure. Eliminate mold in the home and clean regularly to prevent regrowth. You might not be able to eliminate all the mold in the air and water, but you can keep it at manageable levels to maintain your family’s health.