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Toxic Molds in Homes

Some molds, such as Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys atra (chartarum), are known to produce potent toxins under certain circumstances that can cause serious health problems to exposed individuals.

These two "Toxic Molds" have received a lot of media attention but are in fact quite rare and they are not the only molds that cause health problems.

Many types of mold can gain a foothold in a home and cause health concerns. When moisture problems occur in a home or building and mold growth results, occupants may begin to notice odors and experience a variety of health problems. Symptoms such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma are commonly associated with exposure to many types of molds, not just the so called toxic ones.

Whether you have a home in New Hampshire or South Florida, the simplest and most effective approach is to avoid the problem altogether by knowing how to keep all types of mold out of your home and acting on that knowledge.

Here are two main facts you need to understand about how mold gets into homes and causes problems:

  1. There is no way to prevent all mold from entering your home. Mold colonies spread from spores. Spores are tiny microscopic capsules that are like seeds from a plant. Mold spores circulate around the earth, are in the air we breathe and settle on virtually everything. Mold spores, like seeds, can germinate and start a new colony in your home at anytime ?.if the conditions are right.
  2. Mold needs moisture to survive and grow. If you eliminate moisture problems you can prevent mold from growing and keep it at bay. This is true for any kind of mold including the toxic molds like Aspergillus versicolor or Stachybotrys atra (Chartarum).

Here's your best defense against mold:

  • By keeping water out of places where it doesn't belong you will keep mold under control! Fix any leaks in the roof, windows or walls immediately and don't let anything inside your home that has gotten wet, stay moist longer than 24 hours.
  • If you experience a flood in the home, do what ever you can to get things dry as quickly as possible. If carpeting gets wet pull it up immediately and try to dry it out with fans. Help the drying process along any way you can to shorten the time that mold has a chance to grow. Remember that shortly after a material gets wet, mold growth starts and once a material is dry, mold growth stops!
  • Keep the inside of your air conditioning unit clean. Many homes have significant mold growth inside their air conditioning units from a lack of periodic cleaning and routine maintenance practices. Change the air filter at least 6 times a year. Flush the pan and condensate drain line at least twice a year to prevent slime and water backup. Hire a handyman or professional service company to do this for you if you are unsure of how to do it. Proper servicing is very important.
  • Look under kitchen and bathroom sinks for signs of past and present leaks. Water can run off to unwanted areas and wick up into absorbent materials like drywall and wood composite materials.

If you have fallen behind in the above items you may already have a mold problem. Be aware of odors. Mold usually gives off a telltale pungent odor. The mold may be hidden in the walls, floors, carpeting or ceiling. Keep in mind that moisture may have found its way into these hidden areas sometime in the past and large mold colonies may have grown before the leak was found and fixed.

Where mold had a long time to grow, the odor can linger around for years. Once you find the source of the odor you can assess the extent of the problem. Carpeting and drywall can be replaced and often this is the only way to rid the home of the odor and the mold. See related article on How to Detect and Deal with Hidden Mold.

Again, the key to stopping mold growth is by controlling moisture. If you keep a vigil for water infiltration into your home you will have the opportunity to save yourself from the effects of any mold including the ones that may cause illness. You can visit the web site for the US Government?s Environmental Protection Agency for additional information and articles about mold in homes and buildings.

The following site is especially interesting and contains much useful information:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldguide.html.

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