Unfortunately, mold is everywhere. Thousands of single-cell fungi are found all over the world. Fungal spores (the reproductive part of the organism) become airborne like pollen. Mold tends to be more prevalent in warm, moist climates but can also be found in cold, dry environments.
Environmental molds are of great concern, as these molds can also cause inflammatory reactions. Dangerous household molds can grow anywhere there is humidity: in the bathroom, in the laundry room, the garage, or the pool area. Mold can be found in the kitchen, in damp carpeting, and in air-conditioning ducts. It grows in basements, barns, movie theaters, restaurants, health clubs, shopping centers, and the garden. For example, Jagger’s Manhattan apartment became toxically infested with Stachybotrys mold, and she is now fighting for legislation that will help homeowners recoup the expenses of mold removal. Stachybotrys causes systemic problems of fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and weakness. It does this because it incites an inflammatory response in your body.
Often, the warning signs of mold in your home are easy to spot. You can see mold growing on the tiles of your shower, by the sink, or in the washing machine. Other times you may not be able to see it, but can smell mildew. Worse, mold can grow in places that are harder to find, including in plasterboard or drywall and air-conditioning ducts. In these cases, you will need to call in an environmental company that specializes in mold detection.
If mold is found, it is important to have it completely removed. Although it can be expensive, the earlier you address the problem, the less expensive it will be to fix. Typically if you don’t fix it, the mold will fester and get worse and it will be harder to eradicate. Unfortunately, there are homes that become so overridden with mold that the house needs to be burned down.
Improving the overall air quality in your home can help you to control your environment and prevent mold growth:
■ Use a ventilation system to bring in as much fresh filtered air as you can and consistently remove indoor air pollutants.
■ Seal air leaks to block the entry of microbes, allergens, toxins, and irritants.
■ Air in your environment should continue to be circulated through filters whether the temperature is warm or cool outside. These filters found in air purifiers; air-conditioners; and heating, ventilation,
and air-conditioner (HVAC) systems need to be cleaned and changed at least four times a year. I change the filters in my home at the beginning of each season.
■ Insulate the walls and attic well.
■ Vacuum frequently, at least once a week, to remove mold that can be growing in carpeting.
Furthermore, keep your home dry by doing the following:
■ Take off wet shoes before walking on carpeting.
■ Don’t leave wet towels and clothing on furniture or carpeting.
■ Purchase a dehumidifier. When the air is very humid, especially in the summer, mold can grow inside your home. This can adversely affect anyone with fungal sinusitis. A dehumidifier placed in strategic locations within the house will help decrease the humidity and the likelihood of fungus growth. Humidity can also cause nasal swelling, and a dehumidifier will help create a more tolerable atmosphere during the humid months of the year.
■ The bathroom is the most likely breeding ground for mold. Clean the tiles in and around the shower, sinks and toilets with bleach as it will kill the mold. All wet areas should be dried. Wet towels need to be placed in the washing machine and dried immediately after washing. If you are particularly sensitive to mold, it would be best if you could have someone do this task for you. If not, make sure to have a window open to ventilate the area, and wear a mask.
■ The kitchen is another likely location to check for mold. Again, the wet areas need to be cleaned with bleach and should be kept dry. The refrigerator should be cleaned regularly and fresheners should be kept in the refrigerator to keep it clean. Throw out moldy food as soon as possible and wash all of your fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
■ Keep all the areas around the washer, dryer and utility sink dry. After using the washer, keep the door open to prevent mold growth inside the washer. Older machines and front loaders are
probably more susceptible to mold growth than top-loading machines. You should run a cycle every couple of days with hot water and bleach to rid the washer of any mold that may start to grow. Remove your clothes from the washer as soon as possible after the wash is finished and place them in the dryer. Keeping wet clothes in the washer is a great place for mold to grow.
■ Prevent leaks in your roof and basement. Check basements and attics, and other less frequently used rooms of the house for mold growth on the walls and floors. Mold can also be found growing on upholstered furniture if it is not used regularly.
■ Ventilate all areas well to deter mold growth. If outdoor allergens do not trouble you, keep at least one small window open in your home at all times to circulate clean air.
■ Keep your car as dry as possible. Vacuum the carpets frequently. In the summer when it is hot and humid, try not to leave wet towels, bathing suits or clothing on the car floor. In any season, when it rains or snows, try to air out your car as often as possible so that mold does not start to grow in the carpet. Make sure that the air-conditioner ducts are dry and clean. Recirculate the air when driving in traffic and when driving on high pollen count days.
■ In your garden, do not rake or play in fallen leaves. Cut back the plants that line the sides of your home. There should be a space between these plants and the house so that moisture on these plants does not disturb the shingles on your home. This will also protect your home from water damage.