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Is Mold A Concern In Your Home?
By Mike Scott
Lori Cady of rural Kahoka moved the small twin-sized bed away from the wall of her mobile home, and peeled back the large clear plastic bag she had covered the spot with. The bag was covered with slimy green streaks, and the panelled wall was peppered with black mold.
“Careful, don’t get any on your clothes,” she said as I leaned over to photograph the growth. “I’m sure there’s more under the carpet, too,” she added.
Lori and her husband, Rodney, known locally as “Pebbles and Bam-Bam,” share the rental trailer with sister-in-law Betty. The visible mold is growing in Betty’s room.
“I don’t know how she can sleep in here,” Lori said.
Down the hall, the flooring of the bathroom sags with each step. It’s obvious that the floor is rotting underneath the carpeting.
“It’s like that under the washing machine,” too,” Lori said.
She opened the furnace closet. The filter was half-caked with a thick, brown dust.
“We changed that filter yesterday,” she said.
The Cady’s are feeling the effects of their indoor environment.
“I’ve always been really healthy, but now I’ve always got a stuffy nose and everyone sneezes all the time,” Lori said. “We have Kleenex boxes everywhere.”
Lori thinks she’s in the best shape in the household because she takes lot of herbal supplements and vitamins.
Her husband, Rodney, isn’t so lucky. He has a number of health problems and is on oxygen and a breathing machine. Recently, he was referred to an allergy specialist in Kirksville.
“He’s probably better than he would be, because he’s on the breathing machine,” Lori said. “But the filters clog a lot sooner than they’re supposed to.”
The entire family has experienced symptoms commonly seen with mold: Sneezing, chronic cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy, watery and red eyes. Skin rashes and hives, sinus headaches, reduced lung capacity and difficulty breathing are also known to occur. Other symptom may include nausea, dizziness, lethargy and memory loss. People with asthma and allergies are the most susceptible.
Mildew or mold (also known as black mold or toxic mold) is a type of fungi that develops and grows on surfaces in the form of powdery or downy substance.
Humid/damp surfaces in combination with a very moderate temperature and sufficient amount of light provide the best conditions for mold growth. The toxic mold grows on walls, wood, clothes, food, carpets or any article such sofa (made of leather) etc. The mold growth is not confined only to walls, clothes and surfaces of furniture, it also can grow inside the equipments like air conditioners, and HVAC systems.
You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and residents are reporting health problems.
Mold may be hidden in places such as the back side of dry wall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top side of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Other possible locations of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes (with leaking or condensing pipes), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).
Ten Things You Should Know About Mold (From the EPA website)
1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.
Basic Mold Cleanup
The key to mold control is moisture control. It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced.
What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas
·Avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. In order to limit your exposure to airborne mold, you may want to wear an N-95 respirator, available at many hardware stores and from companies that advertise on the Internet. (They cost about $12 to $25.) Some N-95 respirators resemble a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front, others are made primarily of plastic or rubber and have removable cartridges that trap most of the mold spores from entering. In order to be effective, the respirator or mask must fit properly, so carefully follow the instructions supplied with the respirator. Please note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that respirators fit properly (fit testing) when used in an occupational setting; consult OSHA for more information (800-321-OSHA or www.osha.gov).
·Wear gloves. Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended. When working with water and a mild detergent, ordinary household rubber gloves may be used. If you are using a disinfectant, a biocide such as chlorine bleach, or a strong cleaning solution, you should select gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC (see Cleanup and Biocides). Avoid touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands.
·Wear goggles. Goggles that do not have ventilation holes are recommended. Avoid getting mold or mold spores in your eyes.
Missouri health laws do not address mold in residential settings, nor does the Missouri Landlord-Tenant Law, unless such items are specific to the rental contract.
Complaint Guidelines in Rental Situations
1. See a doctor about any health problems you feel are a result of the exposure to the indoor pollutants. Be sure to tell the doctor about your suspected unhealthy environment.
2. Fix the problem if possible.
3. If the problem is something that has to be fixed by the landlord, send a letter in writing to your landlord describing the nature of your complaint and keep a copy of the letter. If the rental is managed by an agency such as Housing and Urban Development or the Rural Housing Administration, be sure to contact that agency. Sometimes they have requirements for sanitation in homes. If your doctor made specific recommendations regarding your living environment, be sure to include those statements.
4. If the landlord refuses to address the issue, you may find some assistance through local building codes, nuisance ordinances, or tenant codes. The codes will vary across Missouri from city to city and county to county. Some effort and detective work may be needed to track down the right code and individual. Remember as well that many of these codes were written years ago and addressed issues from those times; therefore, you may have to do some education to city and county officials and take some effort to speak in terms they will understand to approach the issue (for example when discussing mold, the codes are probably not specific to mold or the health effects from mold. It may be more helpful to discuss the violations existing to allow mold growth, such
as faulty plumbing, shoddy construction and ventilation, leaky roofs, groundwater infiltration due to improper site placement, improper lumber selection, etc.). Contact your local city hall or local housing authority as a starting point, or you may also contact your local public health agency.
5. If no assistance is available locally you may consider contacting an attorney.
6. In some situations, moving may be the final option to protect the health of you and your family.
7. Consult with an attorney to consider placing language in your next rental contract guaranteeing the quality of your indoor environment.
Information for this story was taken from the Center for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ websites.