Mold is everywhere. In the outdoors, mold serves an important role in breaking down decaying matter. And because it’s everywhere, it’s even in our homes -- at least in trace amounts.
Tiny amounts of mold pose no serious risk to most of us, but if more substantial mold growth occurs in your home, the risk of adverse health effects begins to rise. And if anyone in your home is especially susceptible to respiratory problems, it can be cause for major concern.
Recognize the Symptoms
Many of the symptoms of mold exposure are common -- coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, headaches and irritation of the throat, eyes and skin. Because most of these symptoms could be caused by the common cold or seasonal allergies, you’re unlikely to be able to trace them back to mold exposure based on the symptoms alone.
However, if you have reason to believe a symptomatic person is spending lots of time in an area with a mold problem, the two could be connected. And the most reliable way to determine if there’s mold growth in a room is to follow your nose.
Mold has a distinctly musty, earthy smell that can permeate walls, increasing the odds that you’ll smell it even before you see it. If you’re unsure, you can always purchase a mold test kit to get a better idea of how bad the problem may be.
Know the Dangers
The symptoms listed above are irritating but rarely serious to healthy people. Those with immune system deficiencies or chronic respiratory illnesses, on the other hand, could face more serious health risks from acute or prolonged mold exposure.
And while more study is required to confirm a link, there is some evidence that mold exposure in early childhood can increase the risk of a child developing asthma, especially if the child is genetically predisposed to asthma.
Clean and Prevent
If you do have a mold problem in your house, you should take action without delay. Mold that you can see and reach can be easily cleaned with a diluted bleach solution -- just be sure to wear protective gloves and a dust mask. If you can smell the mold but can’t see it, it could be growing within your walls or ductwork. Call a professional for a thorough inspection and a review of your cleaning options.
Mold growth is possible inside your home’s HVAC system, especially if your system is malfunctioning or overdue for maintenance. Any problem that results in moisture forming where it shouldn’t is a potential source for mold growth.
Your HVAC system is also an important part of any mold prevention strategy, especially your home’s bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. These fans remove humid air, such as that which fills your bathroom during a hot shower. If this air is left hanging around, every surface in the bathroom is ripe for mold development.
If you suspect that your HVAC system isn’t getting the job done when it comes to controlling mold, reach out to your local climate control experts to discuss exhaust fan upgrades, whole-home dehumidifiers and other solutions. Your health could depend on it.