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Mold & Home Inspections

Home inspections are a standard part of a real estate transaction. But making sure the roof is sound and the plumbing is up to code isn’t enough: A mold inspection also should be part of the deal. Should we get our own independent building inspections to assess the work being carried out? I think we should to ensure the safety.

Mold is common outdoors – it helps break down those fallen autumn leaves, for example. Left to circulate indoors, however, it’s not only unsightly but can exacerbate health problems such as asthma.

Mold thrives in damp conditions. It can grow on wood, carpet, insulation and cloth as well as food. It reproduces through airborne spores, which then germinate and travel. The spores can be ingested or get into the skin and cause health issues including:

  • Problems with the vascular system. Increased vascular fragility, possibility of hemorrhaging into body tissues. Possible molds include aflatoxin, satratoxin, roridins.
  • Problems with digestive system. Diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal hemorrhage, liver effects (such as necrosis and fibrosis). Aflatoxin results in deleterious effects on mucous membranes.
  • Problems with respiratory system. Including respiratory distress, and bleeding from the lungs.
  • Problems with nervous system. Tremors, lack of coordination, depression, and headaches.
  • Problems with cutaneous system. Symptoms include rash, burning sensation, and sloughing
    of skin.
  • Problems with urinary system.
  • Problems with reproductive system. Including infertility, changes in reproductive cycles, etc.
  • Many mycotoxins can produce changes or a weakening of the immune system.
  • The production of toxins varies according to the type of mold, the substrate on which it grows, and seasons of the year.

Maintaining a clean, dry home is key to avoiding mold growth. But while you can’t get rid of mold completely, once it’s established itself, you can take steps to lessen its effects.

How To Identify and Clean Mold

Most types of mold appear quite similar — black or gray sooty patches. The good news is that even if toxic molds are in or around a home, most homeowners remove them through normal cleaning before they are able to grow to a size where they would pose a threat.

The danger level occurs when mold reaches a size of roughly 2 square feet. Also of concern is if mold has infested household items like insulation, drywall, or carpet. If so, these materials should be immediately extracted and the source of the dampness or wetness should be fixed. When replacing these items, it is best to use a non-cellulose and low nitrogen replacement material.

If the mold patch is small, it can be removed with a chlorine-bleach solution (1 cup of bleach in 1 gal. of water). The mold should come off with simple scrubbing (individuals should protect themselves with eye protection, rubber gloves and carbon filter respirators). Mold that has dried should not be scraped because this greatly increases the chances the releasing toxin-carrying spores into the air.

Sources in and around homes that can create a dangerous environment include leaky or broken pipes, windows or older doors that lack good seals, roofs that leak, and any cracks or holes in the building. If flooding has occurred, it is extremely important to make sure that the water is thoroughly dried up to avoid festering water or dampness. In addition, reducing the humidity through the use of a dehumidifier can prevent the growth of dangerous toxic molds.

Where to Look for Mold:

Check for odors

If you’ve had a leak somewhere in your home, you’ll most likely smell the mold before you see it. If you suspect a problem contact a certified mold inspector.

Check for odors near your air conditioning ducts

Turn your air conditioning off for a while – several minutes will do. Then turn it back on and stand directly under the path of air flowing from a duct. If your air conditioning unit or your home’s ductwork is contaminated, you will smell the musty mold odors.

Odors build up when the air conditioning unit is off; they may lessen after the unit has been on for a while. Minor moldy odors and contamination are relatively common in air conditioning units.

Having a mold inspector sample the air from your ducts may not do you much good — mold in air conditioning units often grows without producing a lot of spores. Instead, have an experienced, certified mold inspector check the inside of your air conditioning unit.

Look for mold on air conditioning registers and coils

As air passes through metal air conditioning registers, it gets cold. If your home is particularly humid, that could cause condensation on the registers. Air conditioning coils help remove indoor humidity and can cause mold growth.

Look for spots in basements and closets
Mold also occurs in areas with poor air circulation, such as basements, closets and bathrooms.

Look for spots on water damaged building materials
Water-damaged items may show signs of mold through the presence of small spots, smudge marks or a powdery residue in the area that became wet. Most mold spots are black, brown, green, or white. Initial growths typically are a few millimeters wide.
If the spots rub off, smear or detach easily, suspect mold. Other marks and stains usually are more difficult to remove.

Check window caulking

Mold can grow inside walls too, and window leaks are a common cause. Even small defects in caulking can let water from rain or lawn sprinkler systems into your walls and start a hidden mold problem.

Inspect baseboards

Water flows down when it enters walls, then soaks into baseboards, causing them to swell, and then shrink when they dry. That expansion and deflation can cause baseboards to separate slightly from the wall. If you can see a crack between the top of the baseboard and the wall, you may have a hidden mold problem.

Carpet tack strips also will stain and rot from water in your walls, and moisture trapped behind wallpaper will cause mold as well. Since wallpaper is rarely peeled back during mold inspections, hidden mold may not be found immediately.

How to Find a Certified Mold Inspector

Mold inspectors must agree to follow certain standards of care. A number of federal agencies and professional organizations have produced helpful references that help define standards of care for mold practice.

Hire a professional mold inspector who utilizes moisture meters, humidity meters, borescopes, and air samples to detect mold problems and who provides professional remediation recommendations.

There are no national or state-recognized mold certifications, although the American Board of Industrial Hygiene and the American Society of Safety Engineers offer credentialing programs. While credentials are a good measure of basic competency, they should be combined with professional education and experience not only in mold inspection and remediation but in areas such as building inspection and data interpretation.

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