Molds are microscopic fungi. There are over 10,000 known species of mold. Although molds generally prefer warm damp surroundings, they can live and grow in all parts of the world, both inside and out, even in winter.
Some molds found on food, such as bread mold, may cause spoilage, but do not make the bread poisonous.
Many molds are beneficial to man, as they aid in the decomposition of organic matter, such as trees and plants. Beneficial molds are used in the production of medications, such as cortisone and penicillin. Molds are also used in the production of both foods, bleu cheese, and drinks, wine.
Molds that grown indoors are often a nuisance, and can even be deadly. Molds can cause costly damage to walls and ceilings. Some molds produce chemicals that, when inhaled, can cause serious illness in both animals and humans. If the mold is not removed promptly, it can cause allergic reactions. Initially there may be sore throats, coughing, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. If exposure continues, there may be more serious symptoms such as chronic fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and sinus and upper respiratory infections.
Toxic molds are so potentially dangerous they have been linked to the possibility of biological warfare.
Once mold is discovered within a home, it should not be disturbed, as this causes the spores to be rapidly dispersed throughout the air where they are more easily inhaled.
Mold problems seem to be becoming more common. This may in part be due to the fact that homes are better sealed in order to be more energy-efficient. It there is inadequate ventilation so that this moisture is retained, it can foster mold growth. Some environmentalists suggest that the extensive use of cellulose, which is made from organic materials, along with warmth and moisture, encourages the growth of mold.
Molds in the home are most often found in basements of homes that have been flooded, under bathroom and kitchen sinks. around air-conditioning units, under carpets that have been left damp, under refrigerators, and around any area that leaks, or has leaked, water.
If you suspect mold may be in your home, check the above areas. Also watch for any areas where plaster is crumbling, staining of paint, wallpaper or plaster, or any tiny, mushroomlike, growths around your baseboards, or windows. Be aware of any musty odor.
Small areas of just a few feet of mold can be cleaned using a mix of ten parts water, one part bleach, and a squirt of soap. Open all windows in the area. Wear a mask when cleaning and dispose of any cloths used. Do not do the cleaning if your are asthmatic or have any chronic illnesses. If the area of mold is small, remove it and then try to ascertain the cause. Is there a water leak? Is there improper ventilation? Is this only small part of a larger infestation?
Porous materials, such as carpets and insulation, cannot be cleaned. They must be removed.
For larger areas of mold, professional removal is the only safe choice. Mold removal specialists wear protective clothing and breathing masks and dispose of contaminated materials safely.