Mold fungi are everywhere, both indoors and outdoors, and mold plays an important role in our ecosystem as it breaks down and feeds on decaying leaves, trees, and other organic material.
Where mold can present problems in homes is when wet and/or damp areas allow it to settle on those surfaces, and grow. Organic based materials with greater than 16% moisture content will allow for the formation of mold, and this mold will then begin to feed on this organic material, breaking it down, causing decay.
The first step in controlling/eliminating mold has to begin with correcting the source of the moisture that allowed it to form in the first place. Sometimes that can be as simple as a plumbing leak. Correcting the leak will starve the mold of its moisture source and eventually the mold will become dormant, but spores will still be present.
But, more often than not, Mold is found on floor framing members in crawl spaces and basements due to the available moisture these areas hold. Grading problems around homes are very common in this area, and these grading deficiencies allow the soil surrounding the foundation to become saturated. Once this soil is saturated it allows moisture to permeate through porous foundation walls, and either water intrusion occurs, or the humidity in the area rises. This creates the perfect conditions for the formation of mold growth.
Health Effects of Mold
The presence of mold spores in the home can cause irritation to the the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can trigger asthma attacks and can be particularly troublesome for immune-suppressed persons.
4 of the most common molds found indoors are; Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Alternaria.
The effects of a particular mold species on the occupants of a home should be evaluated and advised by a medical professional.
A mold like substance, when found, will be called “fungal growth”, until analyzed by an accredited laboratory. Only a laboratory analyzing samples using a microscope and other testing equipment can determine if “fungal growth” is indeed mold, and of what strain.
I conduct two different collection procedures of the fungal growth to be analyzed:
The first is surface sampling. A laboratory grade tape is applied to the area of fungal growth and peeled off, and sealed. This procedure is great for when there is visible fungal growth, and will determine if the growth is mold and of what strain. Its drawback is it does not give you any information as to the spore count of mold being present in the air of the home.
The second procedure is Indoor air quality testing. This procedure is always recommended, but is a must if a musty smell is present in the home, and the foundation is not visible (finished basements). The results from this procedure will determine what mold spores are present in the air and at what concentration.