Toxic mold seems to be more pronounced in the collective consciousness these days. Customers inquire about toxic mold more often than they used to, and it isn't that surprising. The Pacific Northwest is already awash with moisture, a key factor in mold growth, and modern houses built to leak little or no energy tend to lack adequate ventilation, which provides another factor. The only other thing needed is cellulose or some kind of food, and mold will thrive. Thus, I believe conditions today are more conducive for mold (and wood-destroying organisms in general), undoubtedly raising people's level of awareness and worry.
Not all mold is toxic, though many assume that it is, sometimes elevating their concern unnecessarily. In fact, in some cases what appears to be mold is actually a different organism altogether. Unless they have been specially trained in this area, home inspectors shy away from identifying their findings specifically as mold or mildew, preferring instead to use the term microbial growth. So it might prove useful to look at how to distinguish between different kinds of mold, how to recognize some of the associated health symptoms, and how to get rid of the stuff once it has been detected.
What Makes Mold Toxic?
Technically speaking, mold itself is not poisonous. Some forms of black mold are toxigenic, meaning that they produce mycotoxins in the air. However, this is what makes it noxious to humans; they are naturally loath to ingest mold directly, but they are less alert to protecting themselves from breathing the invisible yet injurious surrounding air.
Positive associations of certain bodily symptoms with microbial toxicity is problematic due to varying sensitivities among people. Extreme conditions such as memory loss or pulmonary hemorrhage might be linkable, but it hasn't been proven. Better established is that mycotoxins lead to infection or respiratory problems in those with suppressed immune systems or in asthmatics. More common mold symptoms are eye or skin irritation, nausea, coughing, and dizziness. Not all of these symptoms are caused by mycotoxins; there may be nonpoisonous spores in the air, or even hazardous gases from building materials such as drywall, pressed wood, or insulation, or from household products containing volatile organic compounds.
Detecting and Eliminating Toxicity
When someone's health deteriorates from being in the enclosed space of a house, this is usually sufficient evidence of harmful substances in the air. However, what's causing the toxicity may not always be apparent. There are services available for sampling the air for specific mycotoxins, and this might narrow down the search. But if the problem is toxigenic mold, it is usually quite evident. (It is possible for it to be in dank, normally unseen regions like crawl spaces and attics, but pest inspectors are skilled at finding it.)
If the noxious substance is emanating from insulation or drywall, replacing the material can be prohibitive. Some homeowners in this situation have had to abandon their homes. But in the case of mold, treatment is more straightforward. It is necessary first to eliminate what is fostering mold growth, whether it be inadequate ventilation or some other cause of excessive moisture accumulation. Then, scrubbing it with detergents usually does the trick.
If you need more assistance, see http://www.HomeInspectionWA.net.
Tags: ASHI, Black Mold, Home Inspection, Home Inspector, Mold Removal, Mold Symptoms, Pest Inspection, Toxic Mold, Washington State
Published on April 30, 2012 | Comments: 0