Minimizing Health Risks from Mold

Mold growth poses special problems for the thousands of people with existing lung disease and may increase the likelihood of the development of lung problems for others.

Mold is everywhere, especially here in the warm, humid climate of the South. Most people have no problem living with this ever-present fungus. It reproduces by making spores, which travel unseen through the air and grow on any moist surface. People who have asthma or allergies may be especially sensitive to molds. They may develop a stuffy nose, wheezing, eye irritation, or a skin rash when exposed. Other people may have more severe allergic reactions and experience breathing difficulty. People whose immune systems are weakened by chronic diseases, or those who are taking any drugs that suppress immune function are at risk for development of infections in the lungs.

You can have mold even if your home does not suffer significant water damage from a disaster like a busted pipe or flood. You can’t always see evidence of mold. The outside of your walls may look fine, but mold could be growing on the inside.  Clothes can be washed or dry-cleaned, and furniture can be restored if dried and remediated properly.  The same goes for carpeting, insulation, wallpaper and drywall. This is a very invasive problem.  For example, mattresses that didn’t get wet are likely to grow mold if they were in a room that did.

One big “mold myth” is people who think airing out their house after water damage prevents mold growth.  This is completely opposite of what you should do.  Opening windows and doors lets the humidity in.  Humidity keeps things wet and provides the perfect environment for mold growth.  If you are trying to dry out your home and furniture, close up your house and turn the air as low as you can.

It’s important to understand that you can’t just kill the mold to reduce health risk, you have to remove it.  This isn’t something that will disappear if you ignore it.  Even dead mold can provoke asthma in susceptible people, and even people without prior allergies or sensitivity to mold can also develop them after significant exposure. Professional help is the best way to insure that all mold is removed.

When is professional help needed? A mold assessment by a team of professionals can identify if mold is an issue.  If there is any doubt, because of the health risks associated with mold, it’s advisable to be extra cautious and have a professional evaluation.

If you are in one of the high-risk categories for mold exposure risks, such as asthma, try to avoid being in and around areas of potential mold growth.  If this can’t be avoided, be sure to take your asthma medication as prescribed, keep your emergency response inhaler nearby, and discuss any acceleration of symptoms with your physician immediately.

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