7 Things you need to know about toxic mold

Have a flood in your home or office? You should have trained professionals start the drying process within 24 hours of the event to prevent mold growth that is expensive to eliminate and dangerous to your health. Here are some things you need to know about mold.

1) Mold is already in your home or office.

Since mold is a part of the natural environment, it's all around us. Mold spores can spread on your clothing, on your shoes, through ventilation systems, on packages, and through many other vectors. Mold has its place in nature and isn't generally bad -at normal levels mold exposure for healthy people is just fine. However, when an ideal environment is created for its growth (as in a flooded basement), it'll grow as quickly as possible and create indoor air pollution.

2) Mold reproduces by spores that travel by air.

Some molds let spores detach and drift in air currents. More aggressive molds propel spores into the air which usually allows spores to travel farther faster.

In any event, if you have mold you have spores. You should be extremely cautious about controlling the flow of air in a moldy room. Stagnant air will promote mold growth since this usually means that an area is not being dried out. Moving air can dry out and kill mold, but may cause mold to populate other areas of your house if it's improperly directed.

3) Mold growth is controlled by controlling moisture.

High moisture promotes mold growth. Low moisture inhibits mold growth. How can you keep moisture down?

  1. Eliminate water leaks and remove water from affected areas. This may be easier said than one and will often require a professional.
  2. Keep indoor humidity at 30-60%. Use bathroom exhaust fans, kitchen exhaust fans, and dehumidifiers to keep humidity controlled.

While each of these will not be enough in a flood event, they can be helpful for smaller water leaks.

4) Mold chiefly causes indoor air quality issues that affect our respiratory systems.

People with health issues or that are more susceptible to health issues should stay away from mold-infested areas. This includes:

  • Children under 2 years old and over 60 years old
  • People with respiratory issues
  • People with asthma or allergies

Some molds produce mycotoxins that can cause neurological damage and death. Daily exposure or even high exposure levels a few times are very dangerous.

5) Mold and mold spores need 4 things to grow into mold.

  1. Nutrients - Mold food can be paper products, human or animal food, dust, and pet dander. All homes have mold nutrients and mold can grow almost anywhere. In a flood event, remove books, magazines, other paper products, rugs, towels, blankets, and other easy-to-remove articles that can hold moisture and may be a rich food source for mold.
  2. Warmth - Colder temperatures can inhibit mold growth. However, temperature isn't really a viable option in controlling mold growth. In a typical home reduced temperatures without air conditioning can cause water condensation and actually make your home more humid. Extremely cold temperatures can cause frozen pipes and result in other significant damage. Talk to your water restoration professional about proper temperatures.
  3. Time - Some mold species can take up to 10 days to start growing, but at 10 days, there will be far more than one species!
  4. Moisture - Mold can be dessicated and killed, but it's important to do so without dispersing also its spores.

6) Time is your most important asset to prevent mold.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you begin drying out your home 24-48 hours after a flood event. What 24-48 hours really means is this:

Start as soon as possible.

This is a critical window of time. Depending on local environmental characteristics (Is it cold or hot? Wet air or dry air?), local weather conditions (Is there a hurricane? Is it sunny?), and the species of molds that grow in your area, you may have up to 48 hours to get the drying process started. You may have less.

In New Jersey, we have a "cold and wet" climate in which homes and offices are highly susceptible to mold growth. We often have high humidity and are experiencing stronger New Jersey coastal storms. Hot summers and cold winters mean that our homes and offices are often closed up with possibly stagnant air and varying humidity. The sooner you get started drying out, the better.

7) It's easier to prevent mold than it is to eliminate it.

Water restoration professionals can quickly dry out an area, keep air properly circulating, and prevent mold growth. This process may take few days but only involves water removal, which is the key to preventing mold.

In contrast, once mold has a foothold in your home it is a race against time to salvage your possessions and the structure itself. Mild mold growth may require replacement of walls, carpeting, and furniture. Extreme mold growth may require completely demolishing a house or building.