Is It Mold or Mildew? A Review of Health Problems Caused by Water Damage
You've stumbled on a fungus growing in your home, but don't know what it is. Your husband says it's mildew, but your neighbor says it's mold. What's the difference? Does it even matter? How do you get rid of it? Can mold or mildew cause serious health problems?
Mold or Mildew?
Mold and mildew are both fungi, and both grow in moist areas. Mold and mildew can look brown, black, white or dark green. From a restoration perspective, there’s no real difference between the two fungi. Both cause health problems, and both need to be removed carefully in order to prevent additional damage to property and health issues.
Mold Related Health Issues
Depending on a person's age and overall health, both mold and mildew can cause damaging health effects.
Joint pain, migraines, heart issues and depression are standard with long-term mold exposure. People without mold allergies may be lucky enough to have limited health problems such as headaches, congestion, sneezing, fatigue and skin irritation, but really, nobody is built to live with constant exposure to mold or mildew. Even those with low sensitivity to mold will experience fatigue and general malaise.
The Institute of Medicine tells us people with allergies to mold and mildew typically experience wheezing, chest tightness and coughing and related respiratory illnesses. Mold exposure as a child means greater risk of developing asthma in later years.
Why Do I Have Mold in my Home?
Mold spores float through the air, settling to grow in moist areas where the fungus helps the decomposition process of dead, organic matter. Unfortunately, mold spores can be brought inside on pets, clothes or shoes and through adverse, wet conditions like flooding, and if those mold spores find ideal conditions (moist, cold or warm areas), the spores settle in and begin to grow.
You'll find mold in outdoor spaces like barns and crawl spaces or inside woods, fabrics, compost piles, showers, mattresses, carpets and attic insulation. The worst part? Because mold is a natural decomposer, it'll destroy the material it's on. Unlike mildew, hidden mold can cause structural damage that can easily cause thousands of dollars in repairs, especially if it grows inside vents and air conditioning systems.
How Do I Prevent Mold from Affecting my Health?
So, how do you prevent any developing mold-related respiratory illnesses?
First of all, do not try to remove mold on your own. It is not safe. Why? Because it is very difficult to remove affected materials (drywall, flooring, carpet) without scattering mold spores everywhere and breathing the spores into your lungs. Mold removal professionals curtain off the area being treated, run specialized fans and air moving equipment to direct air and mold spores out of the home and away from the rest of your home, and protect themselves with high tech facial masks as they carefully remove the affected materials while disrupting the mold as little as possible. After the affected materials have been removed, they carefully clean and prep the area so material replacement can be done (if needed) and to ensure you can return to the area without risking your health.
I know Grandpa said you just need to rub a little bleach on the mold and it’ll be all good, but that’s just not the truth. The mold cleaners you find in the store are not effective, either.
You cannot kill mold; you must remove it. Unfortunately, when removing mold, if you disturb it, mold spores will spread throughout your home and get into your airways. Mold removal experts use a full containment suit, including high tech face masks, to prevent mold spores from entering their respiratory systems. They also seal off the area and use special fans and air moving machines with HEPA filters to ensure mold spores are directed out of the home or captured in a filter instead of settling all over the exposed area.
How Do I Stop Mold from Recurring?
Prevention is key. Mold grows in both warm and cold moist areas, which means you need to take steps to make those ideal environments less ideal. Where do we typically find mold? In basements that are cold and clammy, or in attics just above the air conditioner (not where it’s wet, but the moist area just above where the water collects), or in areas affected by persistent water damage like drywall or ceiling where a slow drip (leaking roof or small crack in a pipe or leaky shower shell) keeps the materials moist but not soaking wet.
When you discover a leak or spill, take precautions such that exposed, wet surfaces found in kitchens or bathrooms are properly dried. If you know you have a troublesome spot, invest in a dehumidifier and regularly empty it and keep the filters clean and fresh. By regularly changing them, you're helping to prevent fungi growth.
Got a leaky pipe or roof? Patch those problems before fungi can settle and cause a mold or mildew outbreak. And if unnecessary flooding does occur, don't forget to thoroughly dry both exposed and harder-to-clean areas.
While you can purchase an indoor air purifier at Home Depot or Lowe's, professionals use air scrubbers equipped with a high quality HEPA filter coupled with a dehumidifier to create optimal air quality, opening some windows and doors can also help recirculate the air. The air currents will prevent spores from settling on your surfaces, ruining your home and ruining your health. Invest in a dehumidifier that is powerful enough to keep the area of concern dry. Not sure where to get a good one? Talk to our experts about it.
The most important method of prevention is to make sure your home is not humid and you do not neglect water leaks or flooding. When in doubt about water damage, hire a professional to remove moisture using professional grade fans and water extraction equipment. When concerned about mold removal, use a professional mold removal service to prevent health risks. Then follow up with good home maintenance to prevent it happening again.
Need a Charlotte Mold Removal Specialist?
Timely mold removal is crucial to ensure the integrity of your home and health. Although we do not provide mold removal at this time, we can refer you to a reputable mold removal company that does. Give us a call to discuss your needs today!
Quick question & answer: Is removing mold dangerous?
Removing mold on your own is dangerous because it is difficult to remove affected materials without scattering mold spores everywhere and breathing the spores into your lungs. Mold removal specialists use full containment suits to prevent spores from infiltrating their respiratory systems. They utilize air moving machines with HEPA filters to direct the spores out of your home.