The Problem with Mold

Mildew and molds are fungi – simple microscopic organisms that thrive anywhere there is a moist environment. Molds are a necessary part of the environment; without them, leaves would not decay and aspects of soil enrichment could not take place. It is their ability to destroy organic materials, however, that makes mold a problem for people – in our homes and in our bodies.

Mildew (mold in early stage) and molds grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, decaying leaves and other organic materials.

Mold growths, or colonies, can start to grow on a damp surface within Mildew and molds are fungi – simple microscopic organisms that thrive anywhere there is a moist environment. Molds are a necessary part of the environment; without them, leaves would not decay and aspects of soil enrichment could not take place. It is their ability to destroy organic materials, however, that makes mold a problem for people – in our homes and in our bodies.

Mold in Your Home?
If your home has water damage due to –
• flooding,
• sewage back-up from flooding in the area,
• plumbing or roof leaks,
• damp basement or crawl space,
• overflows from sinks or bathtub, or
• high humidity: steam cooking, dryer vents, humidifiers,
mildew and mold will develop within 24-48 hours of water exposure. Even worse, it will continue to grow until steps are taken to eliminate the source of moisture, and effectively deal with the mold problem.

Signs of Mold:

Visible Mold? Are the walls and ceilings discolored?

Smell of Mold? From “Musty Earth” to foul stench.

Hidden sources may be air ducts, attics, basements, and wall cavities.

Dry Out a Water- or Mold-Damaged House

Turn off main power if wiring is wet or moldy. Have electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning power on again.

Open the house to fresh air when the humidity is lower outside than inside. Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture unless mold has already started to grow (fans may spread existing mold).

Use the furnace only if the ducts have not been inundated (any forced air central heating ducts that have come in contact with water or mold should be professionally checked).

Remove all wet items such as furniture, rugs, bedding, toys, and carpeting.

Discard soaked or moldy carpeting! Clean and disinfect other items

Discard all possibly contaminated food products – anything not in a watertight container.

Interior Walls and Ceilings: Remove all wet or contaminated porous materials such as ceiling tiles, drywall, and wood by-products. If wallboard is soaked, remove to a foot above the watermark and discard. Drain walls by removing baseboard and drilling holes near floor. Dry panel-type wall by pulling the bottom edge out from studs. Check interior of the wall for hidden mold.

Floors and Exterior Walls: Remove all wet insulation. Discard all but rigid insulation, which can be reinstalled after disinfecting and drying.

Adverse Health Problems

We are all exposed to many kinds of mold both inside and outside the house. The exposure is greater in damp or wet conditions, especially when timely drying out does not have a chance to occur.

Of the thousands of molds that exist, some are known allergens (aggravating or causing skin, eye, and respiratory problems), and a few molds produce harmful mycotoxins that can cause serious problems. But all molds, in the right conditions and high enough concentrations, are capable of adversely affecting human health.

The potential for health problems occurs when people inhale large quantities of the airborne mold spores. For some people, however, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions, and the elderly are at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.

Typical symptoms reported from mold exposure include:

Respiratory problems – wheezing, asthma attacks, etc.

Nasal and sinus congestion or dry, hacking cough

Eye irritation – burning, watery, redness

Nose or throat irritation – sneezing fits, bloody noses

Skin irritations – rashes or hives

Nervous system – headaches, memory loss, and mood changes

Aches and pains

The more serious health problems have been associated with the toxic black mold, Stachybotrys atra. The mold is greenish-black and slimy, resembling tar or black paint. Stachybotrys typically grows only on repeatedly wetted materials that contain cellulose – from paper to ceiling tiles, and any kind of wood. In most cases, this mold can be removed by a thorough cleaning with a 10% bleach solution. Severe mold infestations may require the assistance of a professional with experience in dealing with Stachybotrys.

If mold exposure is unavoidable, sensitive people should wear tightfitting

masks or respirators.

Mold Prevention

There is no practical way for you to eliminate all of the molds and mold spores in the indoor environment. But there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth in your home. Here is a partial list:

Stop the Water
Fix leaks in pipes, and any damp areas around tubs and sinks, so that biological pollutants don’t have growing environments.

Rebuild, or retrofit, with water-resistant building materials such as tiles, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/ outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard, water-resistant glues, and so on.

Prevent seepage of water from outdoors into your house. Rainwater from gutters or the roof needs to drain away from the house. Ground around the house needs to slope away to keep basement and crawlspace dry.

Cover dirt in crawlspaces with plastic to prevent moisture from coming from the ground. Ventilate the area as much as possible.

Keep It Clean

Clean fabrics often and keep them dry. Soil promotes mildew growth. Store clean fabric items in well ventilated areas.

Consider having air ducts cleaned if you suspect mold exists on the duct’s inside surface, or if duct insulation has been wet.

Keep It Dry
• Reduce the moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans, and open windows or air conditioners, especially in hot weather. Do NOT use fans if mold may already exist.

Try to keep the humidity in your home below 40%.

In moisture prone areas, choose carpets of man-made fibers.

Reduce potential for condensation on cold surfaces by insulating.

Disinfect It

Routinely check potential problem spots (e.g. Bathroom, laundry, mechanical

room, etc.) for moldy odors, and disinfect often with a 10% solution of bleach—

11/4-11/2 cup bleach to a gallon water, or with a commercial disinfectant.

Source: Excerpted from “Dealing With Mold and Mildew in Your Flood-Damaged Home,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

It is of the utmost importance to hire an experienced, trained, and certified professional to test and/or remove mold—AND ENSURE THAT IT WON’T COME BACK!

Aspen Environmental professionals are licensed and insured and members of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI), the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), and the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

For anything related to water damage cleanup, mold testing, mold removal, or air ducts, call Aspen at 978-382-0882
Or email

Watch the video onFlood and Flooding Information You Need to Know” with Doug Hoffman, Executive Director, National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI):