Summer vacations are when mold comes out to play

 

 

Summertime traditionally brings family trips, school vacations, as well as plenty of hot uncomfortable weather. Those sunny days, however, often come with high humidity and afternoon thundershowers — ideal conditions for annoying and potentially toxic mold.

It’s a pervasive menace that is poised each summer to grow and thrive in your house. Left unattended, fast-growing mold can cause damage that will cost in the thousands of dollars to eradicate or, worse, pose a dangerous threat to the health of your entire family.

“No one knows how many homes have mold behind the walls, but the best estimate is about 70 percent,” said Richard E. Gots, a doctor and founder of the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine, a biomedical consulting firm.

Gots’s estimate refers to mold that is at an “elevated level” and therefore should be addressed if the conditions exist for the mold to take hold and grow.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets levels for acceptable radon levels as well as a threshold for lead in the house or water supply, and states regulate termite inspections and control compliance. Yet there are no federal or state regulations that dictate a safe level of mold for a residential property.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) has been campaigning for several years to pass legislation that would require residential property owners, including landlords, to disclose the presence of mold in their apartment, condo or house. This legislation is still pending.

 According to the District’s housing code, the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) inspectors cannot cite a homeowner for mold because the city considers mold to be “an environmental problem,” rather than a housing or safety issue. Mold, of course, is notoriously difficult to detect, and what may look like dangerous mold can only be legitimately determined under a microscope by a competent inspector or lab. Additionally, most homeowner insurance policies will not cover damage from mold — they consider it a “preventable” condition.

In reality, mold is a fungus that can grow anywhere moisture is present. Mold spores thrive in warm temperatures (77 to 86 degree Fahrenheit) and wherever there are damp conditions. Mold spores are in the air we breathe, and they can grow on any surface. In a house, mold can be found in ceilings and walls, under sinks, in drywall, hidden behind wallpaper or baseboards, in the ductwork or even on furniture and clothes. It can also grow outdoors under wood piles or mulch, gutters or abandoned trash.

Mold in a house can lay dormant until it gets the needed heat and humidity to grow and multiply. Additionally, it needs a food source, such as dust, dirt or some other organic debris.

While not everyone will react to this growth in the same way, those sensitive to allergic or toxic mold can develop alarming symptoms upon merely entering a contaminated room. The result can be a serious — even life-threatening — illness if not treated in time.

 If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to mold — or begin to experience dizziness, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath or other symptoms of illness — contact a mold specialist and have your property inspected as soon as possible. Licensed professionals will test the air quality of your house and take samples of the visual mold, which will be sent to a qualified lab for evaluation.

The EPA provides helpful information in its publication “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home” at www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html . And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses on the health hazards of mold exposure and provides recommendations for removing mold exposure at www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm#note .

In addition to the traditional methods for eradicating mold (such as using chemicals or chlorine bleach and physically removing infected surfaces), there is a new, enzyme-based alternative. Previously used as a protective spray for fruits and vegetables, it is now available for home use.

Jenn Sherwood, manager of Green Home Solutions of Maryland, says that the enzyme spray is a cost-effective, time-saving and environmentally responsible way for homeowners to eradicate mold. The process uses a “fogger,” which emits a fine spray that is able to penetrate most porous surfaces (such as drywall) or even non-visible areas — behind walls or inside insulation. This method of eradicating mold often eliminates the need to remove and replace the existing material.

The EPA regards this spray as nontoxic to humans or pets and harmless to both surfaces and belongings in the home. The enzyme works by creating a bond with the mold spore, and then breaking it down from the inside. As a result, the mold is chemically altered into a particle that is no longer allergenic, toxigenic, or able to reproduce other spores. This treatment can cost from one-third to one-tenth less than the cost of traditional methods.

Given that your insurance company may not cover mold damage, it’s important to take immediate action.

Here are three easy steps to help prevent mold when you go on vacation:

●Check for areas where water could accumulate — such as around windows, doors, bathroom leaks, kitchen sinks and washing machines.

●Clean surfaces of oil, soap, dust and dirt. Those materials are a feeding ground for mold when moisture is present.

●Set the temperature inside the house in the low 70s, if possible. If you suspect humidity, set a dehumidifier to keep the moisture level below 60 percent. In your closet, place a hanging moisture absorber (such as Damp Rid) that will trap excess humidity and eliminate musty odors.

Sandy Gadow, a freelance writer and author of “The Complete Guide to Your Real Estate Closing,”

Debunking some toxic mold myths

In 2000, a new “toxic mold” panic swept the country, and after 16 years of untold lawsuits and billions of dollars spent, major myths still plague and unnecessarily panic association boards, managers and homeowners. The myths all too often cause exaggerated repairs, unduly frightened residents, and conflict. In this and the next column, I will address thirteen pervasive toxic mold myths.

1. Mold is new. Mold, one of the earliest and simplest life forms, has existed for thousands of years. Almost 100 years ago, mold was the basis of the discovery of penicillin. Mold is ever-present, as is dust or pollen.

2. The scientific and medical communities confirm mold’s many dangers. In 2004, the National Institute of Medicine published its comprehensive study on indoor mold exposure, called “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health.” A central finding was: “Scientific evidence links mold … in homes and buildings to asthma symptoms in some people with the chronic disorder, as well as to coughing, wheezing, and upper respiratory tract symptoms in otherwise healthy people… However, the available evidence does not support an association between … mold and the wide range of other health complaints that have been ascribed.”

 That sounds like mold is as dangerous as dust or pollen to people with severe asthma. The announcement containing this finding is easily located by a web search, but it did not receive much press play – stories of frightened people living in tents are more interesting.

3. One must determine the kind of mold present. Mold consultants and plaintiff attorneys often describe some molds as worse than others. The most famous mold is stachybotrys chartarum, a mold producing infinitesimal quantities of a substance similar to botulism poison. However, the amount is so small they call it a “mycotoxin.” It sounds frightening, but the scientific community long ago debunked the myth that this or any mold was somehow poisonous to breathe. For example, read the National Institute of Health Fact Sheet on Mold, found at www.niehs.nih.gov.

4. California is protected by the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001. The act instructed the Department of Public Health to develop permissible exposure limits of the various mold strains. However, in 2005, and again in 2008, the DPH reported the task could not be completed with the scientific information available. Consequently, there is presently no official standard as to how many mold spores of any given variety are “unhealthy.”

5. Always start with a mold test. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends against mold testing. There is no standard as to how many mold spores are “unhealthy,” and indoor air sampling tests are extremely vulnerable to events in the home, which can change the results. A recent shower, window opening or carpet cleaning are some of the many factors that can completely change test outcomes.

Mold tests, to put it bluntly, primarily frighten the occupants and create a “need” for the expense of a mold consultant, and a second test after the area is cleaned. Since the health authorities have not confirmed any particular strain is more dangerous, and since there is no official standard as to how many airborne spores are unhealthy, there is rarely a good reason to spend the money on such a test.

 

12 Maintenance Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

Maintaining a healthy home goes beyond dusting and vacuuming. When is the last time you checked your smoke alarms? How about the last time you cleaned out your dryer vent? Follow the tips below to make sure your family and home are ready for a happy, clean spring season.

Clean Gutters

Grab a ladder, and check your gutters for debris. Remove as much as you can with your hands (Don’t forget to wear gloves!). Remove any leftover gunk with a garden hose. Take off any nozzle and have a helper turn on the water when you’re ready. Shove the hose into the downspout to power out of gooseneck bends. Make sure your downspouts channel water at least five feet from foundation walls.

Scrub Walls, Baseboards and Outlets

Scrub all the walls — in the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms and living areas — with a sponge or brush and mild soap and water. This includes baseboards and outlets. Make sure to completely dry outlet covers before replacing.

Replace Filters

Tom DiPace/AP Images

Replace all filters including water, range hood and air vent filters. You should replace these filters every 3-6 months depending on the type of filter you have.

Clean Faucets and Showerheads

Unscrew the faucet aerators, sink sprayers and showerheads, and soak them in equal parts vinegar and water solution. Let them soak for an hour, then rinse with warm water.

Clean Out the Dryer Vent

Sarah Wilson / Getty Images

A clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. To clean it, disconnect the vent from the back of the machine and use a dryer vent brush to remove lint. Outside your house, remove the dryer vent cover and use the brush to remove lint from the other end of the vent line. Make sure the vent cover flap moves freely.

Wash Exterior Windows

Hire a window-cleaning service to clean all exterior windows.

Keep Allergens Away

Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Keep dust, mold and pollen at bay by decluttering your home, checking pipes for leaks and keeping the air clean. Follow these 5 steps to an allergy-free home>>

Check Foundation Vents

A house with a crawl space has vents along the foundation walls. The vents provide air circulation that helps prevent excess moisture and mold growth, and they prevent critters from taking up residence underneath your home. The screens collect leaves and other debris from fall and winter. Spring is a great time to clean them out and check for damage. Clean the vents by hand or use a shop vacuum. Repair any damaged screens — critters can get through even the smallest holes.

Clean the Grill

Frank Murray

Your grill has most likely collected dust during fall and winter. Help your grill live a long life with these maintenance tips, whether you have a charcoal or gas grill.

Prep Your Garden

Julie Forney

You can’t have a successful garden without good soil. Follow these tips on how to prepare your soil to help you grow a lush garden.

Test Smoke Alarms

Test smoke alarms and CO detectors, and change out batteries as needed. It’s cheap, only takes a few minutes and can save your family’s lives.

Clean Outdoor Furniture

Emilee Ramsier

Outdoor entertaining season is just around the corner. Learn the best ways to clean all outdoor furniture (recipes included), from plastic to canvas.

https://www.diynetwork.com/made-and-remade/fix-it/12-maintenance-tips-to-get-your-home-ready-for-spring

Allergy alert: Mold spores hit record

Mold spores don’t receive nearly the attention of the Big 3 tormentors of the allergic – grass, trees, and ragweed

– but allergy experts say it’s a big reason why some continue to suffer even after those seasons wind down.

For those sensitive to mold spores – not to be confused with indoor mold – the first day of Fall 2016 was a landmark day.

With the Thursday morning report, the spore count hit an all-time high of 19,990, according to the Asthma Center’s Dr. Donald J. Dvorin, the official counter for the National Allergy Bureau for the last 30 years.

 Consider that 7,000 – that’s the number of spores that pass through a refrigerator-sized parcel of air in a 24-hour period – is considered “extreme.”

Unlike the Big 3, these are spores produced by fungi, rather than pollen grains.

They typically show up in early spring and persist in the fall until the weather turns cold. The Asthma Center says the numbers are highest midsummer to late fall.

mold spores in the air

Conditions this week have been perfectly aligned for a harvest of mold spores, Dvorin said.

They love to grow on fallen leaves, of which we have plenty around here. The rains Monday might have given them a production boost, and the subsequent warmth and dryness have been ideal for flight.

Inhaling the spores can trigger a reaction that apes that of inhaling tree, grass, or ragweed pollen.

The tree and grass seasons are done, and ragweed is winding down, so if you’re still feeling like you’re under attack from pollen, the culprit might well be a spore.

Mold spores might be the under-the-radar ugly ducklings of the allergens, but about 60 percent of Asthma Center patients who complain of grass, tree, or ragweed allergies also react to mold spores, Dvorin said.

For more on the spores and pollen, check out the Asthma Center site.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/weather/Allergy-alert-Mold-spores-hit-record.html

How to reduce mold spores and allergens in your home

How to reduce mold spores and allergens in your home . .

 

Learn How To Get Rid Of Mold Spores In Your Home And Decrease Allergies

At Fun Guy Inspections, we believe in taking the proactive approach when it comes to keeping your home safe from common dust mites, allergens, and mold spores that take place as a result of water damage. Safeguarding your home from these particles and spores is a very important responsibility for those that suffer with increased allergies, or asthma.  Those who do not take indoor air quality  seriously are placing themselves and their loved ones at risk.  reduce mold spores

  1. Using a Hypoallergenic Vacuum

Part of reducing mold spores and allergens from your carpeting is not an easy task and not one that can typically be done by hand. Your furniture fabric is also highly susceptible to the presence of particles, allergens, dust mites, and mold spores. Fortunately, a HEPA vacuum (also known as a hypoallergenic vacuum) can serve as the perfect solution.

  1. Using an Hypoallergenic Air Filter

In addition to vacuuming, a homeowner can also install a hypoallergenic air filter to reduce the amount of pollutants that freely circulate through the air. HEPA air filters (which means high efficiency particulate arrest) forces the air supply in your home through a fine mesh filter that is designed to trap all of the harmful allergens that typically float around unabated.

  1. Consider a Mold Inspection

If neither of the aforementioned methods work as hoped, it is time to contact the good people at www.funguyinspections.com for more information. In all likelihood, you will be in need of a mold inspection, as well as an air quality test.  We can determine if you need to reduce the mold spores and allergens in your home after testing.  reduce mold spores

  1. Mold Testing

When it comes time to conduct the mold and allergen testing, this process is completed when you allow our experts to take samples of the air inside your home. In order to make an accurate reading, we also take a sample of the air outside, in order to compare them on a side by side basis.

Certified mold inspectors can then let you know what their determinations are and whether your home and its occupants are at risk. If the levels are higher than recommended, you and your family may be at risk of mold exposure.

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Invasive Mold can cause aspergillosis

inhaling mold spores and mold in my homeEarly diagnosis, effective therapy vital for treatment of deadly invasive mold

New guidelines focus on new treatments, early diagnosis of fungal infection

The updated guidelines focus on the diagnosis and treatment of the major forms of aspergillosis: allergic, chronic and invasive, the latter which kills 40 percent to 80 percent of those with widespread infection. An airborne invasive mold, aspergillus often is found in air conditioning units, compost piles and damp or flood-damaged homes or buildings. While generally harmless, it can cause an allergic reaction or chronic lung problems in some people and serious, invasive disease in vulnerable patients. Those at highest risk are people whose immune systems are suppressed, such as those undergoing stem cell and lung and other organ transplants. The infection also can affect those with severe influenza or who are on long-term steroids, or patients in the intensive care unit. “Invasive mold (aspergillosis) often is overlooked, but early diagnosis and treatment are key,” said Thomas Patterson, MD, lead author of the guidelines and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease and professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and South Texas Veterans Health Care System, San Antonio. “These are complicated infections with a number of treatment options. Patients really benefit from a multidisciplinary approach, including the expertise of an infectious disease specialist.” Updating the 2008 guidelines, the new guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of aspergillosis highlight the increased evidence for antifungal therapy recommendations as well as diagnostic tests. The improved use of diagnostic tools has enhanced the ability to identify the infection early, the guidelines note. These include blood tests, cultures and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Because some of the methods are invasive — such as taking a culture directly from the lungs — physicians often are reluctant to proceed. Because the infection is so deadly, physicians should be aggressive in diagnosing patients suspected of having the infection, Dr. Patterson notes. Additionally, new more-effective and better-tolerated antifungal medications, or versions of existing medications (e.g. extended release) have improved care, including isavuconazole and posaconazole. In some cases, combination therapy with voriconazole and an echinocandin is recommended for certain patients at highest risk. Because invasive molds like aspergillis are s so deadly, the guidelines recommend some patients at highest risk be treated with antifungals to prevent infection, including those with neutropenia and graft versus host disease (GVHD). Another prevention strategy is the use of special filtration systems for hospitalized immunosuppressed patients. Invasive aspergillosis affects about 200,000 people worldwide, Dr. Patterson said. The allergic form is most common and affects more than 4 million people worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those with asthma and cystic fibrosis are at highest risk of developing allergic aspergillosis. The other major form is chronic pulmonary aspergillosis, which can affect healthy people, and occurs in about 400,000 people worldwide, the CDC notes. While requiring treatment, the allergic and chronic forms of aspergillosis typically aren’t deadly. AT A GLANCEinvasive mold cause respiratory problems

  • A deadly fungal infection, invasive aspergillosis should be diagnosed early to improve care, according to new guidelines from IDSA. New and improved therapies are expanding treatment options.
  • Immunocompromised patients are at highest risk for invasive aspergillosis. The mortality rate in those patients is 40 percent or higher.
  • Aspergillus is a mold that is in the air we breathe, particularly in air conditioning units and flood-damaged areas.
  • In addition to the invasive form, aspergillus can cause chronic and allergic forms of disease.

https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/aspergillosis/ https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/aspergillosis/