Anyone east of the Rockies will tell you this has been a wet year. It wasn’t just that Hurricanes Florence and Michael soaked parts of the South. It wasn’t just that this year’s drenching storms were numerous and tracked unusually far north (one, Alberto, made a historic appearance all the way up in Michigan).
It was also that the rest of the Eastern Seaboard just simply got wetter. In Wilmington, N.C., 60 inches of rain broke an annual record set in 1966. Around Scranton, Pa., rainfall broke a 1945 record. Wisconsin, Colorado and Maryland all saw 1-in-1,000-year rainfall events. And dozens of locations, like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Charleston, W.Va., had their second- or third-wettest summers on record.
In some houses, mold spores are nothing more than a nuisance—staining furniture or making the basement smell funny. But in other homes they can put people in the hospital or even kill them. Many molds are associated with allergy or asthma attacks; some have been linked to serious complications in immune-compromised populations, and cancer. It is hard to say just yet how much the latest wet year has affected people’s respiratory systems, but it is certainly already hitting their pocketbooks.
“This year there’s just a lot of mold tests being done,” says Michael Berg, the laboratory director for EMLab P&K, one of the biggest U.S. mold-testing companies. He says staffing has become a challenge after two hurricanes and relentless storms along the Eastern Seaboard: “We are struggling, as far as having enough hands on deck in a year like this.”
As climate change and CO2 emissions continue to shape life on Earth, we may be seeing a lot more flooding—with higher sea levels and more powerful storms. In some ways this year might be a glimpse into a wet and moldy future. But what will that mean in practical terms?
Modelling the effects of climate change and rising CO2 levels is notoriously difficult, and even more so when it comes to the diverse world of fungi. It is a little like asking, “How will climate change affect animals?”—some may benefit while others suffer. In some cases the heat will make for fertile breeding grounds for fungi. In others the additional CO2 might irritate them, thereby prompting them to release more spores. “It’s a stress response. The fungus wants to survive, and the way it tries to survive is to produce more offspring—and that means more spores,” says Naresh Magan, a mycologist at England’s Cranfield University. Aspergillus fumigatus, a member of what is perhaps the most common genus of mold to irritate humans, seems to release far more spores when scientists raise it in warmer, CO2-rich enclosures. Other researchers have suggested that increased CO2 might create more leaf litter—where a lot of mold grows when it is not in your house—adding much-needed nitrogen for fungi.
And the spores they produce might be more harmful. In addition to the number of spores a mold puts out, evidence suggests higher CO2 might change the spores themselves. Some mold spores are more than eight times more allergenic today than in pre-industrial times (though it is not clear this trend will be maintained as CO2 levels continue to rise).
Scientists are not completely certain as to how this works. Unlike plants—which breathe in CO2 and can benefit from its increase—fungi take in oxygen, so changes in the chemistry of their spores may be due to some kind of secondary effect. Experts have suggested that more CO2 can lead to more acidic soil or indirectly change fungi respiration. Or there might be some unknown mechanism that causes different responses in different molds. Whatever that mechanism might be, higher CO2 somehow triggers the more allergenic proteins in many molds—which may be why so many more people are allergic to mold today than in generations past.
But not all fungi react the same way to environmental changes. Experiments suggest Alternaria—a genus of mold that causes respiratory problems and is often found in spoiled crops and houses—may actually decrease the allergens in its spores in a warmer, higher-CO2 world. In many cases, it is not clear what chemicals cause adverse health effects from mold spores, let alone how they will respond to a changing climate and atmosphere.
Magan has exposed many types of mold to different levels of CO2, heat and moisture. He says molds such as Stachybotrys—a dangerous group often referred to as “black mold”—might become less allergenic as CO2 increases. But when Aspergillus species are put in a higher CO2 environment, they increase production of aflatoxin B1, a potent cancer-causing chemical that the mold can deposit on some types of produce and livestock feed.
Some of these effects will change, Magan says, as molds adapt and mutate. This might mean the molds will adjust to the stress of climate change—but it could also mean they will adjust to how we treat them. The human body is an excellent place for molds to grow, but most people’s bodies are able to fight them off (though we might start coughing or get runny noses in the process). But in people with compromised immune systems—after stem cell therapy or an organ transplant, for example—Aspergillus can be lethal. Studies have documented an increasing ability among such molds to resist medical treatments including triazole, the most potent anti-fungal in such cases, even in patients who have never taken the drug.
Another problem with mold today is that many energy-efficient homes are designed to capture and conserve heat—which means they can also trap moisture and prevent ventilation, Magan adds. Heat and moisture create a perfect environment for mold. In a bitter irony, architects battling the very things that encourage molds globally may be making them more comfortable in your basement.
But people living in modern, energy-efficient homes are not the ones likely to suffer most from the long-term effects of mold. As is often the case with climate change and rising CO2 levels, the repercussions will likely be worst among the poor, especially in underdeveloped economies where many people cannot purge moisture and mold from their houses.
“With asthma and chronic pulmonary disease, it’s a vicious cycle. [Patients] go and get medication and they feel a little bit better, but they come back into the same home environment,” says Maureen Lichtveld, a global health professor at Tulane University who works with marginalized communities in the Caribbean region as well as the U.S. Southeast.
Lichtveld studies many forms of disease that follow disaster and climate change, but she finds mold especially frustrating because it is highly preventable and relatively easy to control in the home. And if it is not removed, mold can exacerbate chronic asthma and other diseases and stunt a child’s learning and growth. In Puerto Rico asthma was already 23 percent higher than on the mainland—with twice as many asthma-related deaths—before Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the island in 2017. Many reports suggest it has spiked since then, though objective numbers are not yet available.
In places such as South Florida, where seasonal flooding is common, the mold remediation business has become especially competitive, according to Berg. In other places hit by hurricanes or heavy rains, residents might be facing mold problems for the first time. But whether from flooding, increased spore output or changes in how it functions, mold is likely to become a bigger part of our lives.
Tips* for avoiding the effects of airborne mold spores:
Dorms are being deep cleaned at the University of Maryland, as students are growing increasingly concerned that mold problems may be linked to the death of a freshman. According to Fox News reporting, Olivia Paregol, 18, died from the same rare virus that killed 11 children in a New Jersey healthcare facility.
Paregol developed a cough, which later worsened to pneumonia. She died from adenovirus on Nov. 18 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This is less than three weeks after the school learned she had the illness. The university has since said five more students have illnesses tied to the same rare virus.
Some students said they found mold on their shoes and clothes in their dorm back in August — and believes the fungus caused them to fall ill. After they repeatedly alerted university officials, about 500 students were moved to temporary housing while the school worked to clean the dorms.
Paregol – who suffered from Crohn’s disease and a weakened immune system – lived in Elkton Hall, one of the dorms evacuated for cleaning.
Dr. David McBride, head of the university’s campus health center, said the university has stepped up the cleaning efforts and is on high alert.
Earlier this year these same dorms were involved in a study that looked at how influenza spread in close quarters.
Mold Inspections LA | Not only is mold unsightly, but there are also numerous dangers of mold-mildew that can result in a variety of problems; from a mildew mite infestation for an allergic reaction. Mold accumulates in wet as well as poorly ventilated buildings. Combined with the apparent mildew, there may a distressing odor, water discolorations, condensation, peeling or damaged paint or wall structure paper, a wet basement, and position water under or about the house.
Based on the World Health Company (WHO), 15 percent of dwellings in cold climates have signals of dampness and 5 percent have signals of mildew problems. The numbers in warm climates are 20 percent for dampness and 25 percent for mold. This problem is more common in low-income communities and rental accommodations, often due to lack of appropriate ventilation, heating, and insulation. Plus, global warming and its effect on the weather can boost the problem of mold and dampness even more. Mold is harmful and toxic due to the mycotoxins, which may contribute to several health problems. More than 50 molds are considered including stachybotrys, difficult, alternaria, trichoderma and cladosporium.
Exposure to mildew inside a home can have profound effects on your health through skin ingestion, contact and inhalation. After all, you spend several hours a day at home. Plus, children and elderly people with fragile immunities spend most of their time indoors.
Prolonged exposure to high levels of interior dampness can lead to chronic health problems like asthma. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 6 million children in the United States have asthma. While genes play a lead role, child years asthma, in addition, has been associated with indoor mildew growing in a child’s home. Within a 2003 research released in the American Journal of Epidemiology, research workers analyzed several studies and reported that there surely is constant evidence that dampness exacerbates preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma, however they said it had not been clear whether it also causes these conditions.
Later, a 2012 research published in Environmental Health Perspectives reported that mildew publicity during early youth increases the threat of asthma by 80 percent. Aside from asthma, mildew publicity is also associated with bronchitis. A 2010 research published in Environmental Health reported that residential dampness and mildew are associated with substantial and statistically critical increases in both respiratory infections and bronchitis. It emphasized managing dampness and mold in buildings to prevent a substantial proportion of respiratory infections.
The association between mold and asthma, and also bronchitis, makes it more important to remediate water damage in homes, particularly in lower-income, urban communities where the problem of the mold is a common issue.
Household molds boost the risk of rhinitis. In fact, those already suffering from a rhinitis illness will have more severe symptoms when exposed to mold. A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society reports that although indoor dampness or mold exposure in relation to rhinitis symptoms does not have a strong relationship, there is a strong connection between high in-home fungal concentrations and development of allergic rhinitis in a child’s first five many years of life.
A subsequent 2013 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology provides evidence that dampness and mildew publicity at home are determinants of rhinitis and its own allergic rhinitis, rhinoconjunctivitis, and subcategories. The organizations were most powerful with mold smell, suggesting the need for microbial causal real estate agents.
If you’re hanging out in a mold-affected home and you also get frequent headaches, the reason why may be mildew toxicity. Headaches, including migraine headaches, are common outcomes of mildew toxicity. Mold can result in headaches or a migraine consequently of an allergic attack to mildew spores in the air. It could even be credited to sinus pressure the effect of a sinus disease or swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose cavities.
Along with headaches, you may even have problems with fatigue and tiredness. Furthermore, you might experience pain in muscle tissue and joints. To prevent headaches and migraines credited to mold toxins, you’ll need to eliminate your exposure to mold.
Mold toxins can even affect the body’s immune system, thus making you more prone to illness. Heavily infested homes can have fungi that can produce volatile natural and organic compounds, which impair the disease fighting capability. The problem is actually common in small kids, whose immune systems aren’t fully developed. When their physiques are exposed to mildew or antigens, their immune system systems may react abnormally, creating regular health problems.
Based on the American Academy of Pediatrics, toxic results from mold could cause severe health issues in babies, including acute vomiting, diarrhea, asthma attacks and even pulmonary hemorrhaging in severe instances. Actually, long-term exposure can result in death. Not only children, even people living around toxic dark mold for long hours are more susceptible to get attacks and be sick.
Homes heavily infested with mildew can cause eyesight and eyesight problems, too.
Mycotoxins can be there in the air, thereby easily getting into a person’s eye. The mycotoxins are poisonous to cells, so when they touch the cells in your eye, they cause problems. Toxins in the mold can cause eye problems like inflammation in the eyes, soreness, watery eyes, bloodshot eyes and blurry vision, to name a few.
Toxic mold can enter your body through the minute pores present on your skin. Those who have sensitive skin can suffer from severe skin problems, especially after exposure to black mold.
The symptoms may include skin inflammation, pink or brown skin rashes, blisters and severe itchiness. At times, it can cause yellowing of the skin as if you are suffering from jaundice.
A rash due to mold can be very itchy and excessive scratching increases the risk of breaking the skin and triggering an infection. This type of skin problem may need antibiotics or other treatments prescribed by a health care provider.
So long as you remain subject to mildew, you are likely to have signs or symptoms, despite having treatment. To eliminate the mold-related epidermis problems, you will need to avoid mold-affected areas completely.
Are you concerned that black mold could be lurking in your kitchen, perhaps hiding in the cupboards? Not only is it unattractive, it can also cause respiratory problems for your family. The following guide can help you locate, prevent and destroy any black mold that has taken up residence in your kitchen.
Where to find black mold in the kitchen?
Black mold tends to grow in dark, damp areas, which means it could be festering in a kitchen cabinet or cupboard for a long time before you uncover it. For this reason, it’s vital that you identify the areas in your kitchen that are going to be most prone to mold growth. This will give you the necessary knowledge so that you can find the problem before it gets too bad. Places to check include the following:
Underneath the kitchen sink. Check the cabinet bottom and the back wall where the sink pipes enter for dampness or past signs of water damage, such as bubbling or peeling surfaces. Even if black mold isn’t visible, it could be growing on the underside of the sink cabinet or behind the wallboard.
Under the refrigerator. A leak from a water line to the icemaker or simple condensation collection underneath the fridge could create the optimum environment for fungal growth. If your kitchen flooring looks like it has suffered water damage or if there is standing water and mildew present, black mold could also be growing under the floorboards. Also, check any cupboards near the fridge to make sure there is no moisture damage.
Cabinets above or next to wall mounted microwaves or oven hoods. Another common trouble spot is behind the cabinets that border microwaves and hoods. This is because moisture and condensation from cooking can accumulate in these cupboard areas, especially if ventilation is insufficient.
Kitchen mold prevention
Since prevention is key to black mold management in the home, now that you know your kitchen’s trouble spots you are better able to stop it from growing in the first place.
Begin by checking underneath the sink on a regular basis and fixing leaks immediately. Keep the sink cupboard area clean and neat so you can empty it out for a quick leak check regularly. If you are like many people and use this cupboard area for cleaning supplies, place the supplies in a handled carrier so you can quickly pull everything out. A good time to check is after you have been using the sink, such as after dishwashing. If there is a leak, it is likely going to be damp if you just drained the sink.
As for the fridge, it’s good practice to pull it out and dust the rear coils every one to two months, anyway. Simply pencil this chore into your home maintenance calendar. You can then use this opportunity to check beneath the fridge for leaks and to make sure water lines are attached and not leaking.
Finally, inspect the area around and under the cabinets, microwave, and hood after you use the oven or microwave. If you find a lot of moisture or condensation, chances are that you need to add a stronger fan or better ventilation to the kitchen.
Kitchen mold removal
Black mold can be tenacious when it comes to removal. Although you can often remove the visible black mold by yourself, there is likely hidden mold that you cannot find for removal as easily. The basic removal process is as follows:
Step 1: Testing Testing is done if there is signs of moisture but no obvious visual signs of fungal growth. Testing may also be done if there is light visible growth, since the remediation firm will need to determine the extent of the growth. Step 2: Seal the infested area The home is sealed. This means that the area that has mold, in this case the kitchen, is sealed off from the rest of the house so that black mold removal doesn’t send spores into other areas. Step 3: Identification and replacement The cause of moisture is identified and fixed. Otherwise, the mold will simply return if there is still a moisture source. This may mean the removal and replacement of cabinets and wallboard so they cleaning can occur under them. Last step: Removal and cleaning The actual removal and remediation begins. The crew will use a disinfecting and cleaning solution that removes and kills the fungus. Stains from the black mold may be present on cabinets, but these can usually be painted over and repaired.
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.
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.
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,”