Rain and Water Damage – Will I get Mold?

 

With heavy rainfall comes a tremendous amount of moisture.  Leaks and condensation increase, temperatures and warm drying daylight decrease.

These are optimal conditions for mold growth, both interior and exterior. As exterior mold spores explode in number some of them are bound to settle in our indoor environments. Here’s an overview from the EPA on Mold growth in the home.

So what can you do to reduce to likelihood mold will take hold?

I have some tips to minimize the conditions conducive to mold growth and maximize you and your family’s health.

Mold needs 3 conditions for optimal growth:

  • The Right temperature. Some mold species can grow at low (below 50 degrees F) and other species at high (above 90 degrees F), but most common mold species that grow indoors grow ideally at 55-85 degrees F. Unfortunately this is the optimal temperature for human comfort. So it is unlikely you can keep your home at a temperature that is inhospitable for mold growth. So we will not concentrate on that.
  • An organic food source. Different species of mold like to eat different things, but they all need something organic to munch on. Many mold species love cellulose, i.e. wood and paper. These are the natural composters and when it rains these species start to eat up all the fallen branches and leaves in the forest, as well as our yards emitting millions of spores that make their way into our homes. Inside our homes molds like to eat wood. This is what “dry rot” is, fungi usually consisting of 2 species, Ascospores and Basidiospores. Other species like to eat paper, such as cardboard boxes, books, and paper backed wallboard, such as sheetrock.  Pennicillium/Aspergillus and Stachybotrys (colloquially known as toxic black mold) are often found on wet or moist paper. Cladosporium, the species most often found growing on windowsills and in bathrooms, can eat a variety of Biofilms (household dust consisting of epithelial cells (dead skin cells) insect parts, pet dander, natural fibers such as cotton and linen, etc.).   Some mold food sources we cannot easily remove from our home such as framing lumber and wallboard, but others we can, such as cardboard boxes.
  • This is the big one and the one I will be giving tips on below. Mold needs moisture. There is a common saying in our business: “Mold is the symptom, moisture is the problem”. Mold growth either needs liquid water or high humidity. Liquid water can come from condensation on windowsills and in bathrooms, or from leaks, either internal or external. Without liquid water mold will not become active unless the humidity is high, usually 60-80% RH depending on the species. When the humidity is high enough, mold can become active and grow by absorbing moisture directly from the air.

Here are some tips to reduce both food sources and moisture in your home and thus reduce the likelihood and amount of mold that may grow inside your home:

Let’s start outside. When it rains water can easily enter what we call the “Building Envelope”. It is very important to make sure your site drainage system is clear from debris and working properly to move rain water away from your home, foundation, and crawlspace.

  • Clean the roof of any leave or other debris.
  • Clear gutters
  • Make sure downspouts are in good repair, not clogged, and properly attached any extensions or the site drainage system.
  • Make sure all property drains are clear of debris and flowing freely.

Check the “Building Envelope” for possible sites of water intrusion, i.e. leaks.

  • Window and doorframes are spots where water can intrude. Check all door and window frame caulking for cracks and gaps and repair where necessary.
  • Inspect the sealant around roof penetrations. Repair where necessary.
  • Check building siding for cracks, peeling paint, holes, etc. Anywhere water may be able to get in.

After a heavy rain walk around the entire house and look for standing water, and clogged drains. Look inside the crawlspace and make sure there is no hidden flooding. Carefully check the inside of the house, take a close look at the ceilings, around windows and doors, and walls for small leaks. Because all big leaks start out as small leaks! Check under sinks and around tubs and toilets to make sure there are no plumbing leaks adding moisture to the interior of your home.

Assuming there are no leaks and your drainage system is working well, what other sources of moisture can address?

Inside a home the occupants can produce a tremendous amount of moisture. On average each human occupant expires (breathes) and perspires (sweats) about 2 POUNDS of water into the air a day. Pets can also add to this moisture source. During the winter we often close out windows, as it is cold out, and most residential heating systems have no way of bringing in fresh air or ventilating out moist, stale interior air. Thus interior humidity can often increase to levels above 60%, which is ideal for mold growth.

So what can we do about Mold Growth?

  • Monitor interior humidity. Small, portable humidity monitors are available for around $10-15 and can be placed around the home. If RH (relative humidity) is consistently above 65%, action should be taken. Ideally, interior RH should be between 45-55% RH. Below 40% RH mucous membranes start to dry out and can cause occupant discomfort.
  • Open windows when practicable to help flush out moisture and other interior contaminants. Even 1 hour a day can make a big difference, although 3-4 hours is recommended.
  • Run ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens to help exhaust excess humidity from cooking and bathing. Run fans in bathrooms for at least 20 minutes after bathing. Timer switches can be installed on most bathroom exhaust fans and are highly recommended.
  • Wipe excess condensation from windowsills. Inspect windowsills often. Do not keep curtains closed as this can trap moist, cool air and promote excessive condensation.

The above tips can help reduce moisture sources, what can do we do about reducing mold food sources?

  • Do not keep books, papers, or cardboard boxes in moist areas such as attics, garages, basements or crawlspaces. Attic and crawlspaces should not be used as storage areas, but if you must store items in a garage or basement, we recommend sealed plastic bins.
  • Keep areas mold likes to grow clean and dry. This means cleaning dust (biofilms) from windowsills, baseboards, and doorframes. Vacuum carpet regularly with a HEPA vacuum. The recommendation is to vacuum and sweep one day per week PER OCCUPANT, including pets!
  • Check behind drapes and furniture for hidden condensation and biofilms. Allow airflow to reach these areas by opening drapes often and moving furniture a few inches from walls, especially exterior walls that can become colder and promote condensation.

Also, trust your nose, that musty smell is a sure indication of active mold growth. That musty smell is caused by microbial VOC’s, airborne chemicals that are a metabolic by-product of mold digestion.

If you think you have a hidden source of mold, call a professional Certified Microbial Investigator for a full mold inspection.  Excessive interior mold can cause structural damage to your home and its contents, as well as allergic and respiratory reactions in some occupants. Take heed and be diligent, and you can survive this hopefully wet winter relatively mold-free.

Millions of people suffering from mold toxicity go undiagnosed, experts say

Toxic mold exposure is on the rise, and most people aren’t even aware they’re at risk, according to experts.

“There are millions of people suffering from mold toxicity that don’t know it because it’s going majorly undiagnosed,” said Dr. Neil

Nathan, a Board Certified Family Physician and author of the book “Toxic” (Victory Belt Publishing).

Mold, which releases mycotoxins in the air due to water damage, is often invisible with the naked eye, but dangerous to those with toxin sensitivities. Nathan said not everyone who is exposed to mold gets sick.

“We do believe that it’s somewhat genetic so certain people are more genetically predisposed to it than others,” Nathan said. “So you can have several people living in a moldy environment and only one of them will get sick.”

Doctors estimate 25 percent of the population (or 1 in 4 people) have the gene that makes them more susceptible to mold sensitivities. Some of the symptoms for mold toxicity include fatigue, headaches, nausea, anxiety, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, muscle aches, brain fog, weight gain, adrenal fatigue and sensitivities to light and sound. Nathan, who has a website for mold toxicity resources (www.neilnathanmd.com) said it’s never too late to get treatment, but curing it can only happen by clearing all toxic mold from your home, office, car and eventually the body.

“My symptoms got so bad that it affected everything,” said Chicago radio personality Kathy Hart, who discovered she’s one of the “susceptible 25 percent” after being misdiagnosed by several doctors and specialists.

Physical therapist Michelle Dwyer, who initially treated Hart for vestibular symptoms such as vertigo and dizziness, said many of her patients with chronic issues discover mold to be part of the reason they aren’t fully recovering.“One neurologist told me I was just ‘stressed’ and that I needed to see a psychiatrist, and I walked out of his office in tears,” said Hart, who was suffering from headaches, dizziness, adrenal fatigue, panic attacks and noise and light sensitivities. “I’d been to two different neurologists, an eye doctor, and they all said it was just stress. It was finally my physical therapist that suggested I look into mold.”

“We only have a few physicians in our area who know about mold and the reason they do is because they’ve been through it themselves,” said Dwyer, who was treated for mold toxicity after discovering her home had water damage. “If more medical professionals got educated about mold toxicity and its effects on the human body, there would be fewer cases of misdiagnosis. They came out with studies in 2017 that showed mold can be a direct link to Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia, and once these patients get treatment for mold, their symptoms improved. Cognitive impairment is a big factor with mold. So is muscle and joint pain and lethargy, which can be misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue, the list goes on.”

Nathan agreed and said many doctors need to consider a person’s environment when assessing their symptoms.

“These illnesses are increasing and if we do not grasp this, take it seriously and monitor our exposure, all of us are going to be sick,” Nathan said.

Here are tips to treat and diagnose mold toxicity/sensitivities.

Get tested

Dwyer and Nathan recommend www.survivingmold.com or www.ISEAI.org as resources for testing and diagnosing mold toxicity.

“The single most useful way to find out is to do a urine mycotoxin test,” Nathan said. “This is simply collecting the urine, mailing it to the company and then they measure. If you get a positive test in the urine, this means there is an excess amount of toxin in you and you need to get to work on treating it.”

“After you test yourself, you need to have your home checked and there are tests you can do at home where you’re just taking a wipe and wiping the surfaces,” Dwyer said.

Do your research

“Consumers need to be careful because there are some companies who will always find mold and insist that they can remove it for six figures,” Nathan said. “Be discerning and only use people who come highly recommended by trusted sources.”

Don’t rule anything out

Nathan and Dwyer said mold can live anywhere, old or new construction. All it takes is 48 hours for it to develop.

“I lived in a condo that had been rehabbed and it looked fine but I found out the roof had leaked for years before I moved in there so I was slowly getting exposed,” Dwyer said. “And college dorm rooms now are under scrutiny. So many places go unchecked, it’s up to you to be your own advocate.”

“I know someone who had dogs who peed on the carpet so much that the wood underneath started growing mold and they were affected,” Hart said. “There are so many different sources.”

Learn self-care

Dwyer said to get an air purifier in your home and bedrooms with a “good HEPA filter.”

“I also teach my patients to do lymphatic massage on themselves to help with the drainage,” Dwyer said. “And intense sweating from an infrared sauna or Epsom salt bath are great ways to clear toxins out.”

Get inspired to do something about it

“I felt like I was going crazy because no doctor could tell me what was wrong,” Hart said. “Sadly, it’s common for many people to feel that way because much of the medical community isn’t familiar with these mold illnesses. I hope that by sharing my story, it will bring much needed awareness to the condition and help those who are suffering finally get properly diagnosed.”

Article Source: https://chicago.suntimes.com/working/mold-toxicity-goes-undiagnosed-for-millions/

 

Jenniffer Weigel is the director of community relations for the Sun-Times and has a lifelong interest in wellness and related topics. She’s a frequent contributor to the Wednesday Well section. 

Deciding Whether or Not to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of air duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.

If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

On the other hand, if family members are experiencing unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you should discuss the situation with your doctor. EPA has published the following publications for guidance on identifying possible indoor air quality problems and ways to prevent or fix them.

You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should occasionally be cleaned. While the debate about the value of periodic duct cleaning continues, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental, provided that it is done properly.

On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

checklist

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.
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Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects)

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Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

Original Article Source:https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/should-you-have-air-ducts-your-home-cleaned

Mold After A Disaster

Highlights

  • People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.
  • If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.
  • Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.
  • If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy N95 masks (or a respirator with a higher protection level) at your local home supply store and wear one while in the building. Make certain that you follow instructions on the package for fitting the mask tightly to your face. Even if you go back into the building for a short time and are not cleaning up mold, you need to wear an N95 mask.

After natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, excess moisture and standing water contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.

People at Greatest Risk from Mold

  • People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.
  • People with immune suppression (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy, and people who have received an organ transplant) are more susceptible to mold infections. People with a weakened immune system, especially people receiving treatment for cancer, people who have had an organ or stem cell transplant, and people taking medicines that suppress the immune system, should avoid cleaning up mold. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.

Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure

People who are sensitive to mold may experience stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. People allergic to mold may have difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems and with chronic lung diseases, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.

Safely Preventing Mold Growth

Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building. Position fans to blow air out doors or windows.

See the fact sheet for drying out your house, Reentering Your Flooded Home and the Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters.

  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Porous, noncleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
  • Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. See recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • If you wish to disinfect, refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, A Brief Guide to Mold and Moisture in Your Home[1.4 MB, 20 Pages].

If there is mold growth in your home, you should clean up the mold and fix any water problem, such as leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing. Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.

To remove mold growth from hard surfaces use commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for use (see product label). Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete.

If you choose to use bleach to remove mold:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes
  • Open windows and doors to provide fresh air. Use fans to dry out the building. Position fans to blow air out doors or windows.
  • Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
  • If the area to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Also available is A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home.[1.4 MB, 20 Pages]
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.
  • For more information on personal safety while cleaning up after a natural disaster, see Response Worker Health and Safety.

If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy N95 masks (or respirators with a higher protection level) at your local home supply store and wear one while in the building. Make certain that you follow instructions on the package for fitting the mask tightly to your face. Even if you go back into the building for a short time and are not cleaning up mold, you still need to wear an N95 mask.”

Original Article Source: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/index.html

Need to clean up ash from the Woolsey fire? Follow these guidelines for safety

Ash from the Woolsey and Hill fires can have a far reach, raining down on communities many miles away.

Areas of California have not only been completely devastated by the recent wildfires in Northern California and the Malibu area, but many far away from the flames have been impacted in other ways with power outages or debris from the fires.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department sent out tips via social media on Wednesday on how to safely discard of ash and food that may have been impacted.

Wash off the ash

Ash may look like fun snowflakes to children, but make sure they don’t play in it – especially when it’s wet or damp.  And make sure any toys they play with are washed.

Don’t forget to also wash your pets that may have gotten ash on their fur.

Always wear gloves during clean up, along with long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid skin contact. Wash ash off as soon as possible if it gets on your skin.

If you eat vegetable or fruits from the garden, make sure you wash them before eating.

Don’t spread it around

Don’t use leaf blowers — they will push ash into the air and spread it out.

“Instead, gently sweep indoor and outdoor surfaces, followed by wet mopping,” the post reads. “A solution of bleach and water may be used to disinfect an area.”

Your regular home vacuum won’t cut it, and even shop vacuums can’t filter out small particles. Instead, they blow small particles into the air where they can be breathed in. However, HEPA-filter vacuums can filter out small particles.

Use a disposable mask, an easy item to find at home or hardware stores, when cleaning up. Make sure it has a rating of N-95 or better.

Avoid washing ash into the storm drains whenever possible. Ash and soot can become very slippery when combined with water.

“Walk carefully, wear boots with good soles, and use as little water as possible when cleaning an area of ash,” the post reads.

Throw it out

If ash has gotten onto plastic bottles, toss them.

“It is not enough to rinse off the bottles as these particles contaminate the caps, making them very difficult to decontaminate,” the advisory reads

Food that has not been stored in waterproof or airtight containers and has been covered with ash should be discarded. This includes products that have been stored in cardboard or other soft packaging, according to the sheriff’s department.

Food stored in sealed, previously unopened glass or metal cans or jars, such as baby food, should be safe for use, but the containers should be cleaned before they are opened and contents transferred to another container before being eaten.

If a power outage has impacted your area for a short time, your food should be safe. But if your power has been out for several hours, it’s best to throw away perishable foods such as meat, dairy products and eggs.

Items that have thawed in the freezer should be thrown away — do not re-freeze thawed food.

“Remember, if in doubt, throw it out.”

Original Article Source:https://www.dailynews.com/2018/11/14/need-to-clean-up-ash-from-the-woolsey-fire-follow-these-guidelines-for-safety/

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