Mold is an ongoing problem in existing buildings and can cause significantly poor indoor air quality affecting the occupants’ health. Mold isn’t always visible and can very well exist in ducts. It comes from outside but grows in areas where there is significant humidity or water damage such as roof and plumbing leaks, flooding etc. Mold produces microscopic cells called spores that spread through the air, forming new mold colonies when they find the right conditions.
Mold can exist in any building if a combination (right conditions) of the following is present:
- Fungal Spores, settling on the surface
- Temperature between 40-70 def F
- Nutrition source: wood is an obvious one, but this could even be cellulose based insulation.
- Moisture (Liquid or Relative Humidity above 70%)
Health Impacts: The impact of mold on your health is dependent on the type and quantity present and the sensitivity of the person exposed. Again, exposure isn’t limited to inhalation, these toxins can be absorbed through the skin and also be ingested. Common health impacts are allergic reactions, such as runny noses, itchy-watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and throat irritation to chronic conditions such as sinusitis and asthma. Fungi also produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) during the process of degrading a substance, such as wood, to obtain nutrition. The “musty” characteristic is a sign of VOC contamination. Exposure to high levels of VOCs can cause irritation to mucous membranes, headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness. Some fungi can cause invasive diseases in individuals whose immune system is already compromised, for example seniors, children, those with AIDS or chemotherapy patients. Mold Stachybotrys chartarum, is a type of greenish-black mold, associated with severe health effects in some people.
Other operational and maintenance steps that can be followed are listed below: