Losing Sleep Over “Black Mold”?
Often times, our Indoor Air Quality department receives calls from concerned homeowners, asking if their house has “toxic black mold”. Commonly we find that there are misconceptions with the relationship between molds and toxins. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, “the term ‘toxic mold’ is not accurate.” While certain molds can have the ability to produce toxins, or specifically mycotoxins, the molds themselves are not toxic. Reports of hazards caused by toxigenic molds within a home are rare and their link to human health has yet to be proven. As recommended by the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), molds that have to ability to produce these mycotoxins should not be considered any differently than other molds found growing inside a building.
So, does that mean there is nothing to worry about? Not necessarily. Mold can have an impact on human health, however, the effects from mold exposure can vary greatly from person to person. Some individuals can have an immediate or delayed response from being in a “moldy” environment, while others have no symptoms at all. To further complicate matters, the extent of mold sensitivities can also vary among individuals. One person may be sensitive to most, or even all molds, while another person may be sensitive to only one particular type of mold. The range of responses can present as irritation, allergies, asthma, or infections. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that, “the advice of a medical professional should always be sought if there are any emerging health issues…Currently, there are no federal standards or recommendations, (e.g., OSHA, NIOSH, EPA) for airborne concentrations of mold or mold spores. Scientific research on the relationship between mold exposures and health effects is ongoing.”
It is important to remember that mold spores are found everywhere, both inside and outside of the home. Eliminating all traces of mold, inside of a building, would be impractical or perhaps even impossible. The microscopic spores of fungi can enter a building through open doors and windows, through ventilation for heating and cooling systems, attach to clothing, or hanging onto the fur of a pet. It may seem that nothing can be done to avoid mold growth inside a home, but that is far from the truth.
Although mold spores can be found quite commonly in the everyday air we breathe, they will remain in a dormant state until introduced to favorable conditions. An area with average room temperatures, high level of moisture, and an adequate food source (such as wood, paper, or dirt) provides ideal growing conditions for mold. Without one of these conditions, mold will not be able to grow. Since proper temperature regulation is not always possible and avoiding these common household items or building materials would be extremely difficult, the easiest way to prevent mold growth in a home is by controlling moisture. By fixing leaking pipes, replacing older windows, or regulating moisture levels with dehumidifiers, a person can prevent future mold growth once the old mold and moisture sources have been addressed.
If your home has had or is currently dealing with moisture issues, you could be at risk of mold intrusion. It is important to locate and identify the true source before investing in remediation. Visual inspections by a trained professional are recommended by the EPA and CDC. These inspections can provide a plethora of information about the healthfulness of a home, but sometimes this is not enough. This is where laboratory analysis can help.
The analysis of air and surface samples from the affected area can be used to locate a mold intrusion otherwise invisible to the naked eye or to determine if the remediation has adequately removed the problem. The EPA recommends, “Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.”
The mission of Northeast Laboratory Services (NEL) has always been to promote a healthy and safe environment by advancing science, principles, and education. NEL is not only committed to protecting and improving healthy environments in our public and private buildings, but the health and well-being of all the people in our great State of Maine, now and in the future. Our Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) laboratory is AIHA-LAP, LLC (ID #: 102960) accredited. Northeast Laboratory Services prides itself on providing quality analytical results and personable service at competitive pricing. If you are a homeowner losing sleep over mold or a home inspector looking for a certified laboratory, give Northeast Laboratory Services a call today at 866-591-7120 or visit: