Key Points About Mold
- Never mix ammonia and bleach together as this can release toxic fumes.
- Removing the source of moisture is critical to preventing mold growth.
- Mold damages what it grows on. The longer it grows, the more damage it can cause. Clean up the mold right away and dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
- Mold can grow outdoors or indoors and comes in many colors including brown, green, black, and yellow.
- You can prevent damage to your home, health problems and save money by controlling moisture and stopping mold growth.
What is Mold and Where is it Found?
Mold (fungi) is present everywhere indoors and outdoors. At least 100,000 species of mold are common in the U.S. Mold is most likely to grow where there is water or dampness, like in a bathroom or basement.
Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down fallen leaves & dead wood, but indoors mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through the air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet.
All mold needs moisture to grow. Mold can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high humidity or dampness. It thrives on organic materials like cotton, wool, paper, leather, wood, or surfaces with small amounts of organic matter like food, grease,, and soil. Molds can continue to grow eventually eating away the organic medium that is their food source.
When water leaks or spills occur indoors, ACT QUICKLY. In most cases, mold will not grow if wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens.
Can Mold Cause Health Problems?
Most types of molds that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals. Molds are usually not a problem indoors unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds can produce allergens, irritants and in some cases toxins. Allergic reactions to mold are common and can include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Symptoms other than allergic or irritant types are not commonly reported from inhaling mold. Depending on the amount of exposure and the person's vulnerability, more serious health effects such as fever and breathing problems, can occur but are rare. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. For more information on health effects consult a health professional.
How Do I Get Rid of Mold?
It is impossible to get rid of all mold spores indoors. Some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spore will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold but don't fix the water problem, the mold will most likely grow back. Remember that moisture control is the key to mold control.
BATHROOM TIP: Places that are often or always damp can be hard to maintain completely free of mold. If mold seems to reappear after clean up, increasing the ventilation (running a fan or opening a window) and cleaning more frequently will usually prevent the mold from recurring, or keep the mold to a minimum.
Bleach, a biocide which can kill living organisms, is not recommended as routine practice for mold clean up. lf you choose to use bleach, limit use to 1 part bleach to 10 parts of water. Never mix ammonia and bleach together as this can release toxic fumes.
Who should do the cleanup depends on a many factors. One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than 3'x3', then in most cases, you can handle the job yourself. ACT QUICKLY if you already have a mold problem. Mold can cause staining and cosmetic damage.
- Scrub mold off non-porous, hard surfaces with detergent and water and let dry completely. Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
- Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill empty crevices making it impossible to remove completely.
- Seal and discard all debris in heavy duty plastic bags to avoid spreading any mold spores.
- Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold. Use protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts and pants, N-95 dust mask or respirator, long gloves, and goggles.
- Open windows or doors when using any cleaning products.
- Children should not be involved in disaster clean-up.
- If you are unsure about how to clean an item, you may want to ask a professional.
- Have your home heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system (HVAC) checked and cleaned by a service professional experienced in mold clean-up before you turn it on. If the system was flooded with water, turning it on will spread mold throughout the house.
Should I Hire a Professional?
NY State guideline for mold remediation states that if the total mold affected area is more than 10 sq. feet, or if you have sensitivity towards mold, consider hiring a licensed professional. Since January 2015, NY State required that assessors and contractors in the mold remediation industry and their workers are properly trained and licensed. The law is enforced by the NY State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) to ensure proper remediation of mold including licensing of assessors, contractors and workers, and requirement of a written mold remediation plan. A list of certified contractors can be found on the NYSDOL website. Please call the ECDOH Environmental Health Program at (716) 961-6800 for more information on the law and for a list of local contractors.
Can the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) Inspect My Home for Mold?
No. Unfortunately, due to the lack of regulations specific to mold at the federal, state, and local level, the ECDOH cannot perform mold testing or assessment.
In limited circumstances, the ECDOH may have some authority to require that building owners eliminate conditions (e.g., leaking pipes) that could be causing mold overgrowth, but in many cases, moisture issues in buildings are caused by structural problems (e.g. leaking roof or gutters). Structural issues are handled by the local Building Inspector.