Sneezing, coughing and wheezing—is it allergies, a virus, or something worse? Many homeowners think that respiratory problems happen when there’s a virus going around—Covid-19 or the common cold—or seasonal allergies are taking hold. Looking for black mold and mildew in the home is usually not the first thing that you think of when your child gets a runny nose. However, that’s often the culprit. Since the symptoms of mold so closely mimic those of colds and allergies, you should check for mold as soon as someone starts to wheeze.
Health Risks of Household Mold
First, it’s important to realize that mold is pretty much everywhere. You know that they’re airborne, and hang out on some household surfaces, but did you know that mold spores are most active behind the walls of your home? And the worst culprit is the most dangerous—Stachybotrys chartarum—more commonly known as black mold.
What exactly is black mold?
Black mold is really a greenish-black mold that thrives in a moist environment. In your home, there are a few obvious places that fit that description—bathrooms, basements, garages, and closets, for example. What most homeowners don’t realize is that the actual structure of your home is an ideal breeding ground for black mold.
That’s right—the fiberboard, gypsum, and paper components that create the drywall in your home are where this dangerous mold thrives.
How does it get in?
When you watch the news and see the flooding aftermath from storms, you’re not surprised to learn that mold is a health issue for these residents. But moisture from any source can cause an infiltration of Stachybotrys chartarum, which means that for the average homeowner, garden-variety leaks and condensation can lead to black mold in your walls.
Is Stachybotrys chartarum really dangerous?
It is absolutely true that black mold releases mycotoxins, which are basically poisonous chemicals that attack different parts of the body. Black mold exposure can result in coughing, sneezing, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and other respiratory nuisances as well as itchy eyes and dry skin, but it is not dangerous in otherwise healthy people.
The exceptions are if you have a compromised immune system or if an infant has been exposed. The good news here is that over-the-counter allergy treatments will ease the symptoms of mold exposure because this is fundamentally an allergic reaction.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not found a direct causal relationship between black mold—or any other type of mold—exposure and dangerous conditions like idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage, cognitive dysfunction or memory loss. However, the CDC has linked fever and shortness of breath to prolonged exposure.
Just because black mold isn’t really a modern-day version of the black death (medieval plague) does not mean you should not take mold in your home seriously. After all, nobody likes feeling bad all the time, and the mold indicates ongoing water and moisture problems in your home.
Mold spores not only grow on surfaces and inside the walls, but in carpet, upholstery, wallpaper, ceiling tiles, and any material with fibers that can retain moisture. This includes air ducts for your HVAC system. After heavy rains, molds turn up where there are leaks around the house—windows, pipes, insulation, and the roof—so any water damage is an indicator of both mold and leaks.
Other Types of Mold
There are other types of household mold that are really as much of a danger as black mold, and some that are actually more of a health hazard. The three most common are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus:
- Cladosporium are the black or green spots that pop up on the back of the toilet or in fiberglass air ducts.
- Aspergillus grows in foods and in the AC ducts. This one is the most likely to cause allergic reactions.
- Penicillium is a bluish mold that grows on foods like fruits, cheese, and bread.
Sometimes, you can identify a mold by its color. Blue mold is powdery and grows on both organic surfaces, like food, and inorganic surfaces like mattresses. Green molds look fuzzy and can be as toxic to susceptible individuals as black mold, and it likes wood surfaces—including damp kitchen cabinets. Red or orange mold spores thrive in damp, humid areas like your bathroom tiles. They’re typically kind of slimy.
Unlike red or orange mold, the pink mold you find in your bathroom shower or shower curtain isn’t a mold at all—it’s a bacteria that needs the mineral deposits from water to grow in a humid environment. Also, unlike mold, this bacteria is just unsightly as opposed to a health hazard.
What About Mildew?
Mildew is sort of a starter mold. These are spores that colonize on damp surfaces but are powdery and easily wiped away. Mold, on the other hand, is harder to eradicate and the infected surfaces may need to be replaced.
How is the mold getting in my house?
It’s almost impossible to keep mold out of your house. The trick is to minimize the damage it can do, and get rid of it before it causes health problems or damage to your home. Here are just a few of the ways that mold sneaks in.
- Open doors, windows, vents, and HVAC systems
- On your clothes and shoes
- On your pets
Just because the spores find a point of entry doesn’t mean they can survive; there has to be an attractive host for them to attach to and grow. If you take your shoes off at the door and go into the bathroom in your bare feet, you’re reducing the chances of mold following you. Likewise, if your home has a humidity level between 30% and 50%, the air is simply too dry for mold to thrive.
Follow Your Nose
Often, the first sign of mold is not a green loaf of bread but a musty and unpleasant odor. This musty smell is almost a guarantee that there’s a mold problem, so follow the odor until you find it.
Mold is insidious. If you don’t see it at first glance, go a little deeper. Check around windows, pipes, the foundation, even the roof where there may be a leak. Again, the damage is as likely to be inside the walls and on the exterior of the home as inside in the basement.
A bleach and water solution, rubber gloves, a mask, scrub brush, and an open window are the only tools you really need to get rid of common household mold. Make sure the room is well-ventilated because this project is a respiratory double whammy—you’re at risk from both bleach chemicals and mold spores.
If the damage is structural, you may need a professional mold remediation company to eliminate the offending colonies.
After the mold is removed, these fixes should help keep any future outbreak at bay:
- Repair any leaks around the roof, windows, pipes, and foundation.
- Control humidity levels.
- Update ventilation in bathrooms, laundry, and kitchen.
- Clean or replace air ducts.
- Remove carpeting from damp areas like the kitchen and bathrooms and replace with a hard surface.
Replace Your Gutters to Keep Mold Outside
MasterShield’s CopperCare™ technology (copper interwoven micromesh) ShingleSafe™ design (under the shingle install) and HydroVortex Filtration pulls the water from the roof through the MasterShield and into the gutter.
If moisture is the culprit that causes mold in your home, then the trick is to keep the entire structure as dry as possible. Repairing any leaks around doors, windows, the foundation, and chimney flashing are obvious fixes, but a good gutter system is the linchpin to ensure that moisture doesn’t creep in. Clogged gutters put stress on the roof and eaves, and the leaves and debris that jam up the gutters retain moisture and mold that can seep into cracks in the roof and then into your attic.
Mold isn’t the only negative result of clogged gutters; they’re also a breeding ground for insects and increase the humidity level in your home.
MasterShield has introduced gutter protection technology that uses copper—Copper Care Technology— to eliminate mold spores. Copper is well-known as an element that kills substances such as moss, algae, and lichen that grow in your gutters and on trees. Copper is interwoven in a ShingleSafe design with a HydroVortex Filtration to pull the water off the roof and into the gutters.
This siphoning technology keeps water running through the gutters, and not overflowing the gutters. Unlike other gutter technology, the MasterShield doesn’t rely on gravity to pull water through the gutters, but can pull water into the gutter at any angle quickly, meaning less time pooling on the roof.
Poorly fitting and manufactured gutters also can cause cracks in your home’s foundation, which is a much more expensive fix than mold remediation. When the water flows inconsistently through the downspouts, it causes water to spill over the gutters and run down to the ground, where it collects around the foundation.
Another advantage of MasterShield is that the gutters are milled precisely to fit your home’s roofline and are pitched so that they are self-cleaning. There’s no more dangerous crawling around on the roof to clean clogged gutters. Call your local MasterShield dealer for a consultation to learn about the benefits of our patented gutter protection system.