When you think of mold, you may think of the type that grows on cheese or bread and takes on a grotesque bubbly green appearance. The type of mold that grows on rotting food is but one of thousands of varieties that occur naturally throughout the world.
You also may not realize that some types of mold are more dangerous than others. You can take action to protect your home and family from the worst varieties by learning more about the common mold types and causes and what ones pose the most risk to your health and safety.
What is Mold?
Mold is a fungus that is designed by nature to break down organic materials. It is found in every corner of the world and spreads naturally by releasing spores that travel through the air.
Scientists estimate that there are more than 100,000 varieties of mold on the planet. You can bring mold easily into your home on your clothing or your pets' fur to which spores can easily attach themselves.
They can also come inside through windows, doors, and your home's ventilation system. Once inside your home, the spores seek out dark, humid, and poorly ventilated areas that are perfect for them to grow.
In fact, scientists have identified several common varieties of mold that commonly inhabit homes and businesses. These types include:
- stachybotrys atra
These types and many of the more than 100,000 varieties of mold are harmless and will inflict minimal if any harm on your home's safety or you and your family's health. The more harmless types of mold release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that you may not notice even if the mold is in your home. If you do notice the VOCs, it may be as a result of a musty odor that they can cause once the mold starts to grow and thrive.
However, some mold types and causes are very dangerous to your home and the health of you and your family. These harmful varieties release myotoxins that can inflict severe damage to your respiratory system, lungs, brain, and other parts of your body.
How can you know if the mold types and causes in your home pose a significant threat to you and your loved ones? Unless you are a scientist or a biologist, you cannot make that determination.
Instead, scientists and health experts urge you and other homeowners to take the appropriate measures to get rid of the mold as quickly and safely as possible. You should also look for parts of your home where mold might look to grow and remedy the conditions that create the ideal environment for spores to take root.
Ideal Mold Growing Criteria
Several criteria allow for mold to grow and thrive inside your home. The foremost involves humid or wet conditions that make for the ideal environment for spores to take root. If you fail to clean up standing water or dry out damp conditions in your home, you could be inviting mold to grow and thrive, potentially harming your family's health in the process.
Mold also thrives in homes that have poor ventilation and circulation. Many homes today are designed to discourage air movement that could cause energy bills to rise. However, this poor air circulation also makes it easier for mold to grow. You can improve ventilation by using fans or opening windows to let air flow in and out of your house.
Failing to repair cracks and holes in walls, crawl spaces, the roof, foundation, and in other structures likewise invites mold to come into your house. You should caulk, fill, repair, and otherwise replace such fixtures to discourage mold spores from entering your home.
Finally, you should make immediate repairs to leaky pipes and plumbing so that water does not soak into your flooring, cabinets, and elsewhere. Once water has been allowed to soak into the walls, floor, and other parts of your home, you help create the ideal environment in which mold likes to grow.
Of course, sometimes you are not able to prevent the ideal conditions that make mold growth more likely. For example, many homeowners see mold in their homes and also outside in their yards during periods of heavy rain or snowfall. You can help keep the inside of your house dry during times of heavy precipitation by using a dehumidifier and by making sure no one tracks in water and snow onto your flooring.
The Health Risks of Mold Exposure
Why should you take every precaution to prevent or remove mold from your home? As noted, some types of mold pose little to no risk to the safety or health of your home and family. Still, you cannot be sure that the type of mold growing in your home is a safe variety or if it is one that could cause any number of illnesses and adverse health conditions.
Specifically, toxic mold can cause people in your home to suffer from:
- worsened allergies
- skin rashes
- breathing problems like frequent coughing or wheezing
- sinus congestion
In rare instances, you can even develop severe and rare complications like:
- brain damage
- bleeding in the lungs
- memory loss
Mold especially poses a dangerous risk to people who:
- suffer from asthma or COPD
- have lung disease
- have seasonal or chronic allergies
- are elderly
- are very young, such as newborns, babies, and toddlers
Even the healthiest of people, however, can develop adverse reactions to toxic mold. Rather than gamble with the health, safety, and integrity of your home, you should protect your family and take all steps necessary to prevent or get rid of mold growing in your house.
Thousands of mold types can be found in the world. You can avoid the worst kind by getting rid of and preventing all types of mold from entering and growing in your home.