Mold is a serious and potentially life-threatening problem that afflicts thousands of homes and commercial buildings that are not well-ventilated or aptly designed. Mold grows from its spores that come in from outside through open doors and windows, attached to pets or along with people. Once the spores are indoors, all that they need is a favorable environment to grow and thrive. The essential environmental conditions include a favorable temperature, moisture and a food source.
When favorable conditions are present mold grows fast and in no time there is mold infestation in your property. One of the most critical factors required for mold growth is moisture. In modern airtight buildings moisture is a persistent problem. Though insulated buildings are great for energy efficiency, they are not so great for naturally drying out the interiors of the structures. Wet carpets, leaky pipes or faulty windows may result in moisture seeping in. This water does not evaporate and mold starts to grow in wet places like ceiling tiles, carpets, wood surfaces and crawl areas.
Here are a few things you need to know about controlling and preventing mold growth in your property.
1. Know the Different Kinds of Molds
All molds are not the same. Different strains have different effects on those who are exposed to them. There are more than 1000 varieties of mold in the US, and worldwide there are more than 10,000 varieties. Most of us recognize various types on the basis of their colors. Common varieties of molds appear as black, brown, green, white or grey in color. But the color does not determine their toxicity or dangerousness. There are dangerous varieties in all colors and there are relatively harmless strains too that cause only mild allergic reactions with prolonged exposure. Many mold strains are completely harmless as well.
The commonly found molds in homes and commercial buildings include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Stachybotrys atra and Alternaria. Stachybotrys is the notorious black mold that is usually found in very damp places and is linked to a variety of health problems.
The toxic varieties of molds produce toxins called mycotoxins in their spores. These toxins are cytotoxic, which means they can pass through cellular walls and affect the internal chemistry and working of cells in our body. Presence of mold spores highly compromises the quality of indoor air. Those with compromised immune systems will experience prolonged and even permanent health problems.
2. Eliminate Moisture
As stated earlier, moisture is the main culprit in promoting mold infestation in homes and offices. This is mostly due to the changes that happened to construction practices post ‘70s. Tightly sealed buildings became the norm and the use of materials like drywall in construction made it harder for moisture to dry out naturally. Hurried construction, poor design and faulty construction practices also made the newer buildings more susceptible to mold infestation.
If there is no buildup of moisture, mold will not find hospitable condition to thrive. So use humidifiers and run fans to dry out rooms if you spot traces of moisture on walls, insulation, carpet or other surfaces.
Clean wet areas like bathrooms and kitchen on a daily basis. Spread out shower curtain, dry mop wet surfaces and run extractor fans to dry the bathroom. Dry damp clothing and ensure that you open windows and let in sunshine and dry air whenever possible. Basements, vents and crawl areas are other potential problem areas where moisture can build up. Check for leaky pipes or cracks in walls that let moisture in. Conduct repairs in time in order to prevent mold growth.
3. Nip Problems in the Bud
Cleaning with suitable solutions will ensure that mold growth is contained and eliminated.
Chlorine bleach is commonly used in homes and offices to remediate mold infestation. Vinegar, borax, baking soda and ammonia are other household substances that can be used to remove mold from surfaces.
If you suspect there is mold infestation in your commercial property, you will have to address the problem immediately. If you are slack with remedial measures, it may result in potentially expensive lawsuits. If you care calling in professionals to address the mold problem, then it is necessary that you inform your employees about the extent of suspected mold infestation and the steps you are taking to remediate it. Your insurer may cover the cost of engaging the services of an expert mold remediation agency.
To get a clear picture of the extent of mold infestation it is necessary that big buildings including offices conduct testing for molds and properly evaluate the seriousness of the problem.
4. Root Causes of Moisture Buildup in Commercial Buildings
Office complexes and commercial buildings experience moisture buildup due to a number of reasons. Apart from the structural inadequacies, landscaping and plumbing mistakes also cause water to accumulate beside or beneath buildings. Flooding, lack of awareness among employees, and excessive humidity and condensation also lead to mold contamination.
Watch out for telltale signs like numerous employees complain about respiratory health issues, moldy or musty smell noticed in specific areas of the building or other signs of moisture buildup on surfaces. It will be great if you can call in experts to carry out indoor air quality testing to ensure the wellbeing and health of employees. If the air contains mycotoxins from mold, then you may have to evacuate employees to safer premises and carry out cleaning and remediating procedures. Major mold infestation may call for structural changes to be made to the building, and you may also require the services of environmental, toxicology and epidemiology experts.
Whether at home or in a commercial building, it is important that the toxicity of mold is tested to check whether it is dangerous or harmless, or whether it is just plain soot. Indoor air quality of homes also should be checked regularly to ensure that what you breathe in the confines of your home is perfectly safe.
Public awareness about mold has increased massively in the past several years. But still, it is not unusual for mold activity to go undetected in homes and busy offices. So always be alert to the possibility of moisture buildup causing problems, and ensure that problems are addressed as soon as they crop up.