Spring is here, and while there are so many great things that come with it, there are definitely some challenges. As the weather gets warmer, the air also holds more moisture. Which means our homes may become more susceptible to mold. But is mold dangerous if it’s in your home? And how do you know if you have a mold problem?
There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings out there. And as always, I’m here to give you the facts. Just like my blogs on other confusing topics like fluoride, air purifying plants, and cell phones and cancer – I’ve got you covered!
Let’s dive in…
What is mold?
Mold is a fungus that grows on damp surfaces with some sort of food source (like drywall or soap on caulking).
There are many different types of mold in a range of colours and appearances; but they all release tiny spores that we breathe in and can react to. These spores are how they reproduce and can survive in areas that the mold itself wouldn’t (i.e. they don’t need moisture).
Molds can also produce mycotoxins, which are toxic compounds naturally produced by fungi found on food products (like cereals, dried fruits, nuts, and spices). However, some studies are finding they may be present in indoor air as well.[1,2]
What’s the problem with mold?
How dangerous mold is depends on each individual. Some experience allergic reactions to mold (stuffy or running nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, etc.). Acute exposure can result in fever or shortness of breath.
At most risk are infants and children, immunocompromised individuals, those with asthma, and people with a specific immune response gene that makes them more susceptible to mold toxicity.
Here are some of the ways you may react to mold if you’re susceptible:
- Nasal congestion, eye irritation, coughing wheezing, or skin irritations;
- Increased asthma symptoms;
- Increased hypersensitivity pneumonitis (an immune system disorder) symptoms;
- Increased chance of respiratory illness and asthma in children with early childhood exposure.
Should you test for mold?
Both Health Canada and the US Centre for Disease Control agree that there’s no way to determine a “safe” level of mold exposure. Therefore, they do not recommend routine sampling for mold.
There are DIY kits available from hardware stores and online, but they may not be effective or accurate. According to sustainable building advisor Bettina Hoar of Sage Living Toronto, “it really only takes a tiny snapshot in time and the results can be hard to interpret because there are mold spores everywhere, always.”
You can hire a professional to test and remediate mold, but you should make sure they are a reputable company before hiring anyone and take the time to understand the methods they’re using to test and remediate.
How to get rid of mold
If you can see or smell mold, you should take steps to get rid of it as soon as possible. If you can see it and it’s in a small area, you can clean it using soap and water, or baking soda if it’s on a permeable surface like drywall. You may need to use bleach if the mold has left a stain. Larger areas should be remediated by a professional.
If you choose to clean it up yourself, wear protective equipment including a breathing mask (at least an N95 respirator), safety glasses, and rubber gloves. Benefect is a natural disinfectant that can help prevent mold re-growth by killing spores. If you use a professional for clean-up, ask them to use Benefect rather than conventional toxic disinfectants.
Air purifiers and HEPA filters can be used to remove mold spores from the air, but these should not be used in lieu of removing mold from the source.
So, now you know what to do if you suspect (or know) you have mold in your home. Whether or not you have a noticeable allergy, mold should be dealt with as soon as its found to avoid problems down the road.
How to prevent mold
Maybe you’ve had mold in the past, or maybe you just want to prevent it from being a problem. Either way, you’re going to want to take steps to prevent mold from happening in the first place. Remember, mold requires 3 things to grow: mold spores, moisture, and “food” – which can be anything from dust and dirt to soap scum.
The key to preventing mold growth is to remove sources of moisture. Here are some ideas:
- Keep humidity levels below 50% in your home (you can get a hygrometer from your local hardware store to check this).
- Run your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to help remove moisture when bathing and cooking.
- Wipe down the shower and bath, taking special care to remove soap scum from the grout and caulking after each use.
- Let the shower curtain completely dry after each use.
- Remove carpeting in basements.
- Allow for air circulation under mattresses and along exterior walls.
I hope this helps clear up any questions about mold and what to do in your home. Remember, the steps you take to reduce your overall toxic load will help your body better cope with surprises (like mold) and things you can’t control.
If you’re ready to get serious about your home detox efforts but are feeling overwhelmed, I invite you to check out our signature program, The Healthy Home Method: the best and most comprehensive way to reduce toxins throughout your home, without overwhelm. Learn more here.