Mold – an indoor air quality concern: Part 1

Indoor air quality is an important part of home maintenance. Learn what creates mold in your home.

In the summer our homes can become very humid. In the winter we often close-up our homes so tight to keep the heat in that we significantly reduce the air flow and quality of air in the home. With both of these conditions, we unknowingly create an environment for mold growth in our homes.

Mold is a microscopic fungi that is found in many places both inside your home and outside your home. Mold can form in the summer and in the winter. Molds are nature’s decomposers, breaking down organic matter, varying in colors including black, white, orange and green. Mold spreads through spores that travel through air and land in many places. If the environment is right, mold develops and spreads. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), some molds can produce toxins called “mycotoxins.” These substances can be harmful but testing for toxins can be very expensive. Black mold is often a concern for home owners. Black mold grows on material with high cellulose materials including drywall, cardboard, wood paper and drop ceiling tiles. Under certain conditions black mold can produce mycotoxins, but not all black molds produces these toxins. It is best to assume all molds can be harmful and to clean it up as soon as you discover it in your home.

Mold grows fastest in warm, humid areas with little air flow. It prefers temperatures between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It often grows in bathrooms, cellars, basements and crawl spaces, carpeting, closets and any other damp place. Molds can develop in new houses too, because the building materials often have high moisture levels. Mold has spores which can float through the house, forming new colonies if they land on something moist or damp.

Mold can become a health problem and often creates allergic reactions from breathing the mold spores. Symptoms of mold exposure can include nasal and sinus congestion; eye irritations such as itchy, red or watery eyes; respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing; coughing and throat irritation, skin rashes; and headaches.

For more information on home maintenance and home ownership topics, go to the Michigan State University Extension website.

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