Toxic mold living in your walls or floorboards can have a negative effect on you and your family’s health. Here’s a guide for what to know and what to do if you suspect there’s mold in your home.
Damp indoor spaces can result in development of environmental contaminants such as toxic mold growth and related health hazards all that can make you sick. The health problems are generally due to yourbody's own immune system mounting a response to the contaminants, usually through an allergic response.
This is why it is more precise to say it's not that the mold is toxic, rather it's toxic to you. Two people in the same environment can have a completely different response. One tenant could have no problems- their body isn't reacting to theenvironmental problems - but another person in the same home could become very ill as their body tries to mount an immune response that itself makes them ill.
This is particularly the case for tenants who already have lots of allergies or asthma, which makes them more susceptible to degraded environments. But because the airborne mold or contaminant isn’t a virus to be fought off, the immune response isn't really going to do anything other than get you sick. And since the mold problems are constantly there, whether known to the tenant or not, their health problems continue to get worse and worse.
Here’s the most important question to ask first:
- Where is the water coming from?
- A failing/damaged roof
- Toxic mold in the home requires a source of water for the mold to grow and colonize. A tenant’s first inquiry should be to determine how the water is getting into the home. Points of entry include:
- Leaks around windows
- Unresolved plumbing leaks
- Improper grade issues that cause water to flow and puddle against the side of a house instead of away from the property
- Identifying the source of the water intrusion is a crucial first step because it must be fixed before you can fully address the toxic mold that has spread inside the home. It also helps a tenant understand what is needed so they can request the appropriate action fortheir landlord to resolve the problems.
- Tenants should do their best to document with pictures, video and even independent professional reports about the source of the water intrusion and request qualified professionals be hired to investigate and repair.
What to do about toxic mold in the home
- Not all surfaces are equal.While mold can grow to some extent on nearly any surface, it lives particularly well on drywall. Drywall are two pieces of paperboard sandwiched between alayer of powdery dried paste - typically made from gypsum. Gypsum is a mineral and a favorite food source for mold to colonize and grow. When mold appears onthe surface of drywall in a home, it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg sticking out on top with the bulk of the mold feeding and growing in the wallboard itself. The contaminated materials need to be removed and replaced by qualified professionals.
- Other materials such as woodbeams behind walls typically need to be professionally cleaned of mold grow that has taken root in these inner wall spaces.
Why can’t my landlord’s handyman do the mold repairs?
- Mold spores are very fine particles that disperse easily through the air when removal is attempted. It typically requires high-level remediation by qualified professionals who are trained to protect the tenants and their belongings in the home.
- Quick, cheap remediation attempted by untrained handymen poses a tremendous risk of spreading the spores throughout the home and contaminating personal belongings or even sending anun suspecting tenant to the emergency room from a super-exposure event.
What does a mold remediation specialist do?
- The CDC, EPA and CaliforniaDept. of Public Health all recommend compliance with the industry standards for safe mold remediation byqualified remediation specialists.
- The general protocols for mold remediation include:
- Identifying the source of water intrusion to be repaired and planning the repairs;
- Identifying the dimensions of walls to be removed to permit remediation of the inner spaces and replacement;
- Planning containment of the spores that will be released into the home when the walls are removed and what is necessary to protect the occupants and their property.
- Determination of the types and number of HEPA filtration systems to scrub the air and create negative pressure inside the remediation spaces for full remediation;
- Determine the method and means to safely remove the contaminated demolished surfaces to protect further contaminating the home;
- Plan clearance testing to ensure the mold remediation was successful prior to replacing the demolished walls;
- Estimating the cost and duration of time needed forfull remediation.
Create a remediation protocol that addresses the specific issues in the home, including:
- While in some instances it is possible to do remediation while the tenants are still in the unit, most often the remediation process requires the tenant to be temporarily relocated during the process depending on the size and scope of the project or areas that will be uninhabitable until fixed.
A simple way to determine if dampness or mold in your home is impacting your health.
Since mold related health issues are mostly due to your body's immune system response, the most effective way to confirm a problem is to remove yourself from the home for a brief period. A short amount of time,like 3-5 days, is all that is needed for a reactive immune system to return to baseline and symptoms such as headaches, allergy symptoms, rashes, and trouble sleeping to resolve. If it is the home environment that is the cause of the problems, then the symptoms will return almost immediately upon returning to your house.
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