Understanding Mold

Molds are species of fungus that play a vital role in decomposing organic matter in nature. As a home or business owner, understanding mold and its effects are very important. Because molds do not require sunlight to grow, they thrive in low light areas by decomposing organic matter such as cellulose and starches.

Molds reproduce through microscopic seeds called spores that are ejected from the main mold structure. Mold spores often lay dormant for years, waiting for the right mix of moisture and temperature to become active.

Mold Spores

Scientists classify spores as viable or non-viable. Viable meaning spores capable of growth. Non-viable meaning dead and unable to reproduce.
It’s important to note that non-viable spores can still emit toxins unless killed by abatement chemicals and completely removed from the building.

A Hidden ThreatType of Mold - Charleston, WV

People often question if mold actually poses a threat since it is always present in our environment. Extensive research shows that mold becomes dangerous when it’s contained within a building. Poor circulation and moisture allows the concentration of mold to reach dangerous levels that are not possible in outdoor areas.

It’s also vital to understand that 60% of homes that contain dangerous concentrations of mold show no visible sign of mold growth with a cursory inspection. That’s because mold grows in the dark and damp areas of your home – such as a crawlspace, inside walls, underneath carpet or an attic with a leaky roof.

Residents typically smell a mold problem before they see one, because growing mold spores produce an unmistakable musty odor.

A common misconception is that newer buildings are immune to mold contamination. A poorly built new home is just as susceptible to mold growth. In our experience, we’ve seen mold in home six months after their completion.
Usually this is a result of inadequate foundation work, improper storing of building materials, poor ventilation systems and building design flaws.

Types of Mold

While not all are allergenic or toxic, here’s a few common harmful indoor molds:
Aspergillus
Penicillium
Fusarium
Alternaria
Stachybotrys
Cladosporium

Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are the poisons produced by molds. The EPA states that mycotoxins can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin – all with harmful results. Here are a few examples of the most harmful mycotoxins produced by indoor molds:
Trichothecene – the most harmful mycotoxin
Aflatoxin – a strong carcinogen
Fumonisin – contaminates grains & foods
Ochratoxin – linked to urinary tract tumors

Causes of Mold

Water Damage

Water damage is typically the most common cause of mold growth. Leaks such as ruptured pipes, overflowing bathtubs, faulty water heaters or poorly sealed windows provide the right conditions for mold. Typically these leaks cause mold growth underneath carpet, inside walls and along baseboards – in places you wouldn’t be able to see the active growth of mold.

Fire Damage

When a home or office suffers fire damage, it is very likely that mold growth will follow, provided the structure isn’t completely destroyed by the fire. While it seems counter-intuitive, a large amount of water is used by fire crews to put out the blaze. The water that makes its way into the foundation and inside the walls is typically missed by hasty cleanup crews.

New Construction

A common misconception is that newer homes are immune to the causes of mold growth. A poorly built new home is just as susceptible to mold growth; in our experience, we’ve seen mold in homes six months after their completion. Usually this is a result of inadequate foundation work, improper storing of building materials, poor ventilation systems and building design flaws.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)Mold Water Damage - Charleston, WV

Mold growth inside your HVAC system is one of the major causes of mold growth, simply because of how these units operate. HVAC systems produce a continually high rate of air flow, recycling a mixture of indoor and outdoor air to heat or cool the home. If your air ducts are contaminated with mold, you’re susceptible to a higher concentration of airborne mold toxins.

Important Facts Regarding HVACs

• AC units cool your home by pulling humidity and moisture out of the air, the moisture is collected in the unit by the evaporator coil. An improperly maintained evaporator coil will collect dirt and dust, providing a prime opportunity for mold growth.
• Not changing a dirty air filter, or neglecting to install one entirely, will greatly increase the amount of dust and particles coming in contact with the evaporator coil.
• The humidity of a poorly maintained HVAC is the perfect place for mold to grow and reproduce. Unfortunately for you, that mold is right at the heart of the air circulation system for your home.
• Location of your HVAC system is also important. If the surrounding environment is a damp basement or crawlspace, you can guarantee that spores from the surrounding mold colonies will be spread through the air ducts.