In humid regions like Hawaii, mold is a persistent foe that can cause damage to furniture, walls, and fabrics. Mold can also have a negative impact on people, particularly those with a compromised immune system. It's critical to the health of your family to eliminate current mold issues, and prevent future occurrences. Not only for your health's sake, but also for the structural integrity and value of your home.
There are about 100,000 known species of mold, and 150 types of "household mold." Mold also comes in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, blue, and black. While it's commonly believed that black mold is the most dangerous type of mold to have, not all species of black mold are toxic. Such variety makes it difficult for homeowners to tell what type of mold they're dealing with, and whether or not it's toxic. The only way to tell for sure is to send a sample to a laboratory for testing.
To prepare your sample, simply take a piece of clear tape, press it on the mold, and seal the tape in a plastic bag. The lab should be able to tell you what kind of mold you have, and whether it poses a risk.
Mold can grow anywhere that there is dampness. Mold can only survive where it has water, a source of food, and oxygen. This means that it can grow on fabrics, drywall, plastic, wood, soil, and more. Wherever there's been a leak, a flood, or excessive humidity, there's a good chance that you'll find mold.
It's imperative that when you spot a mold problem, that you seek out the source of the problem. If you remove the dampness, you will prevent mold from growing back. Otherwise, any mold you remove through cleaning will return again and again.
Keep in mind too that mold can be really hard on the material it lives on. In fact, mold can seriously degrade the structural soundness of your walls, and should be repaired by a professional. Fabrics that have mold on them, but can't be placed in the washing machine should be thrown out, and all smooth materials need to be washed down thoroughly to eliminate the problem.
Once you've figured out where the moisture is coming from--and you've addressed that problem, you can go ahead and remove any existing mold. Be warned however, that experts suggest that homeowners only tackle small mold problems on their own. Anything larger than 10 square feet requires a professional.
If your problem is minor--like mold on a window sill for instance, you can remove the mold with detergent, a rag, disposable gloves, and a dust mask. The mask will protect you from inhaling mold spores, which can cause respiratory problems in sensitive people. Be sure to wipe all visible mold spores away, and throw out all the materials used in the clean-up. One caveat however, don't use bleach--even if your mother tells you to. Bleach can't get rid of all the spores, and isn't completely effective at disinfecting this type of material. It's better to use a household detergent to get rid of all the particles.
If you don't get rid of mold, what are its effects? The answer really depends on your individual sensitivity. Some people have trouble with coughs and fatigue, as well as headaches and respiratory problems. These are much more pronounced in people who are allergic to mold, and to those who have an infection (mold growing inside the body). Most of the time though, people breathe in mold particles and are fine, but there are toxic molds out there, and overexposure of any kind is bad for the body. If you think you're experiencing a mold allergy or infection, see your physician right away.
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