Mold and your home – what you need to know

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH-Lee) has answered some of the most common questions about indoor mold.

How do I know if there is mold in my house?

· Look for areas where you notice mold odors, and if you smell earthy or musty, you may have a mold problem.

· Indoor mold growth can usually be seen or smelled.

· Look for visible mold, as it may appear cottony, velvety, rough or leathery and have different colors such as white, gray, brown, black, yellow or green.

· Mold often appears as a discoloration or a fuzzy growth on furniture or building materials, such as walls, ceilings, or anything made of wood or paper.

· Look for signs of dampness or water damage, such as water leaks, standing water, water spots, and condensation. Check around air handlers, such as air conditioners and furnaces, for standing water.

Who is most affected by mould?

Infants, young children, older adults, people with chronic respiratory conditions, and people with weakened immune systems can be affected earlier and more severely by mold in the home. You should see a health care provider if you think your health has been affected by indoor mold.

What health problems can be caused by mold?

Four types of health problems arise from exposure to mould: allergic diseases, irritant effects, infections and toxic effects. For those sensitive to mold, symptoms may occur, such as nasal and sinus irritation or congestion, dry cough, wheezing, rash or burning, or watery, red eyes.

People with severe mold allergies may have more severe reactions, such as hay fever-like symptoms. People with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to infections caused by certain molds, viruses and bacteria. Molds can also trigger asthma attacks or cause asthma to develop.

Headaches, memory problems, mood swings, nosebleeds, and body aches are sometimes reported in mold complaints. The long-term presence of indoor mold can eventually become a problem. Please note that allergic reactions to mold are common and may be immediate or delayed.

How to clean mold?

Mold must be cleaned as soon as it appears. People who clean up mold should not belong to one of the risk groups mentioned above. Do not use ozone generators. Protective gloves and safety glasses should be worn during cleanup. Small areas of mold should be cleaned using detergent/soapy water or commercial mold or mildew cleaner.

The cleaned area should be completely dried. Throw away any sponges or rags used to clean up mold. If the mold comes back quickly or spreads, it may mean you have an underlying problem, such as a water leak.

If there is a lot of mold growth, check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) booklet, “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings.” Although written about schools and commercial buildings, this document deals with mold in other types of buildings. If moldy material is not easy to clean, such as drywall, carpet padding, and insulation, it may need to be removed and replaced.

Who should do the cleaning?

One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than 10 square feet, or less than a 3 foot by 3 foot patch, the cleaning can be done yourself. However, if there has been significant water damage and/or mold growth covering more than 10 square feet, consult the EPA booklet mentioned above.

If you choose to hire a contractor, consider someone licensed by the state of Florida. The license of a mold appraiser or mold remediator can be verified using the “VERIFY A LICENSE” link on the Florida Department of Business and Professional webpage. Check references and instruct the contractor to follow current EPA recommendations and guidelines from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) or other professional or governmental organizations.

If you suspect the air conditioning or heating system has been affected, see the EPA’s guidance documents under “Should You Have Your Home’s Air Ducts Cleaned?” “. Consult a licensed air conditioning or mechanical contractor for more information.

Who can I call if I want more information on mold?

For more information, call the DOH-Lee Office of Environmental Health at 239-690-2100 or the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Radon and Indoor Air Program at 800-543-8279. They can provide guidance and advice on prevention, mold problem identification, investigation techniques, clean-up methods, disaster planning and messaging, health effects, including potential risks of mold exposure, and they can direct affected individuals to appropriate local resources.

Where can I get additional information?

For more information on mold, see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), University of Central Florida, Florida Solar Energy Center, or Florida web pages Department of Health Indoor Air.

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