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The following information has been compiled from various sources for your benefit. Please take 10 to 15 minutes to carefully study it. Your future health may depend on reading about the possibility of toxic levels of molds in indoor environments .
We at Rite-Way Inspections believe that a complete and thorough professional home inspection should include testing for the possibility of toxic levels of hazardous molds; armed with this valuable information you will have the knowledge you need to make an intelligent and informed decision regarding the real estate you are about to purchase.
If you have not already ordered this valuable added service we strongly recommend that you consider doing so. An indoor air quality test will offer you and your family complete "Peace of Mind"
WATER INFILTRATION + BUILDING and/or MATERIAL DEFECTS
MOLD AND STRUCTURAL DAMAGE
Approximately 35% of all properties have water infiltration each year. Of that 35%, 13% of the water comes from the interior of the home (plumbing leaks, mostly) and 21% comes from the exterior (roof leaks, poor grading, bad flashing, etc.). Of homes that are inspected, approximately 70% of all homes exhibit a "red flag" indicating water infiltration. Even more have conditions that are not yet visible. Of the 50 million Americans having asthma or allergic sensitivities, there is a high probability that many of these cases are related to mold exposure in the home.
The Causes of Mold in Housing
Mold growth in housing is caused by several factors, including certain construction practices and building materials that make water infiltration very likely, contributing to mold growth.
Construction practices that can contribute to mold growth include:
Using inappropriate building materials
Bad contractors ("The Bubba Factor)
Exterior siding holds water
Trash in wall cavities
Wood in contact w/ concrete
Lack of flashing, or flashing done incorrectly
Slab not cured
Building materials that can contribute to mold growth include:
Additionally, building practices have changed since the 70's, creating conditions that make mold growth likely, including:
- Tight houses (no air flow)
- Poor construction (additions, decks, windows, siding and foundations)
Introduction to Fungi
The tasty mushroom- delight of the gourmet- has much in common with the black mold that forms on stale bread and the mildew that collects on damp shower curtains. All of these life forms belong to the Kingdom Fungi, a diverse group of more than 100,000 known species. Fungi are heterotrophs- meaning that they absorb their food through the cell wall and cell membrane. They reproduce by means of spores, which may be produced sexually or asexually.' Their main purpose on earth is to break down dead materials. Without fungi, the earth would be full of dead things- dead leaves, dead trees, dead insects and dead animals. Life on earth could not exist, as we know it, without the action of fungi. The same powerful digestive enzymes that enable fungi to decompose wastes and dead organisms also permit them to reduce wood, fiber, and food into their components with great efficiency. Various molds produce incalculable damage to stored goods and building materials each year. These same molds cause great damage to housing, compromising the health of the residents and the structural soundness of the building.
Molds are simple, microscopic organisms whose purpose in the ecosystem is to break down dead materials. Molds can be found on plants, dry leaves, and just about every other organic material. Man has found some molds to be useful, such as those used to make antibiotics, beer, cheese and wine. Some molds are known to be highly toxic when ingested, such as the types that invade grains and peanuts. Still others cause negative health effects, such as asthma or allergic reactions, when their reproductive spores are inhaled. Most of the mold found indoors comes from outdoors. The spores float in on the air currents and find a suitable spot to grow. Spores are very lightweight and can travel on air currents. If mold spores land on a suitable surface, they will begin to grow. Molds need 3 things to thrive- moisture, food and a surface to grow on. Molds can be seen throughout the house, you can easily find some in most bathrooms. Mold growth can often be seen in the form of discoloration, and can be many colors- white, orange, pink, blue, green, black or brown. When molds are present in large quantities (called colonies), they can cause health problems in some people.
The Health Effects of Mold Exposure
Everyone is exposed to mold in some concentration in the outdoor air. Indoor exposure to molds is not healthy for anyone. In particular, those with allergies, existing respiratory conditions or suppressed immune systems are especially susceptible to health problems from mold exposure. Additionally, infants and children, pregnant women and the elderly can be sensitive to the effects of mold exposure. Some molds are more hazardous than others are. As humans vary greatly in their chemical makeup, so does the body's reaction to mold exposure. For some people, a small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For others, it may take many more.
There are many symptoms of mold exposure. As previously stated, the extent of symptoms depends on the sensitivity of the exposed person(s). Allergic reactions are the most common and typically include: respiratory problems such as wheezing and difficulty breathing; nasal and sinus congestion; sinusitis; burning, watery, reddened eyes or blurry vision; sore throat; dry cough; nose and throat irritation; shortness of breath; and skin irritation. Other, less common effects are: nervous system problems (headaches, memory loss, and moodiness); aches and pains; and fever. If residents have any of these symptoms, and the symptoms are reduced or completely gone when the person leaves the suspect area, chances are that they have been exposed to some sort of allergen, quite possibly mold. About 50 million Americans are affected with asthma or allergy sensitivity, many of these cases are related to mold exposure.
According to a recent article in Newsweek, "The prevailing medical opinion has been that mold accounted for 6 to 7% of all chronic sinusitis... we found that it was 93%- the exact opposite". The extent of negative health effects in humans as a result of mold exposure is still under investigation. This study indicates that the number of cases is severely understated in the population as a whole.
Mold and Indoor Air Quality
While occupational exposure to airborne pollutants such as asbestos and coal dust is known to cause lung cancer/mesothelioma and pneumoconiosis (black lung disease), consequences of exposure to air contaminants, especially bioaerosols, in homes and non-industrial work sites such as office buildings are not yet fully understood. In the 1970's and 1980's, microbial contamination was identified as the primary cause for poor air quality in only 5% of more than 500 indoor air quality (IAQ) investigations conducted by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); while the remaining 95% resulted from inadequate ventilation, entrainment of outdoor air contaminants, contaminants in building fabric and unknown sources (NIOSH, 1989). However, in the last 10 years, microorganisms were the primary source of indoor air contamination in as many as 35-50% of IAQ cases. This change has been attributed partially to a shift from chemical contaminant-based investigations to an approach combining evaluation of physical, chemical and microbiological constituents of indoor air environments.
Some mold problems are obvious- you will see it growing. Others are not so obvious. If you can see mold, or if there is a musty odor in the home, there probably is a mold problem. Areas that are wet, or have been wet due to flooding, leaky plumbing, leaky roofing, or areas that are humid (such as bathrooms and laundry rooms) are most likely to have mold growth. Look for previous water damage. Visible mold growth may be found underneath wallpaper and baseboards, behind walls, in attic spaces, in basements, or may be evident by discolored plaster or drywall. If you don't observe mold, it still could be growing in areas you cannot see, such as the ductwork of a heating (cooling system or in a wall space. In this case, the only way to know if you have mold spores floating around is to test.
The first course of action is to determine why the mold is growing. Investigate any areas that are moist. The home could have a roof or plumbing leak. There could be water leaking into the basement. An air conditioning drip pan could have mold growing in it. The air duct system could be contaminated with mold. If you see mold in the laundry room, chances are that the dryer is not property vented to the outside. Clothes dryers generate lots of humidity and should never be vented inside the house. Finally, mold will grow on any surface that provides moisture and food.
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