There are few things that homeowners dread more than mold in the house. You’ve likely heard horror stories about people living with mold infestations that made them seriously ill. Is this just hype, or is there a real danger to having mold in your home? More importantly, what can you do if you find mold growing somewhere in the house?
What Is Mold?
Mold is a broad group of fungi, with thousands of species and subspecies around the world that typically prefer dark and damp habitats. Often fuzzy in appearance (though occasionally slimy or cottony), molds spread across materials and break them down to get the nutrients the mold needs to survive and thrive. Instead of seeds, molds release single-celled spores that in many cases are too small to see with the naked eye; these spores float through the air to land on a variety of surfaces, beginning growth once they find themselves in a suitable habitat. Though molds are made up of a number of individual stalks fibers, a connected clump of mold is considered to be a single living entity.
Types of Mold
There are several common types of mold that you might see around the house. While some of these may not be inherently dangerous, any mold can trigger reactions in anyone with an allergy or sensitivity. The five most common of these molds are:
- Aspergillus: One of the most common indoor molds, it often appears green, blue-green or gray but can also appear white or even yellow.
- Cladosporium: A black or green mold that has an appearance like ground pepper, it commonly grows on smooth surfaces like toilets and painted walls but can also grow in fabrics and rugs.
- Ulocladium: A black mold that grows in wet areas, especially in cracks and corners; it is most common in homes with water damage and active leaks.
- Aureobasidium: Varying in color from pink to brown or black, this mold most commonly grows behind wallpaper, on painted surfaces and on wood.
- Stachybortrys: The infamous “black mold”, it features a slimy dark green or black color and thrives in areas that are damp and maintain high humidity for weeks.
Is Mold Actually Dangerous?
While many molds are allergens, most will not cause severe reactions unless you have a mold sensitivity or have other health problems that make you more prone to infection. However, some molds (such as black mold) actually are toxic and can make you very sick if you’re around them for too long. Symptoms of a mold allergy or toxic mold exposure can include a chronic cough, skin rashes, fatigue, difficulty focusing and even pain or infection in your sinuses, eyes and ears.
Mold Testing and Removal
If you suspect that you have mold problems, there are home tests available to help you identify the type of mold in your home. These should only be a first step, however, as they often aren’t enough to definitively show you the scope of your mold problem. Call in an expert to confirm the results of your test or take a scraping of the mold and have it analyzed. Be sure to wear a dust mask or other breathing protection if you aren’t sure what type of mold you’re dealing with until the problem is taken care of.
For many mold infestations, getting rid of leaks or other sources of humidity is a great way to slow or even stop mold growth. Mold can cause serious damage over time, however, so you may need professional mold removal and repair services if you can’t get the problem under control early.