Off all the problems that are caused by water damage, the growth of mold is easily the most common, the most nefarious, and the most harmful. Mold appears in our homes quite often, and is usually harmless, often presenting itself as a discoloration around showers, tubs, or sinks, and can usually be removed with an off the shelf bleach cleaner. Mold growth as the result of serious water damage, however, can be a serious matter.
There are countless identified species of molds and similarly to fungi, molds obtain nutrients not by way of photosynthesis but from the organic material in which they live. Generally, molds exude digestive enzymes which break down complex foods like starch, cellulose and lignin down into simpler elements that can be absorbed by the mold. By doing this, molds play an essential part in causing decomposition of organic material, allowing the recycling of nutrients. Many molds also exude mycotoxins which, along with enzymes, hinder the development of rivaling molds. It’s these micotoxins in certain species that can cause issues in human respiratory and immune systems.
Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores. Mold spores may remain airborne indefinitely, may adhere to clothing or fur, or could possibly make it through extremes of temperature and pressure. Although molds grow on dead organic matter in nature, their existence is only noticeable to the human eye when mold colonies develop. A mold colony is made up of an interconnected community of hyphae. In man-made environments like buildings, dampness and temperature will often be steady enough to promote the development of mold colonies, generally seen as a downy or furry layer growing on food or other materials.
Mold growth occurs all the time in nature, acting as a natural recycling agent and breaking down the dead tissue of animals and plants. It reproduces by way of microscopic spores which float through the air and look for a nice moist area to take root and grow. We interact with mold and even inhale mold spores every day with no ill effects. The problem comes when we encounter mold spores in high concentrations, which usually occurs when mold is present in an enclosed space, such as a basement or crawlspace.
Mold generally appears within 48-72 hours following a water damage event (sooner if the water is sewage based). It establishes itself, spreads like a bad rash, and can prove almost impossible to successfully remediate. If it were only a nuisance because of the growth, that would be bad enough; mold appears as a fuzzy greenish black growth, accompanied by a rather unpleasant smell. Unfortunately, mold also brings with it all kinds of health threats. Inhalation of mold spores in large amounts may result in allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin irritation. In some rare cases, mold may also cause neurological disorders, respiratory difficulty, and lung disease. Children raised in homes where mold was present demonstrated higher than normal occurrences of asthma and other breathing problems.
Some folks pay a lot of money to have their homes inspected for mold. This isn’t really necessary as mold is usually visually apparent. Coupled with the aforementioned accompanying odor, if you think your home has mold, chances are it probably does.
Smaller mold growths can usually be knocked down fairly easily, but larger growths should be handled by a professional. Always exercise extreme care when working around mold, and wear protective clothing such as long pants, sleeves, and eyewear. Gloves are also advised as touching mold can be enough to release mold spores into the air. Protect yourself from inhaling them by wearing a protective mask or better yet a respirator.
Large mold growths should be handled by a professional mold remediation technician, someone trained to not only remove the mold, but also properly treat the area to prevent it from returning. Your local IICRC certified professional can take care of even the largest mold problems.
Never underestimate the power of mold. Homes, businesses, even entire city blocks have been condemned and torn down because of out of control mold growth. Don’t take chances with your home or your health, call a certified mold remediation professional today.