Health Hazards in Mold and Mildew
Living in Hawaii has some perks and some challenges. The thing that makes it so beautiful is the high humidity so the rain forests can thrive. We have just finished all seasons of Lost, and it has stayed breathtakingly beautiful for the whole series.
However, these high humidity conditions do cause condensation to form on cold surfaces inside of buildings and even outside where there is constant water. Long periods of humidity really challenge those that take care of computers, books, clothes and many more items. If condensation remains in a location for a long time, mold and mildew can begin to grow.
Mold is a fungus that can develop on walls, ceilings, food, clothes, books, furniture and many more items. It is particularly troublesome in bathrooms, closets, basements and kitchens. If you have experienced a flood, you are aware that the water can get trapped in the walls for a long period of time and this can be hazardous to your health. Mildew actually is a type of mold that grows on leather, fabric, paper, etc. and is also potentially harmful.
Molds cause certain types of allergies. Runny nose, postnasal drip, sneezing, itchy eyes, throat and nose, sinusitis, headaches, and watery eyes are the most common complaints. For those who suffer with asthma, mold can make your condition worse. Shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing are symptoms of asthma.
Some serious health conditions can also be caused by mold and mildew. Some toxins are produced by certain molds and can greatl affect people in a contaminated house or office. If you are exposed for a long length of time you may develop more serious conditions than just allergies or asthma. Some memory and hearing loss has been attributed to mold contamination. Also breathing difficulties, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, excessive bruising and acid reflux have been linked to mold. Those affected have had to take medications or had to have therapy or treatments to get back to normal.
Even permanent damage to your health can result if you do not eliminate the mold and mildew from your environment. Mold can weaken our immune system and cause brain damage. Balance and coordination problems, long-term memory, hearing or eyesight loss have been reported. Some of these conditions cannot be reversed. The most damaging strains of mold can even lead to autoimmune diseases. Do are you convinced yet that you need to get rid of any and all mold and mildew in your home?
My sad experience
I traveled to the mainland from Hawaii one summer for about three weeks, and I had locked up the house tight and secure. When I returned, I was shocked to see mold and and mildew growing on places I had not expected. There were little patches of mold growing on our dining room chairs and starting to grow on my couch. I had to scrub and scrub to get it out. Now whenever I go away for an extended amount of time, I make sure I leave the fans going, so there is some circulation of air to minimize the humidity.
We do not have basements in Hawaii, otherwise we would hit water, but for those with basements, mold and mildew can be particularly troublesome. Mold and mildew seem to like dark damp areas of the house particularly where the air is not constantly circulated. It can grow on drapes, rugs, leather, ceilings, corners, carpets and so much more. They will cause discoloration and can damage or rot anything they get a hold in.
The main thing is to take control of the dampness. Ordinary jobs that we do in the home (like cooking, laundering and daily bathing and showering) all add water to the air. If you keep an exhaust fan or dryer running to keep the moisture controlled on clothes, furniture, carpets and all. Central air conditioning or heating is ideal as long as you replace the filters often and keep the temperature even. However, electricity can be very expensive.
One thing that is useful is a dehumidifier. This helps to remove the water from the air. Also ventilating by keeping the windows open can help as long as there is a breeze. Inside closets and small rooms, it is recommended that you keep a 100-watt electric light bulb burning. We did have this when we lived in Tonga, and it did help in the closets.
Keep Things Clean
Mold and mildew loves soil, grease and film that might grow on the walls, clothes, books and furnishings. As soon as the right amount of moisture, the right temperature and a little food (soil, grease or film) exist in the same location, mold will grow. The best thing to fight mold is to keep your home or environment as clean as possible. Wash clothes often. Do not drop wet towels on your bed or floor. You will also want to have a schedule for washing your drapes. You can use diluted chlorine bleach for cleaning bathrooms, tile walls and floors. You need to leave the bleach on for a few minutes before rinsing it off. Keep your area ventilated until it is completed dry.
You can help prevent mold from taking hold by vacuuming regularly. It is so important to keep dirt from getting deep into your rugs and carpet and also to suck up any mold spores which may be present and cause health problems. If you can, take your rugs out into the sun for a few hours. Shampoo your carpets a couple of times a year as well as your furniture, making sure that they dry completely before using.
Another thing you can do to prevent mold is to use chemicals which do not harm fabrics but they can absorb moisture in the air. These chemicals can hold half their weight in water and can be hung in closets or placed in small containers around the room. These chemicals include silica gel, activated alumina, and anhydrous calcium sulfate. They are usually sold in by different manufacturers in a variety of contraptions.
If you have an emergency where your basement or home is flooded, you will probably do best to call a professional cleaner. They have the right equipment to remove your rugs and carpets and to make sure they are completely clean and dry. The carpet pad will need to be replaced.
Mold can hide in plumbing, air ducts, on windows, entryways, book shelves, drywall and cardboard. Another place it seems to grow quickly is on the refrigerator seal, so it should be regularly washed.
How do You Recognize Mold?
Perhaps you have noticed a few wet spots on your ceiling or carpet or have discovered a water leak. There are many different types of mold that can grow in your home, some of which are hazardous to you and your family's health.
Molds can be many different colors - orange, white, yellow, black, green, brown or gray. If you notice a discoloration in your home, have a closer look. If it has a musty or rotten food smell, it probably is mold. Mold spores are in the air and can land just about anywhere. With the right conditions, they will start to make a colony and by then you will be able to see and smell it.
Some molds are fuzzy, some are smooth like leather, and others look like cotton. Some mold even looks like slime - the type inside of fish tanks or growing on dirty wood chips. Particular kinds even have a bread-like texture or can look like peanut butter or vomit. Matured mold has a powdery texture that looks like cement, and when you scratch it, the spores are released.
If you suspect you have mold, you can get a mold testing kits that helps to identify what types of mold are present. There are also air quality mold testing kits available. If you are very concerned, you can contact professionals who will search, evaluate and test the mold to see if you are in danger from it. Not all molds are dangerous, but they sure can damage the contents of your home if left unchecked.