Should I be concerned about living in a moldy home?
Mold in the air is associated with health problems. For many people, these are minor and include congestion; irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; and coughing. Rashes can also develop. For people with asthma, mold can serve as a trigger for asthma attacks. In heavy or prolonged exposure, mold can cause serious and sometimes long-lasting health problems.
Some conditions make people especially susceptible to mold. These conditions include anything that weakens the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, certain medications (for example, those used in transplant surgery), and some illnesses. Young children and older people may also be at a higher risk.
Exposure to high levels of mold, as in occupational settings or in mold-infested flooded buildings, can trigger more serious health effects. These can include lung infections and a long-term disease resembling recurring pneumonia.
- Mold, bacteria, and viruses thrive in damp environments, as do insect pests and vermin.
Can I kill the mold with bleach to make my home safe?
While chlorine bleach and other biocides may kill the mold, they do not inactivate harmful allergens, irritants, and other mold materials that may impact health.
What are safe levels of mold?
At this time, there are no government-established exposure levels for mold. This is largely due to differing individual responses to mold. What makes one person sick may have no effect on another. It is impossible to say some level of mold exposure is safe or that a particular level will make people sick. However, it is not healthy to live or work in a mold-infested building.
Are there special health risks for those cleaning up moldy houses?
There are no special risks as long as the cleanup is done safely. This means proper protection for those doing the work. Personal protection for workers can range from a minimum of eye protection, gloves, and a well-fitting, good-quality (N95) mask to a body suit and full-face, powered air purifying respirator. For mold cleanup tasks involving more than 10 to 20 square feet of mold, maximum worker protection is needed. A health department official, industrial hygienist, or other qualified individual should be consulted concerning protective gear, respirator fit-testing, and other precautions.
If only part of the house if flooded, the work area should be sealed off from the rest of the house and occupants kept out of the area.
Testing for Mold
Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Because no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated.
Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygience Association, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, or other professional organizations.
Limit Exposure to Mold and Spores
Avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. Wear an N95 respirator. Some respirators resemble a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front. Others are made primarily of plastic or rubber with removable cartridges that trap mold spores.To be effective, the respirator must fit properly so carefully follow the instructions.
Avoid touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands. Wear long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm. When using a mild detergent, wear household rubber gloves. When using a strong cleaning solution, wear gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC.
Avoid getting mold or mold spores in your eyes. Wear goggles that do not have ventilation holes.