The Fungus "Amungus": There's a Water Leak in My Home or Business. Now What? -Part I
You have just discovered four inches of water in your office or finished basement after a heavy rain storm, and now you have no idea what to do or even where to start. The first and most important thing is: Don’t panic.
In Part 1 of this series I will explain what mold is, how it gets into your home or business, and basic measures that eliminate or control the growth of mold.
Mold is a microscopic, living organism—a fungus—that exists throughout all parts of the world. Recent studies have identified 400,000 different types of mold, but only about 50 are found locally. Occasionally, rare species are found in the Northeast, but these are typically brought into the area as contamination on produce, machinery or shipping containers.
Only a few molds cause serious health issues in most people. The “reactions” or “allergies” that some people have to mold result from mold by-products, known as “mycotoxins”. In addition, these “by-products” cause the smells that are associated with mold. In order to grow mold needs three things:
- Mold (or mold spores) must be present – As stated above, mold is found everywhere and it travels through the air in its spore form. Mold is found even in the cleanest of homes and offices. Do-it-yourself test kits for mold merely confirm that mold is present. If air testing is needed to determine whether an area is contaminated with mold, it should be done by a trained professional using calibrated equipment.
- Food source – Different types of mold will “eat” different types of materials. Some prefer sheetrock and others grow best on wood products or cloth. These food sources can never be eliminated completely so to prevent mold growth it is critical to control the third element- moisture.
- Moisture -- Mold has a very difficult time growing when the relative humidity is less than 50%; it needs moisture, like humans do, for digestion and other life functions. By eliminating leaks, removing accumulated moisture, and reducing the relative humidity – mold growth can be stopped.
When mold does not get enough moisture it reverts to a spore form. This means that even when moisture is eliminated, the mold spores are still there, staying viable until moisture levels rise enough to allow growth.
Part 2 of this series will cover testing to determine if you really have a mold problem.