Let’s face it, mold is everywhere. Molds grow on our food, on the plants that surround our everyday lives and on the soil on which we work and play. Mold particles are even in the air we breathe. For some of us, this year’s record-setting wet spring has made us feel like experts in the appearance, growth and life-cycle of certain forms of mold.
After having to deal with a recurrence of mold in my own home at the end of summer, I finally put on my detective research hat and set out to discover what I could about this seemingly ferocious fungi. I was pleased to learn that, so far, I had been doing the right thing in treating our mold problem. Much of it is basic common sense. On the other hand, I did find out that I knew very little about the nature of mold itself.
How much do you think you know about mold? Take the True/False Mold Test below and see how you score.
1. Mold needs moisture, nutrients and a suitable site in order to grow and multiply. T/F.
2. Infants and children are not at risk from indoor mold. T/F.
3. It is a good idea to have your home tested for mold. T/F.
4. Common indoor moisture sources that can lead to the development of mold include firewood stored indoors, house plants and improper venting of combustion appliances. T/F.
The answers are below. No peeking until you’re done!
Mold Test Answers
1. True. Okay, so this one was pretty obvious. Without moisture, nutrients and a suitable site, mold does not have much of a chance. The most important factor where indoor mold growth is concerned is moisture. Controlling moisture levels indoors can sometimes be difficult, particularly in basements. Leaky pipes or roofs, flooding and high humidity are just a few of the potential causes of moisture problems.
2. False. Infants and children are considered a high-risk group where mold is concerned. Other high-risk groups include people with respiratory conditions or sensitivities, such as asthma; people with weakened immune systems, such as chemotherapy patients; and the elderly.
3. False. Testing is expensive. The simplest way to check for the presence of mold is through observation. If you detect an earthy or musty smell, it is safe to assume that mold spores are present. Watch for mold growth in potential high-risk areas. Molds come in a variety of colors and textures. They can look cottony, velvety, granular or leathery and range in color from white to grey to green. Be sure to check everywhere. Molds are creative and can adapt to a wide variety of situations.
4. True. It is important to identify sources of indoor moisture and to eliminate them, if possible. The relative humidity in your home should be between 20-40 percent in the winter and less than 60 percent in the summer. Proper ventilation and dehumidification are key factors on controlling indoor humidity.
What to Do About a Mold Problem
Excerpted from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) website.
1. Identify and Fix the Moisture Problem.
2. Begin Drying All Wet Materials. Use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors.
3. Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials. Porous materials (i.e. sheet rock, carpet, paper products) need to be bagged and disposed. Non-porous materials (i.e. glass, metal, solid wood) can be retained if they are cleaned and kept dry.
4. Clean Surfaces. Scrub surfaces with a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner. Rinse area with clean water. Be sure to collect all excess liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge.
5. Disinfect Surfaces (if desired).
6. Remain on MOLD ALERT. Constant vigilance is the best protection against mold growth and/or recurrence.
Before starting any mold clean-up, it is important to protect yourself. Consider wearing rubber gloves, eye goggles and a medium- to high-efficiency filter dust mask. These can be purchased at most hardware stores. Clothing should be disposable or easy to remove and wash.
By Ann Marie Johnson
Copyright 2001, Morrison County Historical Society
Minnesota Department of Health – Indoor Air Unit
121 East Seventh Place, Suite 220
PO Box 64975
St. Paul, MN 55164-0975