8 Simple Steps to Identify Molds

Mold is common across the globe. When exposed to mold the majority of the population can handle low-level exposure, but the problem with mold is that it multiplies exponentially when it has access to moisture and organic products like building materials, food, soil, wood, paper, leaves and fabric. Exposure to molds can cause cold-like symptoms, watery eyes, sore throat, wheezing and dizziness, and trigger asthma attacks.

Mold spores are microscopic in nature (typically less than 5 microns) and can easily be airborne and breathed into our lungs. Exposure to high spore levels can cause the development of an allergy to mold. If there is a musty, earthy smell, the mold problem should be addressed. When a musty odor is noticed it is typically the result of high exposure to microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC) off-gassing produced by the molds. The odors are chemicals released from the molds during some parts of the mold’s growth cycle.

If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. The allergic reaction triggers a cascade of reactions that lead to allergy symptoms. Like other allergies, a mold allergy can make you cough, make your eyes itch and cause other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms.

If you have a mold allergy, the best defense is to reduce your exposure to the types of mold that cause your reaction.

The following steps may help to identify molds:

  1. Check for patches that appear fuzzy, or cotton-like. If mold-like conditions appear on walls or hard surface, place a flashlight against the surface. If filamentous (long visible chains, threads or filaments) structures appear in the shadow of the light, most likely mold is present.

  2. Identify mold by the discolorations. Mold comes in almost all colors of the rainbow, including brown, gray, black, green, yellow, white and orange.

  3. Use your nose to find mold. One of the first clues that you have mold is often by its musty or earthy smell.

  4. Look for mold in places where you’ve had any water damage. Leaking roofs, leaky windows, plumbing leaks and flooding leave household areas ripe for mold growth. Check ceilings and carpets. Check your AC unit for sweating drainlines or duct.

  5. Know that the humidifiers and vaporizers you use for your health are prime places for mold growth due to the high level of humidity. In Florida it is common to have poorly vented bathrooms containing mold fed from the steam from showers. Plumbing leaks in interstitial walls can also be problematic.

  6. Understand that mold loves damp areas. And if you store books, clothing, drywall, cardboard or wood in these locations, then mold has a ready food source to grow on.

  7. Inspect you air handling system (A/C) for visual mold like conditions. Check the evaporator coil, blower assembly, drain pan, wetted insulation liner, etc… Look for primary or secondary drain pan leaks.

  8. Play detective and identify mold in these hiding places: under the kitchen sink, air ducts, entryways and refrigerator seals.

After mold has been identified it needs to be removed and it’s food source eliminated. Just wiping it down with cleaner will only be a temporary fix if you haven’t eliminated the problem. And don’t forget – mold can be easily spread to other areas of your home, it’s spores can float long distances through the air. Regular home maintenance checks on your A/C system, roof, windows, siding, plumbing fixtures and bath fans can go a long way towards keeping you and your home healthier!

Tom Roberts