Unless you live in the Antarctic, you should be aware that every home has instances of molds and mildews. The fungi are everywhere in our environment, both indoors and out. We ingest them on a daily basis through one means or another - through the air we breathe, the food we eat, our interactions with our pets, and even through invasion of small cuts and abrasions of the skin. A 1999 study by the Mayo Clinic revealed that nearly all sinus infections are caused by mold. It is an inescapable fact of life that we will always have this threat in our lives.
Although we cannot eradicate mold from our environment, we can control it, and the risk to our health. Mold spores are constantly in the air - it is only when they find a place that is compatible with their growth that they become a problem to humans. Mold only needs to find a moist, dark place with a food source to establish its colony, and can do so in a 24 hour time frame if these conditions are met. About the only thing we are able to do to prevent sickness and poor health from black mold is to inform ourselves, and keep a constant eye out for the encroachment of toxic molds in our environment.
So what can you do to be on the offensive? Actually, all you need to remember are the four factors that black mold needs to gain a foothold in your home. There is little we can do about the air we breathe, or the fact that nearly our entire indoor living environment is composed of cellulose in one form or another, which mold thrives on. What we can do is control growing mediums in the home.
The biggest culprit in mold infestation is the presence of moisture. Because we cannot live without it, water is also a major part of our home. What can be controlled is the intrusion of water in dark and humid areas of our homes. Add a dehumidifier to control the humidity level mold needs to survive. Properly ventilate your bathrooms with an outdoor air exchange that helps keep both humidity and moisture at a minimum. Remove carpeting in the bathroom to help insure black mold does not have an area that retains moisture for extended periods. You can even open a window as weather permits.
In the kitchen, the smart homeowner will provide proper ventilation to allow steam from cooking to escape outdoors. A simple hood fan is not enough - ventilation to the outside is a priority. Checking regularly under sinks and around garbage disposals and dishwashers should be a routine task.
Check water pipes for leakage and sweating on a regular basis. If pipes are insulated, the chance of sweating is nearly eliminated. When remodeling rooms that need a water exchange, insure that pipes are wrapped, and that there is absolutely no leakage before the wall is sealed. Basement pipes can be wrapped to eliminate sweating and consequential water buildup.
In the basement, check the faucets and fixtures of the washing machine and furnace on a routine basis. A simple instrument can be purchased at home centers to check humidity levels in moisture laden rooms, such as the basement, bathroom and kitchen, for around $30. Using this can save your health and even your life.
Check the attic on regular intervals, especially during months that are humid or damp. Although mold cannot eat attic insulation, it loves the backing that is an integral part of that insulation. Check for leakage and proper air exchange in the attic to insure black mold does not have a chance to form. Simply shining a good flashlight throughout the interior of the attic can be helpful - you can spot water damage or signs of leakage that allows mold to form. Simple solar powered attic fans can be installed to help air exchange and eliminate moist conditions.
The smart homeowner will also be attentive to the outdoor environment surrounding the home. Piles of leaves, trees and shrubs, and other landscaping around the home can harbor black mold, because the vegetation blocks ultraviolet rays that can kill black mold. Checking these areas on a regular basis is not hard to do, and can prevent damage and sickness down the road. During the inspection, it is also a good idea to check around foundations to look for signs of water intrusion, such as poor drainage methods.
If you live in an area with high humidity, such as portions of the South, placing efficient dehumidifiers in the home are a safe bet. Monitoring humidity levels not only makes good sense, but insures your comfort level. If you live in an area that is hurricane prone, you must always be sure to inspect shingles and roofing after a particularly bad storm to insure that nothing has become loose enough to allow water to intrude into the attic or ceilings.
In the final analysis, undoubtedly the most important thing we can do is to educate and inform ourselves to the real danger of toxic black mold. If we inspect our homes on a regular basis, look for signs of infestation, and monitor humidity and moisture levels in our home, then we can live with mold. Some of it can be dealt with by the homeowner. Other problem areas may require the help of a professional if detected after black mold has a strong foothold. We have no choice but to live with mold, because it will always be present in our environment. What we can do is everything possible to insure it does not make us or our loved ones ill.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.