If a home is a castle, it makes sense you would feel safe there. But when health problems plague you indoors, even your home can feel stifling. While it's important to get professional help for serious health conditions, there may be hidden matters at work affecting you. I'm talking about mold.
The cleanest house can have mold lurking and making you sick. It grows virtually anywhere and is harmful alive or dead. Behind walls or under floors, it could be in your house too.
What it Does
Mold releases spores into the air that we breathe in. Dead or alive, these spores cause a lot of issues in our respiratory system. Unfortunately, this means the symptoms look a lot like allergies or other upper respiratory illnesses.
Symptoms:SneezingRunny or stuffy noseCough or postnasal dripItchy eyes, nose and throatWatery eyesDry, scaly skinWheezingShortness of breathChest tightness
If any of these have been sticking around past the annoying allergy season like a never-ending cold, it may be caused by mold in the house.
Be aware of these symptoms in other places you frequently spend a lot of time in too. If these only appear when you're in the office it may be a sign of contamination in the workplace. Many workplaces have cleaning companies that come in but they don't get the same attention as a house. Other places to note would be libraries or places that are only used part of the year like summer camps or cottages. Jobs that are more likely to be exposed to mold than others include farming, baking, carpentry and greenhouse work because of all the moisture and dust about.
Where it Grows and Why
Fun fact about mold is that it can grow anywhere (and by "fun" I mean terrible). If the conditions are right, mold will be there. It just has to be moist and warm with a food source for the good stuff to spawn. It feeds on mostly anything organic like last month's dinner in the back of your fridge but wood, paper and drywall are fair game too. It can even eat certain synthetic glues and paints and has been known to grow on concrete if there's enough of a dust layer set down for it to feed off of.
Then, it creates spores that survive the too-harsh conditions like when it's too sunny or cold or dry. These spores are usually carried by wind to other places until they find the next perfect spot to grow again. This is probably how it got in your house in the first place - through the front door (or on your blue cheese).
See, any search will tell you that all homes contain mold. Before you get too terrified, I'll try to ease your stress. According to Ronald E. Gots
from the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine, 70% of homes are estimated to have mold behind the walls while all contain spores. This isn't really surprising if you have a trashcan. What else happens to last night's dinner until trash day? And again, spores travel in the air so they come in and out through the doors and windows. If all homes have mold, it should be comforting right? Yeah, it doesn't much comfort me either but at least we're all in this together.
What to Do About It
If you think you might have a mold problem it's time to identify how to get rid of it. This, unfortunately, can get pricey because it's usually due to a leak in a roof or outer wall. Start easy though and work your way through the house.
Identify high-moisture areas like bathrooms, kitchen or laundry roomsBe aware of high humidity in the summer or in certain rooms like basements or atticsFind and fix leaks in the roof and wallsCheck pipes, under sinks and water heater for leaks
Once you've identified certain areas in your house to pay attention to, it's time to clean! You can use any of the following ways to keep your home mold-free (Pick one, do NOT mix these together!):
1 quart water with 1/2 cup bleach3% hydrogen peroxideDiluted white vinegar1/4 tablespoon baking soda in a spray bottle of water
Other ways to help combat mold growth is to use a dehumidifier in humid areas of the house. These machines suck the moisture from the air, making it dryer and often collect the water in a bucket or have a hose you can link to a drain. You can also use air filters to pull spores and dust from the air. This is great if you're already suffering from allergies.