What is mold?
What does mold look like?
What causes mold to develop?
How do I know if I have mold?
How does mold get into a building?
How can I prevent mold from growing?
Is all mold harmful?
Does mold affect everyone the same way?
How much mold exposure is harmful?
What symptoms do molds commonly cause?
Can mold exposure cause brain damage or death?
What is “Black Mold”?
Does tighter building construction promote mold development?
Do new building materials (e.g. drywall, paper faced gypsum board) promote mold growth?
Should I use bleach to get rid of mold?
Is it possible to completely eliminate mold from the inside of a home or office building?
What can I save and what should I toss?
I have mold in my basement but no one ever goes down there.  Could it become a problem?
Can air duct systems become contaminated with mold?


What is mold?

Molds are a kind of microscopic fungi that are typically found in moist or damp environments. Although they have a variety of useful functions in the natural world, mold is typically a nuisance inside a building. It can damage furniture, clothing, and even be harmful to one’s health if it is not properly dealt with.
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What does mold look like?

Mold has a large variety of appearances as there are many different types. Mold can look white, gray, black, brown, yellow or greenish. Mold colonies may appear cottony, velvety, granular, leathery and glassy.
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What causes mold to develop?

The key factor that causes mold in buildings is moisture in the environment. The other factors, such as darkness, warmth, and oxygen, are present in almost every building.
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How do I know if I have mold?

The three main ways to detect a mold problem are the smell of mold, the appearance of mold or the symptoms of mold. Mold is often associated with a musty or earthy odor, and since it can often be behind walls, mold may be detected through odor before it can be seen. However, some mold is visually distinctive. If there appear to be discolorations on the wall or water marks that indicate moisture, you may have a mold problem. Finally, prolonged exposure to mold can cause health problems like feelings of congestion, listlessness, watering of the eyes and even more sever symptoms depending on the mold. If you tend to feel sick while at home but are otherwise healthy, mold may be the cause.
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How does mold get into a building?

Mold growths typically occur from fungi that colonize wood products found in a buildings construction, mainly wood. Alternatively, people can accidentally bring in mold spores attached to their clothing from outside, which can settle into an ideal place in your home. From there, it can grow into a mold colony and spread across the interior of your home wherever the ideal conditions for mold growth are.
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How can I prevent mold from growing?

The most important thing you can do to prevent mold in your home is to reduce moisture levels. Reducing the humidity is also important, especially in damp spaces like basements. 
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Is all mold harmful?

No – only a few molds can cause infection in healthy humans, but other molds can cause infections in people with compromised immune systems. Typically the biggest health problems caused by mold are allergic reactions and asthma in susceptible individuals. Because of the wide variety of mold, most mold has not been sufficiently researched to determine its safety. However, some molds known as “mycotoxins” are especially dangerous and can trigger illness in both people and animals.
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Does mold affect everyone the same way?

No – some people are more susceptible to mold than others. While only 20% of the population is naturally sensitive to mold, anyone ca develop mold susceptibility after prolonged exposure. Those with asthma and a mold allergy are the most affected by mold. Different levels of mold exposure are safe depending on the person.
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How much mold exposure is harmful?

Different levels of mold exposure are safe depending on the individual and the kind of exposure. Children under the age of one may be more susceptible to effects of mold compared to older individuals. If mold is in the walls but has not permeated to the air vent system, then the exposure level may be low even if the amount of mold is high. Similarly even a small amount of mold can be problematic if people in the building are exposed to it.
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What symptoms do molds commonly cause?

Mold can cause illness in several ways, mainly through irritation, allergy, and infection. Exposure to mold can irritate the eyes and nose, resulting in teary eyes and a stuffy nose. An allergic reaction to mold causes similar symptoms of itchy, watery eyes as well as sneezing, chest tightness and other fever or asthma symptoms. Finally, mold can cause potentially chronic infections after prolonged exposure. Though it’s typically just a sinus infection, those with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of more serious infections.
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Can mold exposure cause serious symptoms, like brain damage or even death?

Though research has not been conclusive, prolonged exposure to sufficiently toxic mold has been associated with a number of debilitating symptoms up to and including death. However, most mold will not result in severe symptoms even if it will result in a meaningful decrease in quality of life.
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What is “Black Mold”?

“Black Mold”, also known as Stachybotrys chartarum, is a greenish-black mold that can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins under the right conditions. These mycotoxin-producing molds are sometimes also referred to as “Toxic Mold.” However, even non-toxic molds should be treated seriously and should be removed promptly and correctly.
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Does tighter building construction promote mold development?

Not necessarily – tighter building construction does not in of itself result in promote mold growth, but coupled with other poor design choices it can increase the probability of mold growth. Tighter construction means that moist air from things like cooking, bathing, and other activities remains in the building for longer, which can result in an environment perfect for mold growth. However, tight construction in tandem with good procedures for reducing mold can be more effective compared to looser building construction, as the tightness also allows for greater control of the indoor environment.
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Do new building materials (e.g. drywall, paper faced gypsum board) promote mold growth?

It depends on where the new building material is used. Since mold needs water, oxygen, and a favorable temperature to grow, places where moisture is prevalent can cause mold to develop from those materials. Paper is largely pre-digested so it is easy for mold to get nutrients from the paper, but unless there is enough moisture present mold can’t grow on the paper. This means the paper faced gypsum board is safe if it is kept dry, but it should not be used in places like showers or tub areas where it is likely to get wet. Instead, cement board, mortar or non-paper faced gypsum can safely be used in these damp areas because these products do not contain nutrients to support mold growth.
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Should I use bleach to get rid of mold?

No – bleach can kill and decolorize mold, but even dead mold can cause allergic reactions and it must be removed completely. Similarly, it’s not necessary to kill mold to remove mold, it’s more effective to remove the mold with soap and water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the New York City Health Department agree that bleach or other biocides should not routinely be used to clean up mold. 
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Is it possible to completely eliminate mold from the inside of a home or office building?

Keeping a building completely mold free is only necessary in special situations such as hospitals and certain manufacturing rooms, but it can be accomplished through very efficient and managed air filtration systems. Since mold spores can also enter from people bringing them from outside, it is typically quite difficult to remove mold completely. However, it is possible to prevent mold from growing inside a building through proper moisture control and air filtration.
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What can I save and what should I toss?

In general, porous substances that are growing mold should be thrown out, while harder, impermeable materials can be safely used once cleaned. Examples of porous substances are rotten wood, paper, rags, and wallboard and should be bagged safely before being discarded. Examples of safe materials are glasses, plastics, and metals.
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I have mold in my basement but nobody ever goes down there. Could it become a problem?

Yes – the mold from the basement can still travel into more populated areas of the home through small openings in the ventilation system. Mold can always be a problem, even if it’s hidden and tucked away!
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Can air duct systems become contaminated with mold?

Yes – this can happen when mold grows in the air duct system itself, or by the mold traveling through the air duct system from one part of the building to other parts.
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