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Mold/Mildew growth can affect your Health

This year's heavy winter snows and threatening floods could provide fertile breeding ground for mold and mildew in your home. Apart from the damage that mold can cause to your household items, it is important to be aware of the its health implications.

Most people associate mold and ill health effects with consuming perishable food after it loses it freshness. But according to Andrew Streifel, hospital environment specialist at the University of Minnesota, the mold and mildew that grow in damp parts of your home also can cause health problems. "The body reacts to mold particles which are airborne, spread and breathed into our lungs," says Streifel.

When mold grows in one area of the house, it can emit particles which travel through the air. Generally, these particles will settle into one area if there is little air movement. But some of the particles will inevitably stay airborne, so that inhabitants can be exposed not just in the room where the mold is growing, but throughout the entire house.

Streifel says that a person breathing in mold particles can be at risk for numerous illnesses. The biggest health threat is from hypersensitive diseases, including asthma and chronic nasal drip.

Humans can also develop infections caused by airborne fungus. According to Streifel, people who are immune-suppressed are particularly susceptible. "For example," says Streifel, "if someone with a transplanted kidney organ were exposed to high doses of mold particles, they could develop an infection of the lung."

An emerging health issue involves fungal growth which produces toxins in spores, which can cause symptoms. But Streifel says that knowledge on this reaction remains limited and is being investigated.

There are various symptoms of mold exposure, including eye irritation, shortness of breath, running nose or general malaise. You may notice that you suddenly feel better when you leave an affected area. Poor indoor air quality is associated most often with inadequate ventilation, but investigations are linking microbial growth with occupancy problems.

The best way to prevent mold-related illnesses is to stop mold at its source of growth, which means stopping moisture. Keep the house dry, especially in predictably damp areas like the bathroom or the basement. If an area of your house starts smelling like mildew, Streifel says it has already set up shop and you will need to get the mildew under control. Bleaching the moldy area thoroughly is the first step. But Streifel warns that mold can grow back even after the area is cleaned, so it is a good idea to dehumidify damp areas.

Ironically, house occupants become most heavily exposed to mold particles during the cleaning process; this is especially true for the one doing the cleaning. The cleaning stirs settled particles and the ensuing air movement causes them to become airborne again.

If you're going to clean up a mold-ridden house, Streifel advises that you wear a face mask. If you use a vacuum cleaner to clean a moldy area, the particles that are taken in could be reintroduced in the outflow every time you vacuum. Use a highly filtered vacuum and be sure to replace the used vacuum bag.

Streifel stresses the importance of getting the moldy air out of the house. Plan carefully to protect yourself and others in the house when cleaning moldy areas, and see a physician if you have persisting symptoms of mold exposure


YOUR DRY BASEMENT . ADVANCED BASEMENT WATERPROOFING SOLUTIONS    717.438.3600    yourdrybasement@gmail.com   PO Box 1259 Carlisle, PA 17013

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