Winter 2004
Mold In Our Midst

The river rises, or the washing machine overflows, or the roof leaks, or the bathroom ventilator fails, or the crawl space is damp. Whatever the cause, you suspect there’s mold or mildew on the roam in your home. You can tell by that moldy smell, or by those spreading areas of black, gray, green, brown, or white.

What is this stuff, anyway? Is it a health hazard? Can it cause allergies in children and adults? How do you clean it up?

Good questions. Let’s take them one at a time.

What Is Mold?
Mold is a living thing, akin to mushrooms. It lives on any organic material, from wood (even painted!) to leather to dirt, and needs moisture to survive. Molds reproduce by giving off tiny particles called spores, which float around in the air until they land and spread. Mildew and mold are pretty much the same thing—the terms are interchangeable.

A Health Hazard?
Is mold in your home a health hazard? It can be. Occasional spots of mold aren’t usually a matter for concern, as long as you clean them up promptly and get rid of the cause. But if anyone in the family has allergies, mold can trigger an attack. And even if no one currently has allergies, persistent mold can sensitize you so that you may become allergic to it.

What to Do If Symptoms Show Up
For those allergic to mold, symptoms of an allergic reaction can include wheezing or difficulty breathing; nasal and sinus congestion; eye irritation; a dry, hacking cough; nose or throat irritation; and skin rashes. If someone in your home begins having these symptoms, you should talk to your family physician. If a mold allergy is diagnosed, your physician or allergist may prescribe measures and/or medications to prevent attacks.

But even if medications take care of the symptoms, it’s still very important to clean up the source of the allergy—the mold.

Clean-Up
Small spots of mold can be cleaned up with soap and water, or a spray-on mildewcide (mold killer). To clean up a persistent area of mold, wear a respirator (available in hardware stores) to protect yourself from the spores that are stirred up. Bag and toss any mold-contaminated materials—clothes, wallboard, leaves, etc. Scrub and rinse the area with a stiff brush, using detergent and hot water. Dry the area thoroughly, and then apply a bleach solution using 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water.

And then fix the roof, repair the washer or the bathroom vent, or seal off the crawl space. Deprive the mold of moisture so it can’t come back. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

 

For a referral to an expert physician, call Bridgeport Hospital Physician Referral at 888-357-2396.