Separating Fact From Fiction Surrounding Mould
Okay ,so you’ve decided to sell your home but in the process have found mould , or maybe , you’re a buyer that’s found a home and given the evidence, you're not really sure on how to proceed. Step back,take a deep breath folks and for goodness sake don’t panic . Lets take a moment here and try to separate the truth from the fiction.
As a busy professional Realtor I like to sometimes kick back and unwind by watching the occasional HGTV home improvement show just to remind myself how easy home improvement really is ... (tongue firmly implanted in cheek.) I've always found it amusing to see that likeable TV personality “host/expert” in the first half of their show right as they swing that 10 lb sludge hammer into the wall discover something that’s both highly alarming and incredibly shocking ,okay, now wait for it folks ... (“queue to wife’s shocked face on camera #2” …. “Hold and cut to commercial !” ) Now of course predictably, when this show returns both the host and unsuspecting homeowners find ,to their horror , an unwanted guest. You guessed it, TOXIC,SMELLY,DIRTY ,GROWING MOULD . “We've always kept a clean house” exclaims the husband...only then to find this dirty contaminated Mould in and around the stained wall, with all of us millions of viewers watching along on cable in judgment .Oh the shame of it all ! That unsightly Mould around a kitchen sink , bathtub window or maybe even an attic truss and roof sheathing caused by poor installation ,or worst yet leaking pipes . “NOT DONE RIGHT!” the host claims with authority, “We cannot continue this demo any further until we at least test that species of mold”! Really? I think! We've all seen these shows right ,it makes for good entertainment, but so does politics and as you know ,we certainly don't believe everything the politicians say, do we?
Now I must say ,I'm a subscriber to having the right professional advice given the right circumstance ,especially when I'm not trained in that particular discipline,however, I also prefer do some research of my own and arrive at my own informed decision instead of simply relying on someone else sole opinion.
In the area of professional Mould Remediation I’ve learned there’s really some great companies out there both locally and nationally but also sadly like any profession there’s some bad ones too .Some with familiar names you may have heard of , some who'll even resort to alarming scare tactics and outright mistruths solely with the dishonest intent of selling you on a expensive remediation package. I can see myself now in the shoes of that homeowner once the bad news hits with the panic setting in driven by their minds eye view of last weeks HGTV episode with the host calling in his special crews with full face respirators and white HAZMAT suites ,(“Queue camera #1 Zoom in to sponsors logo and phone number on back of HAZMAT” ) to rope off and decontaminate the area . Treating it as if it were something out of the Hollywood movie “Contagion” ...Yikes! Perhaps just thinking of the dollar signs are enough to scare these good folks to death!
What Are The Facts?
Fact is really ,that both In our homes and around us we find ourselves surrounded everyday by both mouldand Mould spores that occur naturally .Their literally everywhere around us ,everywhere we are ,everywhere where we have ever been, including long before we had ever even arrived on this great earth ,there was mold.
Whats also true that there are over 100000 different types of mold in the world ,with close to 1000 living right here in North America .Fortunately for us only very small few have been linked to toxicity. Black Mould Stachybotrys chartarum and Aspergillus Niger found both in the workplace and home are the ones attributed to being toxic . These are the Mould species we concern ourselves with most .Its also true that some of these 100000 plus microorganisms are also beneficial ;with some having even become instrumental in the treatment of different infections and disorders that have plagued humankind .Beneficial Mold derivatives with such well know names such as Penicillin, Lovastatin, and Cyclosporine
What Is Mould?
Mould is one of the earliest living life forms on the planet, a living fungus,a microorganism ,it in itself is is not the actual problem however, its the spores called “mycotoxins” that it gives off when reproducing . These “mycotoxins” are the real culprits of concern becoming harmful to a small percentage of the population. This doesn’t mean Mould is completely harmless, in fact for some it truly is a problem not to be ignored especially if its left unchecked has known to have caused a reaction. Also important is that even within the worst mouldy environments just the mere presence of toxic Mould is no indication that the air surrounding it will contain these possible harmful mycotoxinsand in turn poses no risk to majority of that population surrounding it .
What consumers are looking for today if faced with this common situation is the real truth surrounding both Mould and exposure to it .Questions like, is it toxic?,whats the remediation process if needed ?,and what are the supposed diseases that may or may not be associated with it .
One question is “where did all this misinformation come from?” Well most of it can be traced back to some sensationalist media reporting across North America in the mid nineties. The incident was a CDC (U.S. Centre for Disease Control) cluster case involving several infants in the Cleveland Ohio area found with unknown lung infections . The media reported ,and then concluded at that time ,that the Mould toxicity was to blame prior to even the exhaustive CDC investigative outcome that later found no such linkage . The intense coverage surrounding this case taken on a life of its own at that point ,so much ,that it continues to this day with it being exacerbated with additional misinformation of other unrelated cases then further fueled by irresponsible media , biased trial lawyers and those with a particular agenda . The search for truth its always important given the current age of fractured information and fake news stories. Lets try to separate the science from hyperbole shall we.
What about those who are affected?
Its true there is a very small percentage of our population who are sensitive to mycotoxins. Those sensitive people may experience hayfever like symptoms like stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. Folks allergic to Mould may also have difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems that are taking immunosuppressant drugs such as organ transplant recipients, people who have HIV, and cancer patients taking chemotherapy with chronic lung diseases, may develop Mould infections in their lungs.These issues are real and not to be discounted or ignored. Just as Importantly to note Mould and mycotoxins ARE NOT the cause of cancer, bleeding lungs,hepatitis, blood disorders ,insomnia,birth defects ,memory loss ,Parkinsons and so on, that may have been irresponsibly and erroneously reported in the past.
What to Do From Here Now We’ve Found Mould.
If you have found a large amount of Mould in your home , and you've determined by a medical professional or a professional you trust ,that it's causing a problem for you or someone in your household the question becomes what should you do. Opinions differ based on who you ask. The best answer comes from science You're never going to get rid of the Mould, so there's no point in trying. If a particular Mould species is in your home, it's there because spores in the air brought it there, and they will do so again; even if you tear all the walls down and build a new house, those same spores are going to come right back. The secret is to make your home a less inviting habitat for its growth. The best way to do this is to get rid of the source of the moisture. If your pipes are leaking , fix it. If there's water in the walls, call a plumber. If you live in a wet climate, install a moisture barrier. Once the moistu is out of the environment, the mould will stop growing and producing spores. Truthfully you don't even need to remove the mould; you just need to fix the source of water feeding it.
Testing of the Mould isn’t even recommended. The reason to test is too see if it's one of the dangerous species, but testing can be very expensive, and the type of mould is not always a useful predictor of risk. It's your susceptibility and the conditions that count. If someone is having an adverse reaction, the mould should be removed and the moisture problem fixed; if nobody is having a reaction, there isn't any reason to spend money on testing or eradication.
How Do I Remove it
If you do want to remove Mould, it's surprisingly easy. Simply spray it or scrub it with a diluted bleach solution, and that’s it. It is recommended that you wear rubber gloves and goggles, more to protect you from the bleach than from the Mould. You should also wear a dust mask to protect you from particulates (Mould and otherwise) that you'll kick up by cleaning. If the bleach smell isn’t your thing use something more environmentally friendly like a vinegar, baking soda solution with a bit of Borax. You don't need to hire a contractor unless the job is bigger than your spray bottle or you want to take down walls. But mind you, the Mould is natural, and it's there because that species has spores in your area, so it will grow right back unless you stop the source of the moisture that it requires.
Upon closing I think its important to keep in perspective that although there is evidence that indoor air quality regarding large amounts of Mould can lead to respiratory irritations and other concerns for those susceptible . I'm also convinced that we must keep things in perspective and focus back to the science realizing that all situations are not always created equal. One situation that may have been caused by a slow leaking pipe in the basement or kitchen should have no concern once fixed and the Mould cleaned however If there's been significant flooding within a home and there’s a need for considerable remedial work that’s another concern all together . Flooding ,with possible sewage contaminates or possible damage to the homes HVAC system allowing for both Mould and other microorganisms to affect the indoor air quality we can all agree that there may be concern . The largest immediate one being Carbon monoxide poisoning due to the damaged furnace. Remember a simple discovery of small amounts of unsightly Mould is no need to panic and as my old dear grandmother Stetson used to say, “lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater” . Find the source of moisture contributing to the growth and then simply fix it .Then put on the rubber gloves ,your goggles and boots and do some old fashioned cleaning. That in and of itself will solve a large majority of the problem.
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