How common is mold in my home?
Mold species are quite common in indoor environments both in the air and on surfaces. Mold growth is typically associated with excessive moisture in buildings and homes. Common sources of moisture contributing to indoor mold growth include: roof leaks, plumbing leaks, excessive indoor humidity, condensation during heating season, external flood occurrences and sewer backups. Mold grows very well on wood and cellulose-based building products including drywall, wallpaper, baseboards and ceiling tiles to name a few. Mold growth is also common on porous surfaces such as carpet and upholstered furniture where the moisture has the opportunity to be retained for extended periods of time allowing for growth.
What are the health concerns associated with mold exposure?
The most commonly identified indoor mold spores include Cladosporium, Penicillium and Aspergillus species. Various species of mold are toxigenic and can produce mycotoxins which can trigger a wide array of adverse health effects in individuals. Viable (living) and non-viable (dormant) spores have the ability to rigger reactions in hypersensitive individuals. Essentially, every fungal spore (regardless of species and viability) has the ability to affect every person differently, ranging from no reaction to severe reaction.
A growing number of naturopathic doctors and doctors specializing in functional medicine are providing specialized services to hypersensitive or immune-compromised individuals that exhibit adverse health effects to exposure to fungal spores, or the toxins they produce. Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is the name attached to this condition.
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) describes a group of symptoms associated with biotoxin exposure in genetically-susceptible people. CIRS is typically associated with exposure to a number of environmental factors, with the most notable being exposure to fungal spores in water damaged buildings. Therefore, control of moisture and fungal growth indoors is critical in the treatment of CIRS.
CIRS patients are frequently misdiagnosed with other illnesses, often leaving a patient suffering. Common misdiagnoses include chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety, allergies, ADD/ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), to name a few.
What can I do to reduce the risk of mould exposure?
Since mould requires only moisture, a food source (building materials), oxygen and optimal temperatures to grow (similar to our indoor environments), the only variable that we can manipulate is the moisture. Therefore, the most critical step in controlling fungal growth indoors is to control sources of indoor moisture. The following is a brief list of measures that can be taken to prevent fungal growth indoors:
What should I do if I suspect that I have mold in my home?
The best first step is to have the home or building assessed by a professional. Our assessments include a written report detailing all concerns with temperature, humidity, condensation, wet/damp areas, visible mold growth. We also provide recommendations for resolving any such issues. Remediation can include drying, cleaning or removing damaged materials (or various combinations of the previous).
Although not typically included in the assessment, sampling can be included as well. Air sampling, bulk sampling and swab sampling are all options available. Each sampling strategy can provide the homeowner with valuable information that can accompany the findings of the assessment.
In most cases, air sampling is completed via spore trap. Spore trap samples are quick grab samples with relatively quick turnaround times (24hr – 72hr). These air samples provide a “snapshot” of airborne spore concentrations at the time of sampling. Both viable (living) and non-viable (dormant) spores are included in the analysis. The main drawback of spore trap analysis is that the analytical method is direct microscopic examination, meaning that speciation of the spores is not possible. In addition, certain spore types exhibit similar cell structure under direct examination and as such these spores are grouped together as differentiation is not possible.
Bulk sampling or swab sampling is completed by physically removing a small portion of suspect mold growth either by cutting a small portion of the suspect material or by collecting a surface swab of the affected surface with a sterile swab kit. In either case, the samples can either be analyzed by direct microscopic examination or by culturing the sample. As is the case with air sampling, the most common method is direct examination due to the expedited turnaround times for analytical results.
In more sensitive situations involving immune-compromised or CIRS-related patients, the collection of ERMI (environmental relative moldiness index) swab samples can be very helpful in determining the “moldiness” of a home or building. These swab samples are DNA-based and are extremely accurate in speciating fungal spores present in settled dust throughout a home or building. There is a very high correlation between high ERMI scores and the presence of fungal issues within a building. The swab sample is analyzed for thirty-six (36) of the most common fungal species associated with water damaged building. The analytical results are then compared to a database which in turn provides the client with a “moldiness index” of their home in comparison to similar homes in the database.
The ERMI analysis can also be used to formulate the HERTSMI-2 (Health Effects Roster of Type Specific Formers of Mycotoxins and Inflammagens)score for the home or building which is quite important to CIRS patients.
Our team of certified professionals is capable of providing our clients with any sampling needs they may wish to have completed. All analytical results are provided in an easy to understand report which is issued once the laboratory analysis has been completed.
How do I get rid of mold in my home?
Getting rid of mold in your home can be as simple as cleaning and sanitizing surfaces or as intensive as demolishing affected areas and physically removing the fungal growth. Every situation is different and our team of professionals is available to help you make the best decision for your given situation.
Common indoor mould concern areas.