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by Stuart Lieberman
International Real Estate Digest

e have recently heard bizarre reports of people becoming unusually sick after exposure to some apparently new kind of mold. While this may appear to be a new mold, it has probably been around for years. Its just that everyone is now talking about this mold for the first time.

While its correct name is stachybotrys atra, most seem to call it toxic mold. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this kind of mold was possibly linked with severe lung disorders in children several years ago.

There have been other reports of alleged sickness since.

This newly talked about toxic mold has been associated with lung problems and possible memory loss. However, the CDC advises that the link between this mold and the reported sickness is not conclusive. What this means is that it is possible that certain molds can cause serious health problems. But at this point, it is not clear that this is the case.

Here is the point: despite some of the hype all is certainly not to fear. Mold, is mold, is mold. The CDC advises that all mold should be taken seriously and removed. That this super-mold produces a toxin which may make people unusually sick is not the issue. Simply, all mold should be adequately addressed.

According to the CDC, there are roughly six varieties of household molds. The difficulty is that homeowners cannot distinguish between the more caustic molds and the benign molds. Toxic or not, mold generally takes the appearance of black or grey patches.

If mold is found in small quantities, it can be a removed with a mild bleach solution. One cup of bleach added to one gallon of water has been suggested. Remove mold by scrubbing it with the solution. Eye protection should be warn as also should a respirator with carbon filters.

If the mold mass is large or has infested your drywall or carpeting, the materials may have to be removed. In such cases, homeowners might do best by looking for companies that concentrate in flood damage or insulation removal. Search for experienced contractors.

According to the CDC, there is always a little mold everywhere in the air and on many surfaces. Alleged toxic-mold cases are very rare. For many, household molds produce an allergy like symptom. For others, household mold does not seem to bother them one way of the other.

New molds grow naturally in basements and other chronically damp areas such as bathrooms. They can enter homes through ventilation and air conditioning systems. Mold spores can also gain indoor entry by attaching to clothing, shoes, suit cases, and other convenient vehicles.

While mold is unavoidable, by reducing moisture you can at least make your home less mold-friendly. Here is what the experts suggest:

  1. Maintain indoor humidity below 50 percent, using air conditioners and humidifiers during humid months.
  2. Maintain adequate ventilation including the use of bathroom and kitchen fans.
  3. Add mold inhibitors to paints.

Out of control mold can create a variety of problems. In 1998, a county courthouse in Florida was the focus of a large indoor air quality investigation which ultimately hinged on mold and fungus that was released into the air. According to published reports, a leaking air conditioning system was responsible for the creation of a wet environment that supported excessive mold growth. Of 585 employees in the building, at least 20 reported becoming ill as a result of poor indoor air quality problems.

In the past ten years, health officials have started paying close attention to indoor air quality issues. “Sick Building Syndrome” claims are becoming increasingly common, and that trend will likely continue as scientists develop an increased understanding of these issues. Mold concerns fall into this category and should not be ignored.

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