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MOLD FAQ – Mold Damage Recovery Assistance

Water Damage untreated properly or not Dried will form mold within 72hrs

 

The Florida Department of Health

has developed this brochure to address some of the most common questions and concerns about indoor mold, how it affects human health, and ways in
which you can prevent or remove it.

What are molds?

What makes mold grow?

Should
I be worried about mold in my home?

What
health problems can be caused by mold?

How can I tell if there is mold in my home, or should I test my home for
mold?

How can I be exposed
to mold?

How
much mold does it take to make me sick?

Are
some molds more hazardous than others?

What is Stachybotrys chartarum?

How can Stachybotrys affect my health?

How can
I tell when Stachybotrys chartarum is present in my home?

How can I prevent
mold growth?

How Should Mold
Be Cleaned?

Should bleach or other biocides (disinfectants, sanitizers, or fungicides)
be used to kill mold?

Should
I use an ozone generator to address an existing mold problem?

Who should do the
cleanup?


What are molds?

Molds are types of fungi. They grow in the natural environment. Tiny
particles of molds are found everywhere in indoor and outdoor air. In nature,
molds help break down dead materials, and can be found growing on soil,
foods, plants and other items. Molds are also very common in buildings and
homes. Mold needs moisture to grow. Indoors, mold growth can be found where
humidity levels are high, like basements and showers. Molds produce microscopic
cells called “spores” that are spread easily through the air. Spores can
also be spread by water and insects. Live spores act like seeds, forming
new mold colonies when they find the right conditions.

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What makes mold grow?

Mold only needs a few things to grow and multiply:

  • Nutrients (food)
  • A suitable place to grow
  • Moisture

Many building materials (such as wood, sheetrock, etc.) provide food
that can support mold growth. Even dust that has settled on these materials
or furniture can be a food source for molds. Molds can grow almost anywhere
there is enough moisture or high humidity. Controlling moisture is the key
to stopping indoor mold growth, because all molds require water to grow.
Moisture can come from:

  • Flooding from the outside (storm water, overflowing lakes, streams,
    storm surge, etc.)
  • Flooding from the indoor (overflow from sinks, tubs, toilets, air
    conditioner drain pans or sewerage systems)
  • Condensation (caused by indoor humidity that is too high or surfaces
    that are too cold)
  • Water leaks from outside the building (roof, walls, floors)
  • Indoor plumbing leaks or broken water pipes
  • Outdoor sprinkler spray hitting the walls, or indoor fire sprinklers
  • Poor venting of kitchen and bathroom moisture (steam from shower or
    cooking)
  • Humidifier use
  • Drying wet clothes indoors, or not venting clothes dryers outdoors
    (including electric dryers)
  • House plants (over watering, etc.)
  • Moisture from our bodies (sweat, wet hair on pillows, breath)
  • Warm, moist air from outdoors
  • Liquid spills

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Should
I be worried about mold in my home?

Yes and no. On the one hand, there will always be mold in your home in
the form of spores and pieces of mold cells. The presence of mold in the
air is normal. On the other hand, one should not let mold grow and multiply
indoors. When this happens, your level of exposure can increase, thereby
increasing the risk of potential health problems. Building materials, household
goods and furnishings may also be damaged. Mold needs to eat to survive,
and it’s perfectly happy eating your home if you allow it.

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What
health problems can be caused by mold?

There are four kinds of health problems that come from exposure to mold:
allergic illness, irritant effects, infection, and toxic effects. For people
that are sensitive to molds, symptoms such as nasal and sinus irritation
or congestion, dry hacking cough, wheezing, skin rashes or burning, watery
or reddened eyes may occur. People with severe allergies to molds may have
more serious reactions, such as hay-fever-like symptoms or shortness of
breath. People with chronic illnesses or people with immune system problems
may be more likely to get infections from certain molds, viruses and bacteria.
Molds can also trigger asthma attacks in persons with asthma. Headaches,
memory problems, mood swings, nosebleeds and body aches and pains are sometimes
reported in mold complaints, but the causes of these physical symptoms are
not yet understood. The toxic effects of certain molds are not well understood,
and are currently a controversial topic in the medical and scientific community.
There is evidence of specific long-term toxic effects from eating foods
with mold toxins. Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the actual
health risks from breathing in or skin contact with mold toxins. Allergic
disease is now considered the most likely health problem related to mold
exposures. Research into the possible health effects related to mold exposure
continues today.

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How
can I tell if there is mold in my home, or should I test my home for mold?

Indoor mold growth can usually be seen or smelled. In most cases, if
visible mold growth is present, sampling is not needed. There are no health
or exposure-based standards that you can use to evaluate a mold sampling
result. The Florida Department of Health does not recommend mold testing
or sampling to see if you have a mold problem, or to see what kind of mold
might be growing. Sampling for mold in the air can be expensive and, if
done, should only be done by experienced professionals. Investigate a mold
problem; don’t test.

  • Look for visible mold growth (it may look cottony, velvety, rough,
    or leathery and have different colors like white, gray, brown, black,
    yellow, or green). Mold often appears as a staining or fuzzy growth on
    furniture or building materials (walls, ceilings, or anything made of
    wood or paper). Look for signs of moisture or water damage (water leaks,
    standing water, water stains, condensation, etc.).
  • Check around air handling units (air conditioners, furnaces) for standing
    water. Routinely inspect the evaporator coils, liner surfaces, drain pans
    and drain lines.
  • Search areas where you notice mold odors. If you can smell an earthy
    or musty odor, you may have a mold problem.
  • If mold-allergic people have some of the symptoms listed above when
    in your home, you may have a mold problem.

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How can I be exposed
to mold?

Mold is virtually everywhere, floating in the air and on all surfaces.
People are exposed to molds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days
a year. Exposures increase when indoor moldy materials becomes dried, damaged
or disturbed, causing spores and other mold cells to be released into the
air and then inhaled. Elevated exposure can also occur if people directly
handle moldy materials or accidentally eat mold.

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How
much mold does it take to make me sick?

It depends on the situation and the person. This question is difficult
to answer in the same way it’s hard to say how much sun causes a sunburn:
the amount varies from person to person. What one person can tolerate with
little or no effect may cause symptoms in another individual.

The long-term presence of indoor mold may eventually become unhealthy
for anyone. Those with special health concerns should consult a medical
doctor if they feel their health is affected by indoor mold. The following
types of people may be affected sooner and more severely than others:

  • Babies and children
  • Elderly persons
  • Individuals with chronic respiratory conditions or allergies or asthma
  • Persons having weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV
    or AIDS, chemotherapy patients, or organ transplant recipients)

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Are
some molds more hazardous than others?

Some types of molds can produce chemicals called “mycotoxins”. These
molds are common, and are sometimes referred to as “toxic mold.” There are
very few reports that “toxic molds” inside homes can cause unique or rare
health conditions. If you think you have a mold problem in your home, you
do not need to find out what type of mold you may have. All molds should
be treated the same when it comes to health risks and removal. All indoor
mold growth should be removed promptly, no matter what type(s) of mold is
present, or whether or not it can produce mycotoxins.

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What is Stachybotrys chartarum?

Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra)
is a greenish-black mold that can grow on materials such as drywall or sheetrock,
ceiling tiles and wood when they become moist or water-damaged. Not all
greenish-black molds are Stachybotrys chartarum. Some strains of Stachybotrys chartarum may produce mycotoxins. Whether a mold produces
mycotoxins depends on what the mold is growing on and conditions such as
temperature, pH, humidity or other factors. When mycotoxins are present,
they occur in both living and dead mold spores, and may be present in materials
that have become contaminated with molds. While Stachybotrys is growing,
a wet slime layer covers its spores, preventing them from becoming airborne.
When the mold dies and dries up, air currents or physical handling can cause
spores to become airborne.

Currently, there is no test to determine whether Stachybotrys growth
found in buildings is producing toxins. There is also no blood or urine
test that can tell if an individual has been exposed to Stachybotrys
chartarum
spores or its toxins.

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How can Stachybotrys affect my health?

Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low. As with
other types of mold, at higher levels adverse health effects may occur.
These include cold-like symptoms, rashes, sinus inflammation, eye irritation
and aggravation of asthma. Some symptoms are more general – such as inability
to concentrate or fatigue. Usually, symptoms disappear after the mold is
removed.

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How can
I tell when Stachybotrys chartarum is present in my home?

Many molds are black but are not Stachybotrys. For example, the
black mold often found between bathroom tiles is not Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys can be identified only by specially trained professionals
through a microscopic exam or by cultures. The Florida Department of Health
does not recommend that people sample mold growth in their home. All indoor
mold growth should be removed, regardless of type.

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How can I prevent
mold growth?

Water is the key. Without it, mold growth cannot start, much less multiply
and spread. The easiest way to prevent the mold from gaining a foothold
is to control dampness. Keep your home clean and dry. When water stands
for even 24 hours, common molds can take hold. Keeping humidity levels below
60% and venting moisture from showering and cooking to the outside are several
ways to prevent the conditions that can lead to mold growth. Other ways
include:

  • Clean and dry up spills within 24 hours
  • Dry out wet building materials and carpets within 24 hours
  • Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier to reduce the indoor humidity
    levels below 60%. If you have a central air conditioning system and need
    a dehumidifier to reduce relative humidity below 60%, you should have
    the air conditioning system examined for problems
  • Do not carpet bathrooms or basements

Note: While most experts suggest a relative humidity of less than 60%,
below 50% is best for controlling both mold growth and dust mites. Dust
mites are microscopic animals related to spiders, ticks and other mites.
Dust mites eat mold and dead human or animal skin scales (flakes) and leave
allergenic proteins. Dust mites reduce allergen production at these lower
humidity levels.

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How Should Mold
Be Cleaned?

Mold should be cleaned as soon as it appears. Persons who clean the mold
should be free of symptoms and allergies. Small areas of mold should be
cleaned using a detergent/soapy water or a commercial mildew or mold cleaner.
Gloves and goggles should be worn during cleaning. The cleaned area should
then be thoroughly dried. Throw away any sponges or rags used to clean mold.

If the mold returns quickly or spreads, it may mean you have an underlying
problem, such as a water leak. Any water leaks must first be fixed when
solving mold problems. If there is a lot of mold growth, consult the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s booklet: “Mold Remediation in Schools
and Commercial Buildings”. It is available free by calling the EPA Indoor
Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at (800) 438-4318, or on the Internet
at www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/mold_remediation.htmlLinks opens in new window..
If the moldy material is not easily cleanable, such as drywall, carpet padding
and insulation, then removal and replacement may be necessary.

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Should bleach or other biocides (disinfectants, sanitizers, or fungicides)
be used to kill mold?

Using bleach or other chemicals to kill indoor mold growth is not needed
in most cases. The goal should be to remove mold growth by cleaning or removing
moldy materials. Dead mold can still pose health risks if you are exposed.
Using bleach or other disinfectants on surfaces after mold removal may be
needed where people are thought to be susceptible to fungal infections (such
as a person with immune system problems). Should you decide to use bleach
or another chemical, please read and carefully follow the label directions
and hazard statements (caution, warning, danger). Do not mix bleach with
ammonia cleaners or acids, because a dangerous chlorine gas may be formed.

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Should
I use an ozone generator to address an existing mold problem?

No. Ozone irritates lungs, and is not likely to be effective at addressing
an indoor mold problem. No one should expose themselves or others to ozone
on purpose. Address the cause of the mold (usually moisture) and then remove
the mold by cleaning surfaces or removing moldy materials.

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Who should do the
cleanup?

Who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One consideration
is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than about 10
square feet (less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), in most cases, you
can handle the job yourself. However,

  • If there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers
    more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    (EPA) guideline: “Mold
    Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings
    Links opens in new window..
    Although written about schools and commercial buildings, this document
    also helps when dealing with mold in other building types.
  • If you choose to hire a contractor (or other professional service
    provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning
    up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations
    in EPA’s “Mold
    Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings
    Links opens in new window.,
    the guidelines of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial HygienistsLinks opens in new window. (ACGIH), or other guidelines from professional or government organizations.
  • If you think the heating or air conditioning (HVAC) system may be
    contaminated with mold, read the EPA’s guide “Should You Have the Air
    Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?” before taking further action. Visit www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airduct.htmlLinks opens in new window.,
    or call (800) 438-4318 for a free copy.
  • If you have concerns regarding your health before starting the cleanup,
    consult your doctor.

Note: The EPA suggests the following: “Do not run the HVAC system if
you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold – it could spread
mold throughout the building”. Unfortunately, it is thought that most, if
not all, heating and air conditioning systems in Florida will support mold
growth at some point. Stopping the use of an air conditioning system due
to suspected mold growth would make most Florida buildings very uncomfortable
during hot and humid weather. Should you turn off an air conditioner if
a mold problem in the system is found? Ideally, yes. The system should be
shut down while cleaning or mold removal is performed. If the water and/or
mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call
a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged
by contaminated water.

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Regardless of the type of damage that you have experienced in your home of comercial property a licensed public adjuster can help you collect more money on your insurance claim.
Even if your insurance claim has been denied by the insurance company an All American Public Adjuster can help you re-open a claim with your insurance company.
If your insurance company settled your claim and sent you a check which did not completelly cover your damages you have a legal right to receive a free consultation to see if your claim can be re-opened in order to receive a fair settlement for your property damage claim.

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