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Is Your Home Making You Sick?

If you are living in your home and notice that you either have allergy symptoms or respiratory issues while in the house, but these symptoms go away when out of the home, it’s time for an indoor air quality inspection. Even residences that do not contain a foul or unfamiliar odor can be concealing potential health risks.

Often people assume mold is the issue. Often it is and we can test for mold if that seems like the most likely culprit. However, sometimes it is something unexpected.

There are several allergens that do not have any odor. These are present in the air and may also trigger adverse side effects, but still do not have any outward detectability by human senses. There is a state-of-the-art allergy test that takes one million liters of air over a 5-day period. It tests for enzymes that can trigger the most common allergies.  It looks for elevated levels of 2 types of dust mites, 2 pollens, rodent urine, cockroach parts, cat and dog, and several common molds.

Then, there are volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs. These VOCs are released by way of the use of a product or process. Put another way, they are health hazards that accompany the use of common household products and processes. We have found elevated levels of formaldehyde, benzene, and other VOCs some of which came from common household items or building materials. We have also found fiberglass in the air from tears in ducts or insulation intruding from the attic. This was causing skin and breathing irritations for the homeowner.

The cause is not always obvious. There was a secure office in a secure building that, after 2 years in the office, had employees being taken to the emergency room with breathing difficulties. The tests they had commissioned for mold came back not elevated. We tested for VOC’s. During testing, we asked a lot of questions. It came to light that there had been an ant infestation 3 months prior. The pesticide company placed a mild ant poison above the drop ceiling. The company did not realize that the drop ceiling was an open return to the HVAC. The tenants had been breathing in poison. As a side note, from the VOC test results, we realized from the chemicals present that the bathroom that was in a common area was part of the HVAC system for this office. This meant the secure office was not as secure as they believed it to be.

Causes for air quality complaints can come from many different sources. When you suspect your home or business may be making you sick, it’s important to have an experienced, and knowledgeable air quality testing company visit the property.

When Is It Important To Have Your Home's Air Quality Tested? 

Most of us realize the importance of having a home inspection before purchasing a property. This can be a critical step in the home buying process because it can reveal hidden dangers. The home inspector looks at each component in the home to see if it is functioning. Among the things they check is the plumbing, the electrical systems, the HVAC system, the windows, and the roof.  They are looking for functionality. What they may not see is how these systems work together as a whole, impacting the quality of air in the house. Although a home inspector may check some of the same things a mold assessor checks, they may be interpreting the results differently.

If you’re going to purchase a home, a moisture/mold survey can be important. Often, when selling a home, the seller makes cosmetic changes to improve the appeal of the home. These cosmetic changes often hide issues, especially when the home is owned by a house “flipper”. We once inspected a home that had recently been renovated. Everything on the surface looked great, but there were high levels of mold in the air. Luckily, we were able to discover the source without destructive testing. In the HVAC return, the wood box the HVAC unit was sitting on was contaminated with mold. Since all the air in the home flowed past this area, the air in the home had elevated mold readings. This was a relatively easy fix. Once the box was replaced, the readings lowered to “normal ecology”. In another home, we found a large area of mold under the stairs. This was an area very difficult to access. In this instance, the spore trap air sample was not elevated. However, we noticed a very small amount of growth at the bottom of the HVAC unit and kept inspecting until we discovered the growth that covered the underside of the stairwell. This repair would require a Florida licensed mold remediator to remove the growth. The owner had not disclosed the problem because she had the HVAC unit replaced and didn’t realize there had been growth under the stairs. The point is, hidden growth can be in the property you are about to purchase, and a home inspector may not find it.

A mold assessment is especially necessary if you or a member of the family is in a demographic that may have a higher probability for sensitivity. These groups include infants, the elderly, chemotherapy patients, someone with immune issues like lupus, fibromyalgia, MS, or lime disease, or a respiratory illness like asthma or COPD. Also, if you are purchasing the home to be a rental, you won’t know if a potential renter has sensitivities to microbial growth. An extra inspection could save you money and heartache in the long run.

Dangers of Living in a Moldy Environment

The dangers of living in a moldy environment might not be obvious or even understood at first. But, once you have a basic concept of it, it becomes critical to fix the problem as soon as possible. This is due to the fact that mold is far more than just an eyesore. It actually can be quite harmful to people and pets in some forms. It is also an indication of excess moisture that can lead to property damage. So, read on to learn more about the risks of living in a moldy environment and what you need to know, and do.

Generally speaking, by the time mold is visible, there are thousands of spores in the environment and there is often a moldy or musty odor. Although many people believe that all mold gives off a strong odor, this isn't always the case. But, in most instances, mold does emit an unpleasant odor that can easily permeate through most of a home.

It is important to note that if mold is emitting an odor, it usually indicates active growth. Active growth means there is water where there shouldn’t be water. For instance, if a small leak occurs in the false wall between a kitchen sink and the exterior, mold can grow visibly undetected for weeks, or even months. This excess water may be doing content and structural damage. The resulting microbial growth could affect the health of occupants.

Mold is, of course, the growth of colonies from spores, which often occur in moist and dark environments. Usually, warm air is another principal component to spawning mold spores, as is the partial or complete absence of preventative measures, such as routine cleanings and proper environmental controls. Most people are familiar with mold occurring in areas such as bathrooms, mudrooms, basements, and even kitchens. The “warm air” mentioned above isn’t always necessary, as you may have noticed mold growing on food left too long in the back of the refrigerator. In Florida, we often see growth in furniture when the air is too humid, but not necessarily too warm.

The dangers of living in a moldy environment range from mild to severe. This is because not all people have the same reaction to mold spores. Some people may have no obvious reaction while others may have serious health risks associated with exposure. In fact, long-term mold exposure may lead to very serious medical problems for some individuals.

A moldy environment and exposure to it can, for some people, result in several health-related issues, such as respiratory problems, skin irritation, congestion, cough, shortness of breath, sinus infections, and throat infections. Mold exposure may not just cause an allergic reaction, it could lead to other problems such as abdominal issues, muscle aches, joint pains, and other conditions, like fever and asthma.

How to Deal with a Moldy Environment

The best and most effective way to treat mold is through professional mold services. Call a professional, Florida licensed, mold assessor to determine if there is an issue and how severe the issue is. They can make recommendations about possible preventative measures in order to stop it from reoccurring in the future.

The assessor should then be able to recommend multiple remediators in your area to choose from. A professional mold remediation service will follow a protocol (a set of instructions) the assessor provides to remove the growth from the space. After the mold is removed, and before any build back of walls, etc, the assessor should perform a post-remediation verification (PRV) or clearance test. This will verify the restoration company has returned the property back to “normal ecology”. This is especially important when selling a property to show that the disclosed mold growth has been properly dealt with.

The Importance Of Testing For Mold In Your Home

The importance of testing for mold in a house is the difference between peace of mind and being open to a slew of serious problems. When most people think of mold, they think of a small, maybe persistent, annoyance in a place like a shower. Or, even somewhere outside on the exterior of a property. But, it can, unfortunately, be a much more severe issue. So much that it can cause you a lot of time, money, worry, and stress.

The importance of testing for mold in your home is not just to discover whether the spores are present or not, but for a much wider variety of reasons. This is especially true if you are purchasing a resale property, or even do construction. It's also a good idea for sellers who don't want unexpected surprises to pop up and completely just derail an otherwise viable transaction. Here's why:

  1. Mold can affect your and your family’s health. Not everyone is affected by mold, and different molds can affect individuals differently. But, there are types of mold that can lead to serious medical conditions, including respiratory problems.

  2.  Mold can seriously detract from your quality of life. Even in cases where mold is benign and doesn’t affect you, it may affect your family and guests.

  3.  Mold can negatively impact the value of your home. Regardless if a mold issue is benign or it is dangerous it will have a negative impact on the value of your property. This is particularly true if you're trying to sell a house that has a mold issue as buyers will certainly object to its presence and demand remediation.

  4. Mold can be a telltale sign of unseen structural damage. Something people often don't associate with mold is a very serious issue, which is the structural integrity of a property. After all, mold requires destructive elements in order to form and those same elements can wreak havoc on the internal materials, including the walls, and the roof.