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Get Rid of Mold
September 26, 2003
Got mold ??
After last month’s soggy weather, many Mainers have been worrying about mold. Calm Down! Mold is everywhere, all the time.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that (for people without mold allergies) the most common health effect from any inhaled mold (black, white, green, etc.) is hay fever-like symptoms; basically, a very stuffy head. However, since other health effects from inhaling molds can not be completely ruled out, CDC recommends treating all molds as a possible problem.
So what to do?
First: isolate the source of the problem. To grow, mold needs warmth, food, and water. Normal house temperatures provide warmth, and our homes provide all sorts of ‘mold food’, so controlling the water becomes the key course of attack. Common water sources that lead to mold growth are roof, window, or plumbing leaks; ground water getting into a house; surface water getting into the house; vapor barrier or insulation problems; bathroom vent and venting/ventilation problems; and, of course, flooding. Find the source that’s creating your mess.
Next: fix the problem and dry up the water. This is usually the hard part. Remember, there is no point in cleaning up mold if the water problem is not fixed. It only takes about 48 hours of wet conditions to start mold growing, so when things get wet, dry them out quickly!
Now: clean up the mold. Washing hard surfaces with soap and water works great to get rid of mold. Then, be sure to dry it quickly afterward! With sheet rock or carpeting, it’s almost impossible to get the mold out, so consider removing mold-contaminated sections. Take care not to spread the mold, and take precautions such as wearing goggles, an N95 respirator (available at hardware stores), gloves, and clothing that can be washed. It’s possible that you may need to hire someone to take care of the clean up for you.
Also, people in apartments often ask; “There’s mold in my apartment, and the landlord won’t do anything. Who can help me?” Under existing Maine law, the Local Health Officer is the only one with authority to investigate and (if appropriate) make the landlord fix the apartment. Every town is required to have a Local Health Officer, so contact your town office.
Many people also ask about mold testing. There is no real standard to determine “too much mold” so testing is not recommended.
When all is said and done, remember that mold is a symptom of a water problem. Keep things dry as much as possible, and mold will leave you alone.
If you want to learn more about mold and other indoor air related topics go to the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council’s web site at http://www.miaqc.org/.
This column was submitted by Bob Stillwell, the Radon/Indoor Air Quality Coordinator at the Maine Bureau of Health In Our Back Yard is an informational column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to email@example.com or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
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