Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Breaking the Mold (or at least controlling it to some extent)

If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can certainly make something out of you!

--Muhammad Ali

Indoor air quality is a topic of great importance to CFers. Here is California, people are becoming increasingly aware of the danger of certain types of molds and the impacts on respiratory health. Eventhough California is a relatively dry climate (not nearly as prone to humidity as the gulf and east coasts) we have the highest incident of reported mold problems in homes. Even rental agreements and real estate documents are dutifully highlighting the necessity for mold prevention.

In order to reproduce, mold generates what are called "spores." Spores are small enough to drift through the air in a home with ease, and some are even small enough to enter our airways.
The most effective way to control mold is to control moisture. Mold loves to grow in damp, dark areas, especially if there is a particularly warm temperature. As you can probably tell, the warm, moist environment of the human body provides and ideal setting for mold spores to reproduce and colonize.

The bad news is, mold is exceptionally resilient and is opportunistic, meaning it will lie in wait for just the right conditions to reproduce, even if that means waiting for a long time. Many of us have seen mold growing on a piece of fruit that has gone bad, or that leftover pizza that stayed under the bed in the college dorm for way too long. Mold doesn't only grow on foods--it can grow on just about any surface imaginable. Wood, paper, carpet, concrete...

Despite the fact that there is no way to remove all mold and mold spores from the home, there is good news. Plenty of things can be done to effectively control mold and avoid serious health effects such as allergic reactions. Also, dealing with potential moisture issues is beneficial to the soundness of your home.

Since I have ABPA and am allergic to molds in general, I make a point to combat mildew and mold in my home to the greatest extent practicable. We have laminate floors in the bedroom and our entire downstairs, since those are the areas where we spend the most time. By having less carpet, there is less likelihood that spores being tracked in from outside will lie unnoticed in the carpet threads. Also, having less surface area to vacuum ensures that we are not sucking up mold spores and making them airborne again through the vacuum cleaner's exhaust.

The bathroom can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew since there is a lot of moisture there. When showering, it is a good practice to run the exhaust fan. This helps keep the humidity from forming little pools of moisture in unseen places where mold might like to take hold. Also, once a week I use Tilex in our sinks and in the shower to kill off anything that may be growing in there. Our showers are fiberglass, which is a tremendous help when it comes to keeping mold and mildew away.

In the kitchen we make good use of our refrigerator's built-in humidity control function. This keeps mold from taking hold of the soft cheeses and other foods in there. Left overs are not put away or covered when they are at their hottest, since that could trap heat and moisture and promote mold growth. Instead, leftovers are allowed to cool to room temp before being stored in the fridge.

If you would like more information about molds and indoor air quality, ehe EPA has a very good resource listing things that can be done to control moisture and prevent mold growth.

EPA Mold Resources

Current mood: complacent
Current snack: pretzels and caffeine free cola
Health-o-meter: 96% of baseline
Emotional weather: patchy clouds

Read my published article on this topic here on Associated Content

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