Protect Your Indoor Space from Mold

(This guest post is authored by Joan Brown of Pinnacol Assurance)

This year, Colorado has seen increased moisture and some long-range forecasts say this year could be wetter than usual.  Mold flourishes in damp weather, so it’s important to make sure your indoor space is protected.  Mold growth may occur when excessive moisture accumulates indoors.  Molds have been associated with adverse health effects and can cause damage to building materials, finishes, and furnishings. Are your indoor spaces protected?

Molds are found almost everywhere in our environment, both outdoors and indoors.  Their spores float continually in the air we breathe.  When mold spores land on a moist surface indoors, they may begin to grow. Molds can grow on just about any substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are available. Mold growth may occur on building materials including carpet, ceiling tile, insulation, paper, wallboard, and wood.

Most people experience no health effects from exposure to mold present in the indoor and outdoor air. However, some individuals with underlying health conditions, such as allergies, asthma, sinusitis, and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to mold. The most common health effects associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions.  Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, eye irritation, coughing, congestion, aggravation of asthma, and skin rash.

Moisture control is the key to mold prevention. Common sources of moisture indoors include plumbing, roof, and window leaks; flooding; surface condensation; and unvented humid spaces, such as crawlspaces, bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas. To prevent mold growth, eliminate or control all sources of potential mold growth by prompt cleanup and repair of all areas where water collection and leakage has occurred; clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24 to 48 hours; remove and discard absorbent materials that are contaminated, such as damp insulation, moldy ceiling tiles, and mildewed carpets; and clean and disinfect hard surfaces where mold growth has occurred, maintain indoor air relative humidity below 60 percent.

If you suspect that there is mold in your indoor space, consult www.epa.gov for more information.

Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60 percent) to decrease mold growth, as follows:
  • Vent bathrooms, dryers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside. 
    • Use air conditioners and de-humidifiers.
    • Increase ventilation
    • Use exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing and cleaning
  • Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. 
  • Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, which may become moldy, may need to be replaced.
  • In areas with a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting – such as near drinking fountains or classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation.