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Feb 12 2013

GOT MOLD?! What is mold and why should I be concerned?

Posted on February 12, 2013 by

What is mold and why should I be concerned?

Mold is everywhere!

The more than 100,000 identified varieties of these tiny fungi grow in just about any place there is enough moisture, oxygen, and food.

Outdoors, mold is beneficial for digesting all kinds of organic matter such as leaves, fallen trees, and even dead animals. Certain species of mold have even proven to be very useful to man, providing us with food (e.g. cheese) and medicine (e.g. penicillin).

So why be concerned? Well, mold is not beneficial when its grows unchecked in our homes, schools, or work places. Indoors, mold can grow on building materials, behind walls, on wallpaper, carpets, food, and even dust. Presently, there are no government standards for safe exposure to mold.

All molds have the potential to cause adverse health effects. Certain species have been studied and are known to produce allergens that, in some people, can cause mild to severe allergic reactions, trigger asthma attacks, and in rare instances, result in respiratory infections; such as aspergillosis.

While sensitivity to mold allergens varies widely, people who have pre-existing respiratory problems tend to be more sensitive to mold allergens and experience more severe symptoms. Chronic overexposure to mold can also result in increased mold sensitivity over time.

Aspergillus versicolor spores

We are exposed to mold allergens by breathing in their spores and /or their off-gasses. Most mold species reproduce by making spores, which are released like microscopic dandelion seeds and carried away by air currents.

Our bodies respond to the invading spores by setting off auto-immunological responses which are similar to your body’s response to the common cold virus; sneezing, watery eyes, congestion, sinusitis, and headaches. Typically, if you find that the symptoms dissipate the longer you are away from the suspected source, mold may be the culprit.

Moisture and Mold

Mold needs moisture to survive. Leaky roofs, windows, or basements are typical sources of water intrusion into a building. Pipes that slowly drip and moisture from unventilated shower stalls also provide mold with the moisture they need to thrive. Inadequate or improper ventilation is another common source of moisture. Most cases of attic mold that we have seen are the result of bathroom vents discharging directly into the attic space or in the soffit. Even condensation on windows and pipes can provide more than enough moisture for most species of mold to thrive.


The key to preventing indoor mold is moisture control.

It is vital to find and remedy all sources of water intrusion to prevent the growth of indoor mold. Items damaged by sudden water incursion, such as from a burst pipe or flooding, need to be discarded or dried out within 24 hours to prevent mold contamination. Basements should be de-humidified to less than 50% relative humidity.

Inspection and Testing

When should you test for mold? We recommend mold inspection and indoor air quality screening as part of any real estate transaction, especially if the prospective buyer or their family members are asthmatic, prone to any allergies, or have a known sensitivity to mold. Like other home inspections, air quality testing will provide valuable information that can protect the buyer by exposing possible hidden mold problems prior to purchase.

We also recommend air quality testing if you suspect that your home or office is causing you to experience symptoms characteristic of chronic mold exposure; increase in frequency and/or severity of asthma attacks, persistent sinusitis and/or congestion, or cold symptoms that just don’t seem to go away.

If you can see mold growing on a surface, then you already know you have a mold problem. Testing is then unnecessary, unless you want to establish a baseline prior to remediation or need to provide evidence to confirm the existence of mold contamination for a third party such as an insurance company, or landlord. Since mold may be also growing behind walls, if you can smell mold – but can’t see it, we recommend that you have the air quality tested.

Mold growing behind a wall

A word of warning about the self-test mold sampling kits: These kits are highly inaccurate and virtually useless. They identify and count only airborne mold spores that, carried by random air currents, happen to land in the provided petri dish. Our air samples are collected using a calibrated air pump in order to provide you with a measurable concentration of the contaminant. We measure and we compare the concentration of indoor mold against the background concentration of mold that is outside or in a known non-contaminated area. Determining both the concentration and

type of airborne mold, we can then accurately assess whether there is an

indoor mold problem or not. We can also collect air samples from behind walls suspected of harboring mold.


Mold contamination should be removed as soon as possible. The extent of contamination will determine the level of remediation required. Small areas of mold on non-porous surfaces can be removed using a bleach solution. Porous material contaminated by mold should be removed whenever possible. In some instances, the application of EPA-approved fungicidal coating after cleaning can be a viable alternative to removing contaminated building material that cannot be easily discarded.

Mold contamination should be removed professionally, and in accordance with specific standards developed to prevent the spreading of mold contamination and to protect the person(s) performing the remediation. Mold remediation of an area of contamination greater than 10 square feet is not a DIY project and can cause more harm than good when improperly done. At Alliance Environmental Group, we remediate in accordance with the IICRC S520 and the NYC Department of Health Guidelines. A registered professional engineer supervises and inspects each mold remediation project we complete. We issue a transferrable Certificate of Remediation that certifies the quality of our work.

Got Mold? Alliance Environmental Group can help.

AEG will come to your home, office, or school to test for the presence of any indoor air pollutant. We have more than 10 years of professional experience sampling for biological contaminants such as mold, bacteria, pollen, dander, and insect allergens – in addition to other indoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde, radon, and organic vapors. We use only independent, certified analytical laboratories to assay the samples.

Alliance Environmental Group will provide you with an objective interpretation of the results of your sample assay, an easy-to-understand professional assessment of your situation and level of risk, as well as recommendations for mitigating mold exposure when necessary, in the most cost effective manner.

In addition Alliance Environmental Group will be pleased to provide you with an estimate for the safe, professional removal of mold contamination. We will work with your insurance company if the contamination is a covered event or directly with the property owner to ensure a quick, safe, and effective resolution to your mold problem.

For more information about mold health effects, testing, and remediation, review these references:

“A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home” USEPA.

“Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” USEPA.

“Protect Yourself from Mold” Center for Disease Control

“Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Air Environments” NYCDOH

“Airborne Allergens –Something in the Air” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“Exploring the Role of Mold in Asthma” Respiratory Reviews



“Exploring the Role of Mold in Asthma”

Respiratory Reviews

“Asthma Triggers” Health and Energy


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