Tips for detecting, removing and preventing toxic mold

January is Toxic Mold Prevention Month, and environmental search engine/directory Envirosurf is offering these 10 toxic mold facts and prevention tips for the workplace and home.

  1. "Toxic mold" refers to any mold that produces mycotoxins in its spores. Mycotoxins are generally recognized to be cytoxic, meaning they have the capacity to pass through the human cellular wall and disrupt certain cellular processes -- potentially causing serious health damage to residents and employees.
  2. Stachybotrys ("black mold"), cladosporium, penicillium and aspergillus are the four most dangerous indoor toxic molds. All four are frequently discovered growing in houses, apartments, motels, hotels, offices and other workplaces worldwide.
  3. Even non-toxic indoor molds can cause health problems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants."
  4. Because mold requires moisture to grow, the most important toxic mold prevention step is to keep indoor humidity less than 60 percent year-round in all areas of one's home and workplace, and to regularly inspect all around the entire residence or workplace for evidence of roof leaks, plumbing leaks, basement/crawl space water problems, flooding and visible mold growths.
  5. Test for elevated levels of airborne toxic mold spores early-on by mold testing indoor air all around one's home and workplace (including all rooms, basement, crawl space, attic, garage and the outward air flow from each heating/cooling duct register) at least once or twice yearly with a certified mold inspector or the use of do-it-yourself mold test kits.
  6. Watch for co-resident and co-worker toxic mold health symptoms such as: allergies; asthma; bleeding lungs; breathing difficulties; cancer; central nervous system problems; recurring colds; chronic coughing; coughing up blood; chronic dandruff problems that don't go away despite use of anti-dandruff shampoos; dermatitis and skin rashes; diarrhea; eye and vision problems; fatigue (chronic, excessive or continued) and/or general malaise; chronic flu symptoms; hair loss; headaches; hemorrhagic pneumonitis; hives; hypersensitivity pneumonitis; irritability; itching of the nose, mouth, eyes, throat, skin or any area; kidney failure; learning difficulties or mental functioning problems or personality changes; memory loss or memory difficulties; open skin sores and lacerations; peripheral nervous system effects; redness of the sclera (white of your eyes); runny nose (rhinitis) or thick, green slime coming out of nose (from sinus cavities); seizures; sinus congestion, sinus problems and chronic sinusitis; skin redness; sleep disorders; sneezing fits; sore throat; tremors (shaking); verbal dysfunction (trouble in speaking); vertigo (feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness and unsteadiness); and vomiting.
  7. People differ significantly in their sensitivity and reaction to toxic mold exposure. Therefore, if only some residents or workers are experiencing one or more possible mold health symptoms, the home, apartment or workplace still needs to be inspected and tested for mold for the health protection of the mold-sensitive persons, as well as for the others who may ultimately be harmed by time-cumulative toxic mold exposure.
  8. Do not use ineffective bleach to try to kill mold growth on, in or behind porous surfaces such as drywall, wood timbers, plywood/chipboard, insulation backing paper, carpeting/padding and other construction materials made from cellulose-containing materials.
  9. To kill toxic mold effectively, use only EPA-registered fungicides that are manufacturer-rated to kill mold on both porous and non-porous surfaces. Alternatively, learn how to use non-bleach mold home remedy recipes that feature such items as Borax or baking soda.
  10. Toxic mold must be both killed and removed with safety precautions such as: no occupancy of the dwelling or workplace during mold remediation; containing the work area with floor-to-ceiling plastic sheeting; exhausting of mold-spore laden air directly from the contained work area to the outdoors; wearing proper protective gear such as a full-face breathing mask with organic vapor filters, biohazard suit ($10) and gloves; and following the fungicide manufacturer's product directions.

A printable version of these facts and tips is available on the Envirosurf Web site, www.envirosurf.com/toxic-mold-prevention-month.htm.

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