Health Effects of Mold
Mold has become a big issue in recent years — the subject of lawsuits, closed schools, and the impetus for the growth of a “new” industry, mold testing and remediation. Discover how mold affects your indoor air quality and your health.
With all this talk about mold, you might think it is new. It is not new. You might think it is a complex issue. It is not a complex issue, but rather very simple. First, let’s talk about why mold is here in the first place. Mold has a purpose. Its purpose is to breakdown, or eat, dead organic matter. Without mold, plant and animal material would grow and grow and pile up and pile up.
What is mold? A fungus which grows on organic matter in moist conditions. Mold exposure in indoor air is a major health concern. Mold spores can be allergenic, causing irritations of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Also known as Mould.
Mold knows why it was put here. If it’s organic, dead, and wet, mold knows to eat it. Organic means it is a material that was once living, such as wood. Mold sends out its spores everywhere, which can lay dormant for many years. So when something is organic, dead and wet, mold grows on it and eats it. When we say “mold”, we mean any mold or other fungi, of which there are many thousands of varieties.
Since mold spores are everywhere, and our building materials and contents of our homes (furniture, boxes, clothes, etc.) are made from organic materials, this factor cannot be controlled. The only factor that we can control in our homes is the moisture.
Mold needs 70% relative humidity (RH) to grow; however this is a loose number. Some molds can grow at less RH. In many cases, like in a crawl space, the RH of the surrounding air, and the RH of the surfaces are two different things because of temperature differences between the air and the surfaces.
Mold Allergies and Health
Mold releases airborne spores or ” seeds”, which are so light they float on the slightest air currents, off to find more suitable places to grow. Most people are not allergic to mold spores, but some are. The higher the concentration of mold spores, the greater percentage of people who will be bothered by them.
There is plenty of information out there on the health effects of mold, and they will not be explained here. One thing is for sure, mold growing in your house is not good. It’s not good for your health, and it is increasingly not good for your property value. Who wants to buy a house with mold? Nobody.
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A strong dehumidification system that will get rid of the mold and mildew in your basement, or crawl space. Since air rises up, mold and damp air from the basement or crawl space is coming into the living area of your home. If we can improve the air quality at the bottom level of the house, the effect will trickle into the living area creating a much healthier environment.
Structural Damage to Crawl Space
There is another industry that has vented dirt crawl spaces to thank for its existence-Structural repairs to replace floor joists, girders, and sill plates – basically the entire floor framing system under your house. These repairs aren’t cheap. In fact, they can be very expensive. You can imagine a carpenter figuring out how he’s going to crawl under your home and get new 16 foot long 2″ x 10″s in place, with all the duct work, wiring, plumbing, and bridging (cross bracing) that are attached to the old rotted joists, all while operating on his back in a low crawl space. It’s not easy on him, and it’s not going to be easy on your bank account.
Most of the time, these structural repairs are done without ever fixing the problem! So it’s only a matter of time before the new framing rots out, and it has to be done again.
What is the design life of a house? In other words, how long do you want your house to last without needing major repairs? If the answer is longer than 10 or 15 or 25 years, then you need to secure your dirt crawl space.
When the floors in nearly all 36 units in a New England condominium complex began bouncing and getting soft, they realized the crawl spaces were a bigger problem than they thought. As an emergency measure, they had to “sister” new framing lumber to each side of every girder and every floor joist so the homes would not cave in. Eventually they installed a Crawl Space Encapsulation System to fix and solve the moisture problem.
The sill plate rotting right over this vent is no coincidence. That the problem wasn’t fixed after it was replaced is the irony.
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There are three things, other than mold, that destroy organic materials in general, and wood in particular: water, heat and ultra-violet radiation. Of these, water is by far the most important.
Water leaks, moisture, or high humidity levels in a home are a very bad idea, and water vapor moves easily upwards into the house environment. A damp environment is very unhealthy and destructive. Mold thrives and reproduces by producing airborne spores by the millions, and some molds are toxic. Insects and critters of all kinds love damp environments and wet materials. Rot and decay occur in damp environments causing structural damage.
The natural airflow in a house is from bottom to top. This sucks the moist air and everything in it up into the living areas of the home.
Mold spores, odors, humidity and critters create a very unhealthy environment for people. Many people are allergic to these things, and experience a host of symptoms and don’t realize that their dirt crawl space is affecting their health.
By stopping water leaks and removing humidity from the air these things can be prevented.
Household Mold Prevention
Mold Neutralizer, a commercial mold prevention and removal system, provides a special protection in your home from mold and other damaging microorganisms. When applied, Mold Neutralizer destroys and removes mold, mildew, bacteria, algae, and the protein-based bio-films where they grow and thrive.
In the home, Mold Neutralizer is more effective for household mold prevention and a safer product than other alternatives such as bleach. While bleach is not only toxic to us, but also unable to treat high counts and severe strains of mold and bacteria, Mold Neutralizer is fully able to deal with these hazardous strains, and unlike bleach and other alternatives, Mold Neutralizer continues to work long after its application, establishing a protective shield that lasts for years in your home!
Safe Mold, Mildew, Algae and Bacteria Removal!
Mold Neutralizer is a non-hazardous, non-toxic product that is usable on almost any building material. Wood, brick, block, concrete, ceiling tile, insulation, flooring and other surfaces can all be protected by Mold Neutralizer. This product provides protection to education centers, schools, medical facilities, industries, offices, and of course, to prevent household mold around the country. This product is also currently a popular and effective choice for many areas of devastation from hurricane damage as well as other flooding. Mold Neutralizer is an easy solution to apply, available in both clear and translucent colors, and provided with a written warranty for quality and effectiveness.
Crawl Space Mold and Moisture in California
High humidity levels in dirt crawl spaces causes moisture and condensation and is a significant issue. Cool surfaces such as wood, concrete, and metal will gather water vapor condensing out of the air. This moisture will saturate the materials, causing rot, rust, odors, and mold growth. The moisture will provide perfect nesting conditions for critters, such as termites, ants, rodents, crickets, beetles, spiders, and countless others often seen in a dirt crawl space.
Moisture is the prime factor that causes structural damage. Over time, this moist environment damages wood framing, steel structural members and costs you money in replacement.
Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the ground throughout North America. The EPA has found that radon gas exposure greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. Dirt crawl spaces allow radon gas to enter the home easily, where it then moves into your living space.
The Crawlspace Encapsulation System is the ideal solution to reduce radon entry from a dirt crawl space. The system can be combined with a radon mitigation system to actively draw radon from beneath the home and exhausting it outdoors.
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Crawl Space Mold
Mold spores are in the air everywhere! All they need to grow is organic material such as wood, the right temperature range, and moisture. All homes will have enough organic material for mold to survive, and we know that the earth naturally keeps a constant temperature in the crawl space. Of these, the only one that can be controlled is moisture.
Dirt and concrete crawl spaces have the high humidity levels necessary for mold growth. Humidity levels from 50% to 90% are easily found in dirt crawl spaces, even ones that have never flooded. Mold can grow on dirt, insulation, framing and even under your carpet on the first floor! Mold destroys organic materials as it feeds on them.
Many people are allergic to mold and mold spores and can experience severe reactions. It can cause illness and asthma. Spores can be dormant for many years, waiting for the right conditions to grow. Some molds produce mycotoxins, such as the black mold Stachybotrys, which can lead to serious health conditions. There has been considerable recent documentation on the effects of mold and toxic mold.
Dr. Harriet Burge, an expert in airborne diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health says, “Mold in houses is not a good thing. It could lead to asthma. Houses with mold are damp, and have dust mites and other things in them that can cause illness, especially in children.”
The good news is there is a solution that will stop your crawl space from being a health hazard. Mold will not grow when the humidity levels are reduced below 50%. Clean CrawlSpace can fix the moisture problem in your crawl space with a custom designed system based on your needs. With any combination of our patented crawl space products such as the crawl space vapor barrier system, crawl space sump pump, crawl space vent covers or crawlspace dehumidifier, we can provide you with a lasting solution for a healthy home!
Crawl Space Liner Installation for Crawl Spaces
The Crawl Space Encapsulation System is a durable crawl space vapor barrier that is tough enough for you to crawl on! Once installed, this strong liner can take wear and tear, allowing you to use your crawl space for storage, and servicemen can work in the space without worry of putting holes or tears in the liner.
The Crawl Space liner completely stops moisture penetration. The Crawl Space liner is used to isolate the home from the earth completely and permanently. It’s a heavy 20 mil thick material similar to a pool liner. It is manufactured in layers- a blend of high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, and polyester cord reinforcement to give it incredible strength. The finished side really brightens a crawl space with the available lighting and allows you to easily see that your crawl space is free of mold, insects and dirt.
Install a Dehumidifier in your Damp Crawl Space
All of these problems can be helped by simply installing a crawl space vapor barrier, airtight crawl space vent covers and doors, and a crawl space dehumidifier in the space.
Choosing the Best Crawl Space Dehumidifier
Step 1: Install Airtight Doors and Vent Covers
Sealing off crawl space vents stops the vicious cycle of humidity and cold air constantly entering your crawl space and then moving upward into your home year-round. Covering the crawl space vents and doors with an airtight seal will make your home more energy efficient. Even with a crawl space vapor barrier installed, moisture can still enter through the crawl space.
Step 2: Get the Crawl Space Dry!
If your crawl space gets wet, this problem must be addressed before anything else is done. Depending on your crawl space, a specific drainage system may be recommended or any other solution that will move the water out of your crawl space and away from your home.
Plumbing leaks are also responsible for wet crawl spaces. Since homeowners do not generally enter their crawlspaces on a regular basis, crawl space plumbing leaks have been known to go unnoticed for days, months, or even years! Any plumbing leaks should be repaired prior to the Crawl Space Liner installation.
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Step 3: Encapsulate the Crawl Space
The crawl space vapor barrier is a 20 mil thick vapor barrier with layers of high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene, plus polyester cord reinforcement to give it incredible strength. The finished side is white so your crawl space is brighter with the available lighting. You can see the crawl space is free of dirt, bugs and mold.
Step 4: Install a Dehumidifier in your Damp Crawl Space
Once the crawl space is isolated from the earth, it’s a good idea to install a crawl space dehumidifier. Homes that have had high humidity levels in the crawl space will retain some of that moisture in the wood even after the space is encapsulated. The right dehumidifier can dry this out, while making sure that any future moisture is not trapped in the space. The crawl space dehumidifier is self-draining, Energy Star Rated and powerful enough to dehumidify the whole crawl space, while also taking particles out of the air down to two microns in size! This helps make your entire house healthier!
1. Your dehumidifier should be powerful enough to do the job. The most common dehumidifier complaint that we hear comes when a homeowner has purchased a dehumidifier that runs constantly but does not dry the crawl space. The end result from this is a continuously damp, moldy space, with the only difference being a higher energy bill.
You could spend more money and buy a second dehumidifier. However, the end result of this will be an expensive and inefficient solution. Twice the dehumidifiers means twice the noise, twice the electricity, and, very often, a crawl space that’s still damp. Instead of taking this route, start off right with a powerful 100-liter crawl space dehumidifier that will assure that the moisture in the space is being removed in an energy-efficient method.
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2. Find an Energy-Efficient Dehumidifier
Few dehumidifiers in the California area come with an Energy Star rating, but these few are very worth the effort. The best dehumidifiers can do more than twice the work at less than a third of the energy usage, saving you a lot of money in the long run.
If you are concerned about the energy usage of your crawl space dehumidifier, you may also want to find a model that allows you to adjust your dehumidifier to a specific level of dryness. This way, you can set it to full-blast if you want the most comfortable environment that is easiest on your cooling bills (humid air is more expensive to cool than dry air), or you can simply set it to keep the space dry enough to help prevent mold growth.
3. Install a Self-Draining Dehumidifier
Cheap home dehumidifiers come with a collection tray that will fill up with water about every 12 hours. This means that keeping your crawl space dry involves emptying it’s tray 14 times a week or more. However, most homeowners will fall into a routine where they’re emptying it only once weekly. This means that your dehumidifier’s tray will fill and shut off right away, allowing it to work only 7% of the time, whereas the humidity goes unchecked the other 93%. Why bother?
Your time and energy is too important for you to have to continually empty humidity collection trays- find a dehumidifier that can drain the water away by itself. Crawl space dehumidifiers can be set to drain to a sump pump, a sink, or other available opening, or they can be hooked up to a condensate pump that’s designed to discharge the water through a tube run through the home’s rim joist. No matter which option you choose, your dehumidifier will be much more convenient and effective.
4. Your Dehumidifier Should Include an Air Filter
If you’re hoping to fight mold, mildew, and dust mites by dehumidifying the crawl space, then take your efforts to the next level. There are dehumidifiers on the market today that can filter particles out of the air as small as 2 microns while they dehumidify the space. While these systems are not air purification systems, they’re able to filter out dust mite waste, mold spores, pollen, and a variety of other home allergens commonly found. Dehumidifiers can also come with an odor filter, which is great for removing that musty smell that is sometimes common in a crawl space.
As you can see, the problems that a homeowner faces can lead from one problem to another snowballing into seriously expensive repair work. Catching these problems before they begin and protecting the foundations of your home from moisture damage will prevent worse and more expensive problems down the road.
We will be glad to answer any questions you may have and assist you in finding the best solution to your home needs.
For a Free* crawlspace encapsulation Estimate & Inspection , Call California Foundation Works .