Got Mold? Well at least there's pizza.
When my family moved to Florida in the early 90's, we rented a house for a few months while we looked for a house of our own. Within a few weeks of living there I started to develop headaches as did my wife. Initially, I wasn't sure why this was but over time it became evident it was the house.
Growing up in Syracuse, I wasn't exposed to the plethora of allergens that exist in Florida. I'd heard that after a year or so it was common to start to react to these new allergens. While I was happy to enjoy the nice weather, it felt like I had a perpetual cold or flu and maybe those cold days weren't so bad after all.
Anyways, after a brief warm and humid period the wallpaper in the house started to peel and the area where the wallpaper made contact with the walls was black in many places. Ugh... mold.
Mold is actually a fungus and at a higher level is related to yeasts and mushrooms. While I'm a fan of the yeasts (i.e. used to make pizza dough and beer), I don't hold the same admiration for their ugly cousin mold. To be fair, there is a purpose for mold and that is to break down and recycle organic materials, an important element in the cycle of nature.
So, how does mold grow? There are a few primary factors that must be present for mold to thrive: temperature, a food source, and water (moisture). Fungi, such as mold tend to grow at temperatures that are comfortable to us so managing mold growth with temperature is often not practical.
Molds do not make there own food and therefore consume organic materials such as common building materials (i.e. drywall, wallpaper, wood, carpeting, etc). So, from a food source perspective mold should be capable of growing in any residence or office.
Finally, moisture or the presence of water is required for mold to live and grow. In environments above 80% relative humidity, there is plenty of moisture present for prime mold growth. This is the exact situation we found ourselves in at the Florida house. Actually, above 65% humidity levels moldcan grow without the presence of any standing water. This is one of the reasons why we now offer a line of energy efficient dehumidifiers, as a dehumidifier is key to controlling mold growth (and dust mites) and overall indoor air quality. The optimal humidity levels are between 50% and 65%.
In addition, the CDC has reported that mold grows better when low levels of UV light are present. The use of a UV lamp with HEPA filtration is another consideration for controlling mold.
mold spreads via mold spores and they are 2 to 10 microns in size (too small to see). As long as the key elements of proper temperature, a food source and moisture are present, it is likely that mold will grow. Since it's not realistic to control the temperature or remove the food source), the key to controlling moldis through managing the humidity levels. If there is a leak within the house, that should be addressed immediately to prevent the potential for mold.