There’s good mold and there’s not-so-good mold. Penicillin is made from mold and that’s great. Blue cheese gets its amazing flavor from a type of mold, as do many other cheeses.
But the not-so-nice mold is the black mold you sometimes see growing along the walls and ceilings of your home. This mold is not only unsightly, it can be downright hazardous to you and your family’s health. This is particularly true when a person already suffers from allergies and asthma.
It is not the mold itself that people have a reaction to but rather the microscopic mold spores (seeds) that float through the air, causing your immune system to go into overdrive – the result being you cough, sneeze, wheeze and feel generally terrible.
What Causes Mold to Grow?
Mold spores require a constant source of moisture in order to grow and colonize. This is why you normally see mold grow in bathrooms, in the basement and attic, or pretty much anywhere that has suffered a leak or flood.
And, much to any homeowner’s dismay, mold can grow on pretty much any surface including wood, wallpaper, paint, carpet, sheet rock and insulation. If any part of your home has experienced water damage, then you’ll certainly find mold there. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one-third to one-half of all U.S. buildings have areas damp enough for mold growth.
Mold and Your Health
In 1999, The Mayo Clinic conducted a study and found that allergic fungal (mold is a fungus) sinusitis (AFS) was diagnosed in 93% of cases of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), a condition that affects roughly 37 million people in this country. As we mentioned earlier, the presence of mold can exacerbate allergies and asthma. But a 2005 study found that exposure to mold can double the risk of asthma development in children. So even healthy children can become asthmatic if exposed to mold for any length of time.
Another potential health danger is being exposed to the mycotoxins that are a byproduct of mold growth and colonization. Exposure to these toxins can lead to what is called “sick building syndrome.” According to Wikipedia, sick building syndrome is:
“… a medical condition where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or feel unwell for no apparent reason. The symptoms tend to increase in severity with the time people spend in the building, and improve over time or even disappear when people are away from the building.”
While symptoms tend to diminish when away from the building, exposure to these toxins has led to death in the most severe cases.
Symptoms from exposure to mycotoxins include:
- Eye irritation
- Respiratory problems.
Stachybotrys mold, also known as black mold, has even been known to cause fatal lung bleeding in infants when combined with environmental cigarette smoke.
So how do you know if you have a mold problem? Well, you often will be able to see it and/or smell it. Sometimes you will smell a musty odor in an area of your home. You might see small, white, thread-like growths or clusters of small, black dots on the walls of your bathroom or basement.
In some instances, however, mold may not have a strong scent and may even be growing behind walls, making it more difficult to detect. If you suspect you may have a mold problem, it is always best to get a professional inspection of your home.
How Can Air Purifiers Help with Mold?
An air purifier with a true HEPA filter (HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air) is able to trap microscopic particles from the air. Now don’t be fooled, there are air purifiers that will say HEPA but they won’t say “true” or “absolute” on them. Only true or absolute HEPA filters have met strict standards of efficiency and must capture a minimum of 99.97% of pollutants down to 0.3 microns in size.
Just how small is 0.3 microns? Consider that the average human hair is between 50 and 75 microns in diameter and you get an idea of how powerful a true HEPA filter is. Mold spores typically range between one and five microns in size, so a true HEPA filter will have no problem removing them from your home’s air.
If you want to effectively filter mold spores, you’ll want to place a powerful unit in the areas where mold frequently resides, such as basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. You’ll also want to be sure to replace the HEPA filter frequently.
Now it is important to mention that if you have a mold infestation, that is you have a large amount of black mold that has taken residence because of a bad leak or flooding, then an air purifier will only help so much. You will definitely want to hire a mold remediation team to clean it up for you.
But while they are cleaning up the mold, you will most DEFINITELY want to run an air purifier. You see, when you rip out moldy sheet rock or rip up moldy carpeting, it sends thousands upon thousands of mold spores into the air. Those mold spores can travel around your home. Not only can you and your family inhale these dislodged spores, but they can land somewhere else in your home and, if the conditions are right, start to colonize.
If you are interested in shopping for an air purifier to specifically help with mold, we recommend the Austin Air HealthMate series. These medical grade air purifiers are powerful enough to remove a variety of pollutants from the air and keep your family healthy!