With many homes facing flooded basements and wet conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, could mold be a problem for homeowners?
According to an article by Dr. Nathan Yost, a home builder and a medical doctor specializing in respiratory illness, on the website www.Realtor.org, “mold requires nutrients, water, oxygen and favorable temperatures to grow.”
While you don’t need a hurricane, or tropical storm, to create conditions suitable for mold growth, the extensive amount of flooding resulting from Hurricane Sandy suggests homeowners should consider doing a thorough mold inspection of their home as part of the remediation process of restoring their home to livable – meaning healthy – levels.
Homeowners have been strongly encouraged to have a licensed electrical contractor ‘certify’ their home is safe before moving back into it, due to potential hazards resulting from faulty or affected wiring from Sandy.
In some hard-hit areas like New York and New Jersey, the local electric service provider(s) even went a step further, requiring homeowners in cetain areas to have their home certified as safe by a licensed electrician before the company will ‘flip the switch’ to turn their electric back on.
But little focus has been on problems associated with mold as a health hazard post-Sandy, or any event where a large amount of water penetration is a problem.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Very large doses of certain molds, whether inhaled or ingested, can result in poisoning caused by toxins, called mycotoxins, in the mold cells.”
While it is unclear if there could be high enough exposure to indoor mold to create toxic effects,”people, nevertheless, should be aware that mold could pose health issues, especially in individuals with compromised immune systems.”
Adverse health effects most often affect the respiratory system and can range from mild to more severe, from mild symptoms associated with hay fever, to more severe reactions involving asthma and more involved upper respiratory infections, based on an individual’s ability to respond to such adverse environmental conditions.
The Department of Health and Human Services, www.epi.publichealth.nc.gov, states that Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra), a greenish-black mold, “can produce mycotoxins under certain environmental conditions.” This particular mold often grows on materials like drywall, wood, paper, and ceiling tiles “that are chronically wet or moist.”
Although the health effects of breathing mycotoxins “are not well understood,” the department states, “most molds can present some health risks” and thus, “any mold growth in a building should be cleaned up, regardless of the type of mold.”
A number of companies specialize in mold inspection and remediation, and The Mold Doctor, www.themolddoctor.com, in Maryland, stresses the need to re-inspect any mold-treated area to ensure that the mold has been completely removed, and not just killed, treated, or covered-up.
Homeowners who are planning to sell their home should be aware that buyers may request a mold inspection as part of their right to have a home inspection. The Mold Doctor states that the inspection should involve ‘infrared thermal imaging,’ a tool mold inspectors should have as part of his/her ‘toolbelt.’
Based on the mold inspection results, the seller and buyer can determine whether or not to proceed with the sale. [A cautionary note is necessary here that the presence of mold in a home or building is not necessarily a reason to nix the sales transaction since there are effective ways to remove mold.]
According to the National Association of Realtors, www.realtor.org, “There are more than 100,000 types of mold. Good information has been developed for only a small number of these molds – at least in terms of their effects on human health. Most people tolerate exposure to moderate levels of many different molds without any apparent adverse health effects.”
The important thing to remember is to take the proper steps to ensure your home is a safe haven and not a place where your health could be at risk.
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