So why is there so much mold this year? Last year’s storms, including Hurricane Irene and the surprise October snowstorm are partially to blame. Many homes were damaged in the Northeast when trees came down, causing widespread power outages and flooding, especially in basements and attics. The storm also left tree limbs and other dead vegetation in its wake, and the warmer weather has encouraged faster decomposition, thus releasing mold spores into the environment. The mild winter did not help. Mold spores were not killed by a deep freeze.
“We have been inundated with calls about mold issues in homes this spring – more than ever,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, which services the Northeast. “Homeowners were diligent in cleaning up the visible water and damage after the storms. Unfortunately, it’s the mold you cannot see that is probably affecting your allergies, whether it grows behind a wall or in your gutters.”
According to the CDC, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from allergies – that is 1 in 5 Americans. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology states when you inhale the mold spores, your immune system can trigger symptoms such as sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion or itchy nose, mouth and lips. These can often be confused with cold or flu symptoms. The Institutes of Medicine has reported evidence that links indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheezing in healthy adults. In people with asthma, there is an increase in asthmatic symptoms after exposure to mold.
For allergy sufferers and asthmatics, this can be both uncomfortable and even dangerous. But what can you to do to lessen the impact of mold this spring? Here are a few tips to help.
• Clean out your gutters, even if you cleaned them in the fall. Leaves and debris collect all winter, then rot, creating a fertile place for mold to grow – right on the exterior of your home;
• While you’re at it, remove organic debris from your yard – especially if it is decomposing. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold;
• Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, window sills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth;
• Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess moisture;
• Use a dehumidifier – especially in damp areas of your home. Keep the dehumidifier set at 50% humidity. Any more than that will encourage mold growth;
• Try to keep your home dry and ventilated;
• Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth;
• Regularly check under sinks and plumbing for leaks. Mold can grow quickly in these areas;
• Don’t put wet shoes or damp clothing in your closets. Let them dry fully first to avoid mold growth.
“The only way to be safe is to have your home tested by a professional,”
About RTK Environmental Group
Based in Stamford, and serving all of Connecticut, southern New York State, northern NJ, southern Vermont, Rhode Island and all of Massachusetts, RTK Environmental Group leads the field of environmental testing and consulting in mold, lead, asbestos, indoor air quality testing, and energy auditing. RTK offers XRF paint inspections, water testing, air testing, risk assessments, project monitoring, clearance testing, abatement planning, and training. It has provided testing services to more than 20,000 commercial and residential customers, ranging from homeowners and real estate investors to medical centers and housing authorities and many others. Company professionals are certified, licensed, and fully insured. The public is invited to visit RTK’s Web site, www.rtkenvironmental.com, or call 1-800-392-6468.
1 National Academies Press, 2004. Damp Indoor Spaces and Health. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, ISBN 0-309-09246-