Mold Myths Part 1
Recognizing potential mold problems before buying or selling a house is crucial.
Sometimes you can visibly see or smell certain kinds of mold, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Many molds grow in areas that are inaccessible, such as attics or between walls. If you suspect a house has mold, it’s imperative to have it professionally inspected and/or you can ask the seller to disclose information about mold. You can even request a mold-related contingency to your offer.
Here are 6 of 13 common mold myths, provided by the California Association of Realtors. Next week I’ll post the rest!
1.Mold is new. Mold in its various forms has been with us for thousands of years.It is one of the more basic, simple life forms.Over a hundred years ago, a mold was the basis of the discovery of penicillin. Mold is around us all the time, just like dust or, at times, pollen.
2. Mold has been documented as dangerous by the scientific and medical communities. In 2004, the National Institute of Medicine, of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a comprehensive study, published in hardbound form.That book, titled “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health”, stated as follows: “Scientific evidence links mold and other factors related to damp conditions in homes and buildings to asthma symptoms in some people with the chronic disorder, as well as to coughing, wheezing, and upper respiratory tract symptoms in otherwise healthy people… However, the available evidence does not support an association between either indoor dampness or mold and the wide range of other health complaints that have been ascribed to them”.Bottom line – mold is dangerous in the same way as dust or pollen – people with severe asthma can be affected.Of course, that wasn’t interesting news.It was much more interesting to accept the mold panic monger stories of people living in tents.
3. You need to know what kind of mold you have. There are many varieties of mold, and mold consultants and plaintiff attorneys will talk about some being more “dangerous” than others.I have not found any studies indicating that one variety of mold is more irritating to the lungs than another.The most famous mold panic item is stachybotrys chartarum, a mold which makes infinitesimal quantities of a substance similar to botulism poison.However, the amount is so small they call it ‘mycotoxin’.It sounds frightening, but the scientific community long ago debunked the myth that this or any mold was somehow poisonous to breathe.
4. California declared mold an official health threat in the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001. At the beginning of the mold panic, the California Legislature quickly passed the “Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001”.It can be found beginning at Health and Safety Code Section 26100. This law instructs the California Department of Public Health to develop “Permissible Exposure Limits” of the various mold strains.However, in 2005, and again in 2008, the DPH reported in writing to the Legislature that the task could not be completed with the scientific information available.So, even today, 16 years into the mold scare, there is no accepted standard as to how many mold spores of a given variety are “unhealthy”.
5. Always start with a mold test. There is no point in conducting a mold test in most instances.Since mold is only a respiratory irritant, and not “poisonous”, and since nobody has ever determined that any particular amount of a particular kind of mold is unhealthy, there is little point to having a mold test of the air in a given space.Furthermore, indoor air sampling tests are extremely vulnerable to changes in the environment which change the results.At the time of the air sampling, had anybody recently vacuumed, or opened a window, or had the air conditioning system been blowing air around?Those and other factors can dramatically affect the data in the mold test. Mold tests usually accomplish two things – they frighten the occupants and create a “need” for the expense of a mold consultant, and of course, a follow up test after the mold is cleaned up.Since the health authorities have not confirmed any particular strain is unhealthier, and since they have not established any amount of spores in the air which becomes a health concern, there is rarely a good reason to spend the money on such a test. Perhaps this is why the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that residents NOT get mold tests.
6. You cannot and should not clean up mold on your own. Most mold consultants treat mold as if it were asbestos.Asbestos is dangerous.Unlike mold, if it is inhaled into the lungs, it stays there – the body cannot absorb it or break it down.But the mold consultants typically develop repair protocols which are identical to asbestos in every respect.Several trade organizations have sprung up in recent years, touting their mold credentials and clean up protocols.None of these have been recognized by any governmental agency. The recommendation of the EPA to clean up mold of up to 9 square feet of area?The EPA recommends wiping It up with a cloth, dampened with a diluted bleach solution.