Toxic mold can cause not only allergies, but also severe symptoms of toxic mold illness and permanent damage to our lungs too. But we are often unaware of its presence inside our homes even when symptoms of mold exposure begin to appear. Even in the most orderly and cleanly homes, mold could be growing in hidden areas like the basement or between walls.
Jeffrey C. May, author of the home guide, ?My House Is Killing Me? says that he has found toxic mold growing on walls of houses, on furnishings, and on carpets. But, according to him, another potential site of mold growth is inside the air-conditioning ducts. The moment central heating is switched on, people come down with a variety of respiratory symptoms from mold exposure.
Where does toxic mold grow?
In order to flourish, molds require moisture, a source of food, and a material on which to grow. Mold spores circulating through the central heating ducts find an ideal medium for growth in the dust collected there. While the dust provides the essential nutrients, condensation in the coils provides enough moisture. The toxic mold growth remains hidden and goes unsuspected until the heating system is switched on. When the blower spreads the mold spores all over the house, the initial symptoms of mold exposure like sneezing and coughing begin to appear.
Detecting mold in the air-conditioning system
To detect whether toxic mold is growing in the heating ducts, samples from the lining of the ducts and the coils should be collected and tested for viable mold spores. The dead spores found in the dust are not taken into account as they might have entered the system through the air currents from outside. Mr. May explains that his intention is to identify the mold growth inside the air-conditioning system.
This kind of inspection can set you back by $200, or in some cases, more than $1000. If toxic mold is detected, hiring a certified expert from National Air Duct Cleaners Association for the cleanup is recommended. If actively growing mold is not found in the heating system, but dormant ones are present in the samples, it indicates mold growing elsewhere in the house. Further testing should be conducted to identify the location of the mold growth.
How mold testing is done with air samples
President of the mold testing firm, ALC Environmental in Manhattan, Joshua Sarett explains how mold testing is done. An inspector collects several air samples from inside the house and compares them with outdoor levels. If the inside levels are high, the house is inspected to find the source. Dark spots on moist or dry surfaces may be an indication of the extremely toxic black mold Stachybotrys which causes many symptoms of black mold exposure.
Finding hidden mold
The cavity between the walls can be a breeding ground for toxic mold even if visible signs are absent. Maxons Restorations uses a camera inserted through a hole to detect toxic mold growth inside wallboards. President of the company, Damon Gersh says that, while visible mold in small areas can be easily cleaned with 10% chlorine bleach, mold infestation inside walls requires elaborate and expensive measures such as removing the interior layer or even breaking down the entire wall. The cost can run into the thousands.
Toxic mold growth can reappear unless its root cause such as moisture infiltration due to leaks or faulty drainage is identified and corrected as part of the mold remediation.