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Why Do I Have Mold In My Crawl Space? Part Two

Date Added: July 23, 2009 06:02:09 PM
Author: American Home Inspector Directory
Category: Real Estate & Home Inspection Articles

Why Do I Have Mold In My Crawl Space?

Part Two

This is the second article in a series on crawl space mold.

Most molds fall more into a nuisance category, producing allergens and irritants with the potential to produce hay fever-type symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose and red eyes, a skin rash, irritated eyes, nose, throat and lungs.


Toxic mold

However, some molds, commonly called toxic mold, also produce poisonous substances, primarily associated with their spores, called mycotoxins (mycology is the branch of botany dealing with fungi). These toxins have the potential to cause serious harm, disrupting our cell structures and cell processes. The effects to the human body have been documented using controlled, laboratory conditions.


In our everyday indoor environment there is less certainty of symptoms and causality, but it is important to note that mycotoxins have been proven to be present indoors with victims suffering from pulmonary hemorrhage or pulmonary hemosiderosis (primarily in infants), nose bleeds, immune system suppression (resulting in increasing numbers of infections), hair loss, dermatitis, chronic fatigue, psychological depression, diarrhea, sore throats, headaches and other flu-like symptoms. Other symptoms associated with mold include cognitive, disorder, "burning" eyes, blurred vision, respiratory illness, chest pains, chest tightness, breathing problems, shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough, nasal congestion and aggravated asthma.

The following list reflects current "medical community" knowledge of the effects of exposing the human body to mold. People exposed to molds may develop a variety of illness, some of which can be quite serious. Certain foods contaminated with some molds may cause cancer. A variety of respiratory illnesses may be due to mold exposure or mold infections. Rarely, molds can cause serious "hypersensitivity reactions" or pneumonia in people exposed to high concentrations of mold over a prolonged period of time. Molds can cause allergies affecting the eyes, ears, nose and throat and can cause hay fever and even asthma. Molds exposure and infections have been associated with chronic fatigue, depression and other systemic complaints.


The Center for Disease Control and other agencies are actively investigating the role of molds in causing disease in people and what treatments may be required.


Mold myths

Barry Westbrook, Certified Industrial Hygienist, founder and President of DocAir (www.docair.com), a building systems evaluation and indoor air quality consulting firm, shares the following information, “Here is an actual excerpt from a home inspector’s report. [not mine]


Mold growth is visible on many of the floor joists and sub floor in the crawl space. The level of mold growth is low to moderate. The presence of certain mold and mold spores can result in mild to severe health effects in humans and pets and can deteriorate the structure of the dwelling. Health effects include, but are not limited to sinus congestion, blurry vision, sore throat, dry cough, aches and pains, skin irritation, bleeding of the lungs, headaches, memory loss and fever.

This type of report creates adversity between the buyer and the seller of the property. Considering all the nasty health effects previously described, is a moderate exposure acceptable? Even if I were willing to risk it, should I expose my children to moderate levels of mold?

The home inspector is doing the prudent thing by stating the known health effects of mold exposure and trying to establish a relative description of the magnitude. In effect, the inspector is passing the risk assessment on to someone else, either the buyer of the property or another professional with more experience in assessing health exposure. The inspection report continues. [again, not mine]


As a practical matter, there are several things that can be done to minimize mold growth -- keep the crawl space well ventilated, divert downspouts away from the foundation and keep gutters clean.


Westbrook continues, “So now you have a plan, or do you? While diverting storm water away from the foundation and keeping the gutters clean are certainly good things to do, they are not likely to prevent mold from growing in the typical crawl space. The reason for this relates to two of the biggest myths in building construction.

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