Hurricane Ian and the rains that followed left many property owners with questions about mold.
The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has provided some answers to the most common questions.
Frequently Asked Questions: Mold Indoors
How can I tell if there is mold in my home?
· Search for places where you notice a musty smell, if you smell soil or mold, you may have a mold problem.
· Indoor mold growth can usually be seen or smelled.
· Look for visible mold growth as it can look cottony, velvety, rough or leathery and can be different colors such as white, grey, brown, black, yellow or green.
· Mold often appears as a splotchy or cloudy growth on furniture or building materials, such as walls, ceilings, or anything made of wood or paper.
· Look for signs of moisture or water damage such as water leaks, standing water, water stains and condensation. Check for standing water around air conditioning units, such as air conditioners and furnaces.
Who is most affected by mold?
Babies, young children, older adults, people with chronic respiratory conditions, and people with weakened immune systems can be affected earlier and more severely than others by mold in the home. If you are concerned, you should consult a healthcare provider if you think your health is being affected by indoor mold.
What health problems can mold cause?
There are four types of health problems that come from mold exposure: allergic disease, irritant effects, infection, and toxic effects. People who are sensitive to molds may experience symptoms such as irritation or congestion of the nose and sinuses, dry cough, wheezing, skin rash or burning, or watery, red eyes. People with severe mold allergies may have more serious reactions, such as hay fever-like symptoms. People with weakened immune systems may be more likely to get infections from certain molds, viruses, and bacteria. Molds can also trigger asthma attacks or cause asthma to develop. Headaches, memory problems, mood swings, nosebleeds, and body aches are sometimes reported with mold complaints. The long-term presence of indoor mold can eventually become a problem. Please note that allergic reactions to mold are common and can be immediate or delayed.
How should mold be cleaned?
Mold should be cleaned as soon as it appears. People who clean up mold should not be in one of the risk groups noted above. Do not use ozone generators. Protective gloves and safety glasses must be worn during cleaning. Small areas of mold should be cleaned with detergent/soapy water or a commercially available mold or mildew cleaner. The cleaned area should be dried well. Discard any sponges or rags used to clean mold. If the mold returns quickly or spreads, it could mean you have an underlying problem, such as a water leak. If there is a lot of mold growth, see the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brochure. “Mould Removal in Schools and Commercial Buildings.” Although written for schools and commercial buildings, this document addresses mold in other types of buildings. If moldy material is not easily cleaned, such as drywall, carpet underlay, and insulation, it may need to be removed and replaced.
Who should do the cleaning?
One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than 10 square feet, which is smaller than a 3-foot-by-3-foot spot, you can do the cleanup yourself. However, if there has been significant water damage and/or the mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, see the EPA brochure listed above.
If you decide to hire a contractor, consider someone licensed by the state of Florida. A mold assessor or mold mediator license can be verified using the “CONFIRM LICENSE” link to the Florida Department of Business and Professionals webpage. Check references and ask the contractor to follow current EPA recommendations and guidelines from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) or other professional or government organizations.
If you think your air conditioning or heating system has been affected, check the EPA guidelines below “Should you clean the air ducts in your home?”. Consult a licensed air conditioning contractor or mechanic for additional information.
Who can I call if I want more information about mold?
For additional information, call the DOH-Lee Environmental Health Service at 239-690-2100 or the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Radon and Indoor Air Program at 800-543-8279. They can provide guidance and advice on prevention, identifying mold problems, investigation techniques, cleanup methods, disaster planning and communications, health effects, including possible hazards of mold exposure, and direct affected people to appropriate local resources.
Where can I get more information?
More information about mold can be found through the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of Central Florida, the Florida Solar Energy Center, or the Florida Department of Health web pages on indoor air.
Source: Florida Department of Health
The department, nationally accredited by the Council on Public Health Accreditation, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.
Follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @HealthyFla. For more information about the Florida Department of Health, please visit FloridaHealth.gov.