Monday, May 28, 2007

Understanding and Preventing Mold Growth

Indoor air quality is a topic of great importance to everyone, but particularly to persons with cystic fibrosis.

Understanding Mold Reproduction and Growth

In order to reproduce, mold generates what are called "spores." Spores are small enough to drift through the air in a home with ease. Mold thrives when it has a chance to settle in a damp, dark area. Some types of mold are particularly fond of warm environments. Mold is exceptionally resilient and is opportunistic, meaning it will lie in wait for just the right conditions to reproduce, even if that means waiting for a long time.

The warm, moist environments like the human body provide an ideal setting for mold spores to reproduce and colonize. Effective way to control mold is to control moisture.

At some point, the colony generates additional spores, which may become airborne. Some are small enough to be respired into the human body where they irritate the small airways, thus triggering allergic reactions in some individuals.

Controlling the Mold

Despite the fact that there is no way to remove all mold and mold spores from the home, there is good news. Certain things can be done to effectively control mold and avoid serious health effects such as allergic reactions. Furthermore, dealing with potential moisture issues is beneficial to the soundness of your home.

I make a point to combat mildew and mold in my home to the greatest extent practicable. We have laminate floors in the bedroom and our entire downstairs, since those are the areas where we spend the most time. By having less carpet, there is less likelihood that spores being tracked in from outside will lie unnoticed in the carpet threads.

The bathroom can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew since there is a lot of moisture there. When showering, it is a good practice to run the exhaust fan. Once a week I use Tilex in our sinks and in the shower to kill off anything that may be growing in there.

In the kitchen we make good use of our refrigerator's built-in humidity control function. This keeps mold from taking hold of the soft cheeses and other foods that may be potential breeding grounds.

People with allergies and CF should look into HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter systems. When an air filter unit is categorized as a true HEPA, its ability to remove certain contaminants from the air is 99.97% effective at removing particles that are .3 microns and larger in diameter. A micron is one millionth of a meter; a grain of salt is approximately 60 microns in size. Mold spores can range from 1-60 microns in diameter. The smaller the diameter, the easier it is for the pathogen to get into the body's small airways and cause irritation.


Mold spores can lie dormant for long periods of time and can reproduce again when just the right conditions are in place. Although mold cannot be completely avoided, and eradicating the offending spores if difficult but not impossible. With minimal effort and effective control measures, a home's overall indoor air quality can be a more healthful environment.

This article has been adapted from the article "Limiting Exposure to Mold in the Home" by Lauren G. Beyenhof. Please read the full article on Associated Content.

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