The New York State Department of Health is advising all those residents who experienced flooding behind Hurricane Sandy to be mindful of the possible presence of mold.
Under the right humidity and moisture conditions, mold can emerge and multiply fast in places like the ceiling tile, drywall, paper, or natural fiber carpet padding.
Be advised that mold growth due to moisture problems may cause health problems as well as damage to the home, including discoloration of the ceiling or walls, warping of the floor, or condensation on the walls or windows.
The most common effects of mold contamination include allergic responses such as hay fever or asthma and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or lungs but can vary greatly depending on individual sensitivity. Allergic responses can come from exposure to dead as well as to living mold spores. Therefore, killing mold with bleach and or other disinfectants may not prevent allergic responses.
Many types of molds may produce toxins but only under certain growth conditions. Serious infections from living molds are relatively rare and occur mainly in people with severely suppressed immune systems.
What are common symptoms of mold exposure?
Allergy and irritation are the most common symptoms of mold exposure. Although symptoms will vary, the most common symptoms seen in people exposed to mold indoors include:
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Eye irritation, such as itchy, red, watery eyes
- Respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing
- Throat irritation
- Skin irritation, such as a rash
How do I know if I have a mold problem?
A mold problem can usually be identified visually or through smell. Mold growth may often appear as slightly furry, discolored, or slimy patches that increase in size as they grow. Molds also produce a musty odor that may be the first indication of a problem. If you can see or smell mold, you can assume you have a mold problem. It may be necessary to look behind and underneath surfaces, such as carpets, wallpaper, cabinets, and walls.
There are some areas of the home that are always susceptible to mold growth and should be part of routine cleaning to keep them under control. They are seldom the cause of significant health effects. These are:
- The seal on the refrigerator door
- Shower curtains
- Window moldings
- Shower stalls and bathroom tiles
- Surfaces on and around air conditioners
Should I have my home tested for mold?
Sampling can be expensive. The best practice regardless of the type or amount of mold is to promptly clean up any mold growth in your home and to correct the water problem that caused it.
For information and guidance on how to clean up mold, go here:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air - Mold
- New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Bureau of Environmental & Occupational Disease
- Epidemiology Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments
Other references include:
- Center for Disease Control - National Center for Environmental Health
- New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene - Bureau of Environmental & Occupational Disease Epidemiology Facts about Mold
Further questions can be directed to the Center for Environmental Health, Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment, or by calling 518-402-7800.