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Mold Growth after Hurricane Sandy

Most of us are aware of mold issues created by decaying leaves and the importance of keeping leaves raked clear of your home. Indoor mold is an increasing problem in NYC, causing a spike in mold allergy cases.

Mold spores are found on almost every building surface. When these mold spores come in contact with an appropriate amount of moisture, food, and temperature, germination will occur, mold will grow, and may become air borne.

Causes of indoor mold growth are; flooding, leaky roofs, and drainage or plumbing problems, and temperature differences – condensation caused by warm air and cool surfaces. This condensation principle often causes mold growth in exterior walls, when indoor heating meets moisture left by poor drainage or leaks . Mold often grows in cold, uninsulated exterior windows and walls, including uninsulated closets along exterior walls where building surfaces are generally cold relative to the indoor air temperature.

Molds feed on dead organic matter. Outdoors, molds are very important in decomposing organic materials and recycling nutrients. However, indoor building components and contents contain excellent food sources for mold, such as wallpaper glue, some paints, greases, paper, textiles, and wood products. Indoor dusts may contain fibers, dead skin cells, and other organic matter that can serve as a food source for mold when adequate moisture is available.

We are seeing an increase in mold allergy cases as moisture collected within buildings, dampness left behind by Hurricane Sandy and the damp conditions of late, are being affected by indoor heating. Indoor heating systems pull air from crawl spaces, making mold allergies worse in the winter.

Symptoms of mold allergy:
Stuffy or runny nose
Itchy, watery eyes
Sore throat
Rash or hives

Reduce Mold in the Home
(from webmd)

Get your house tested for mold. A moisture meter test will help. Also, a dust sample from your carpet can show whether mold spores are in your home. Check with your state health department about mold testing.

Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. If you have mold in your crawl space or basement, locate the source and stop the water from coming in.

If your crawl space has mold, call an environmental service to get rid of it. If a small area is moldy, you can try cleaning it yourself.

Check inside drywall for mold inside the wall. You can usually smell mold even if you can’t see it. Moldy drywall must be cut out and replaced. Moldy insulation also must be removed and replaced.

Wash mold off hard surfaces. You don’t have to use chlorine bleach; soap and water, combined with scrubbing from a stiff brush, works to remove mold. Some people also recommend vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Non-toxic cleaners are also available. Allow areas to dry completely.

Dry water-damaged areas and items (like carpeting) within 24 to 48 hours of flooding. Don’t install carpeting in areas where there is a moisture problem.

If ceiling tiles or carpet have become moldy, they must be replaced. Throw out all wet, moldy tiles and carpeting.
Reduce indoor humidity by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources. Exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens can help. If you don’t have exhaust fans, crack a window in the kitchen when you’re cooking or in the bathroom when you’re bathing.

Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers inside your home. Change filters regularly. Use a dehumidifier to get rid of dampness in basements.

Add insulation to windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors where there is potential for condensation on cold surfaces.
If you’re working in a moldy area, always wear a filtered face mask so you won’t inhale mold spores.

Dr. Arthur Lubitz
NYC Allergy Doctor