What is Mold?
Molds are naturally occurring forms of fungi found year round both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors, molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. Another common term for mold is mildew, even though mold and mildew are actually different kinds of fungus. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions, although it can grow during cold weather. There are thousands of species of mold, and they can be any color. Many times, mold can be detected by a musty odor. Most fungi, including molds, produce microscopic cells called “spores” that spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) with the right conditions. All of us are exposed to fungal spores daily in the air we breathe.
Mold is Not Regulated
Mold is not regulated in Kentucky, nor are there federal standards in place for permissible exposure limits. For concerns about mold in K-12 schools, state-owned confinement facilities, hotels/motels, and youth camps, contact the Cabinet for Health and Family Services below:
Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Department for Public Health
Division of Public Health Protection and Safety
275 East Main
Frankfort, KY 40621
Most people have no reaction when exposed to molds. Allergic reactions, similar to common pollen or animal allergies, and irritation are the most common health effects for individuals sensitive to molds. Flu-like symptoms (cough, nasal and sinus congestion, wheezing and breathing conditions, sore throat, skin and eye irritation and upper respiratory problems) and skin rash may occur. Molds may also aggravate asthma. Most symptoms are temporary and can be eliminated by correcting the mold problem. Those with special health concerns should consult their doctor if they are concerned about mold exposure. Symptoms that may seem to occur from mold exposure may be due to other causes, such as bacterial or viral infections or other allergies.
Common places to find mold in your home are window sills, underneath sinks, refrigerator door seals and drain pans, closets, laundry rooms, near air conditioning systems and on basement walls.
Should I test my home for mold?
Not necessarily. Looking for evidence of water damage and visible mold growth should be your first step. Testing for mold is expensive, and you should have a clear reason for doing so. In addition, there are no standards for “acceptable” levels of mold in the indoor environment. If you know you have a mold problem, it is more important to spend time and resources getting rid of the mold and solving the moisture problem causing the moldy conditions.
How can I tell if mold is causing me to get sick, or some other indoor air problem?
There are other indoor air contaminants that can occur in a home, causing health problems similar to those caused by mold exposure. Exposure to tobacco smoke, pet allergens, carbon monoxide from faulty furnaces and hot water heaters, and poor sanitation can all cause health problems for residents. If you are experiencing adverse health symptoms, it is important that you see your physician for a proper diagnosis. If you feel better when you are away from your home for several hours, this may be an indication that there is a contaminant in your home. If you and your physician suspect an indoor air quality problem is causing your symptoms, and you are unable to identify and clean up the source, call your local health department.
What do I do if I have mold?
It is important to identify and eliminate the moisture source and clean up the mold. Small areas of mold growth on nonporous surfaces can usually be cleaned by the removal of the gross mold buildup, followed by the application of a simple bleach solution. Extensive cleanup of large areas may require the use of a mold/water cleanup service and the removal of mold-contaminated surfaces. See EPA's Mold website for information on mold and recommendations for cleanup.
You should always give your landlord the opportunity to correct building defects and should immediately notify your landlord when you notice moisture problems. Prior to signing a lease, carefully inspect the apartment for evidence of moisture problems such as stained carpeting or water stains on walls or ceilings. Pay close attention to plumbing locations. Take note of musty odors. If you or other residents have asthma or other respiratory conditions, you may wish to avoid units with evidence of water damage and slab-on-grade or below-grade units that may have higher relative humidities.
While dampness and mold are typically not written into local housing ordinances, landlords have a duty to keep premises in a reasonable state of repair and to make necessary structural repairs. Tenants have certain rights where conditions in the premise materially affect health or safety of the tenant.
Contact your local health department and/or housing/building inspector and describe the mold and/or moisture condition you are concerned about. Either authority may be able to help confirm the problem and recommend an appropriate remedy.