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MOLDIt's Drawing Attention as a Potential Hazard

 10 Things You Should Know About Mold

1.  Mold is a natural part of the environment and can be found almost everywhere. Mold reproduces by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. They can grow on almost any substance if moisture is present.

2.  Potential health effects include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. Not everyone is affected by high levels of mold in the air.

3.  Controlling moisture, including water leaks including trapped humidity, is the only real way to suppress mold growth. Indoor humidity should be 30 to 50 percent. Indoor methods include venting bathrooms and clothes dryers to the outside, using air conditioners or dehumidifiers, increasing ventilation, and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, washing dishes, or cleaning. Also, prevent condensation on cold surfaces like windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors by adding insulation.

4.  Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Also, do not install carpeting in areas where there is moisture.

5.  Clean and dry any wet surfaces and furnishings with water and detergent within 24 to 48 hours. Wear gloves and goggles. The US Environmental Protective Agency also recommends wearing an N-95 respirator to prevent inhalation of spores ($12 to $25).

6.  You can expect hidden mold if a building smells moldy or if you know there has been water damage, even if you cannot see the source. Mold may be hidden in places such as the back side of drywall, wallpaper or paneling; the top side of ceiling tiles; the underside of carpets or pads. Absorbent materials such as these may need to be replaced.

7.  If you suspect that the heating/ ventilation/ air conditioning system may be contaminated with mold, do not run the system until you have it checked. Doing so could spread the mold growth throughout the building.

8.  If there has been a lot of water damage, or if mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, you may need to hire a professional to clean and repair your house. Consult the EPA.

9.  If you choose to hire a professional, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow EPA recommendations.

10. For more information, call the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at 800-438-4318. Or on their web site .