Mold & Seniors
Why should the elderly care about mold? Seniors want to stay in their homes, and as we’ve shown in other sections, staying healthy is critical in this objective. Seniors and mold don’t mix. Mold is incredibly bad for you. It makes you sick. The sicker you get, the less likely you’ll be able to remain in your home.
Why Seniors Should Care About Mold?
Molds are fungi can cause health problems. They form on damp or decaying organic matter. Organic matter includes most rugs, drywall, wallpaper, and wood. They often form spores that float in the air. Exposure comes from breathing in these spores. Overexposure to any mold can cause problems. Mold overexposure varies from elder to elder and depends on the duration and magnitude of the exposure combined with the senior’s sensitivity to mold. Overexposure to certain molds can cause serious health issues and aggravate existing conditions for sensitive seniors.
Common health reactions to mold include allergenic reactions, flu-like symptoms, and aggravation of existing conditions. Allergenic reactions are sneezing, wheezing and rhinitis. Flu-like symptoms include sore throat, headache, skin rash, and congestion. Aggravation of existing conditions starts with most seniors already weakened immune systems and how mold exposure forces immune systems to work harder, often further compromising existing conditions. With mold exposure, hearts, lungs and circulatory systems often have to work harder. If they’re already compromised, results can be deadly.
Where Does Mold Form?
Molds can form in any damp area. In your home, these are areas like walls, floors, appliances, carpets, and furniture. They are most common where water has damaged or gotten into walls or floors. They are also common in areas where condensation occurs (walls, ceilings, and ductwork around HVAC systems) and under sinks.
Common Types Of Mold
Common home found molds, especially dangerous to seniors, include:
A mold often referred to as “black mold.” Stachybotrys is usually black in color, but can sometimes be greenish. It’s slimy to the touch. It accumulates quickly in damp, wet areas with high humidity levels. It’s found on household materials like cardboard, paper, woods, hay, and wicker. It is a toxigenic type of mold that can also cause allergic reactions. Stachybotrys produces mycotoxins that cause serious health problems. Symptoms of exposure include depression, breathing problems, sinusitis, and fatigue.
It is usually black in color like Stachybotrys. It occurs in homes exposed to lots of water (floods, hurricanes, etc.). Ulocladium exposure can aggregate allergies and immune disorders. Common effects of exposure include breathing difficulty. Seniors with breathing difficulties are especially vulnerable.
A mold with a chameleon in form and appearance: it changes over time. Colorwise it can be pink, grey, orange, or white. Form wise, it usually starts out as wet mold that turns to a fine powder over time. Acremonium is found in household areas and appliance adjacent where condensation is likely to form. Susceptible areas include AC cooling coils, humidifiers, windows where sealant is used, drain pans and water catch pans.
Exposure to acremonium is very dangerous. It is known to cause damage to the immune system. and it can lead to disease in the bone marrow, immune system and other organs. Because it is a carcinogen, it can also impair brain function. Acremonium is sometimes known to grow with other types of mold, including Stachybotrys, which creates a particularly unpleasant and dangerous mold problem in homes.
This mold is the most common form of allergenic (i.e., it can cause coughing, hives, and itchy, watery eyes) mold. It has a velvety hair texture that’s usually dark green or brown. It’s found in damp aras like bathtubs and showers. It’s common below leaky sinks. It’s common wherever a home as undergione extensive water damage.
This is commonly found in water-damaged homes. Chaetomium is cotton-like textured. It can change color over time: white or grey, then brown and eventually to black. The mold is found in areas that are consistently damp or exposed to continuous leaking. Generally, it has a strong, musty odor. Exposure symptoms are skin and nail infections.
Only professionals should handle Mucor. It is harmful to touch. Also, it is an allergenic mold. It usually grows in thick white or greyish patches. This mold is often found in areas most susceptible to condensation. These include areas near HVAC systems, air conditioning units, and ductwork prone to condensation. Mold also grows in old, damp carpets. Mucor is very risky for seniors. Exposure causes asthma and flu-like symptoms.
How Do Seniors Control Mold In Homes?
Molds can create health risks. Seniors are especially susceptible to mold. If you want to start in your own home mold prevention and remediation is key.
Monitor Humidity Levels For Mold
Keep indoor humidity below 60%. Hygrometers allow you to measure humidity. They are often integrated into digital thermometers. They cost about $12 at the big box hardware stores.
Use Air Conditioners & Dehumidifiers To Eliminate Mold
These appliances “condition” the air. They reduce moisture, and moisture is the number one cause of home mold.
Monitor, Maintain & Use Drip & Spill Trays
Homeowners use drip and spill trays to collect overflowing and spoiled water. The homeowner should maintain these syatems. Appliances that use these include air conditioning units and sinks. It’s also important to keep their feeder and drain lines free of obstructions and flow properly.
Insulation for surfaces that get cold like exterior walls, floors, and windows helps reduce condensation.
Dry Wet Areas
Wet surfaces supply the moisture molds need to form and grow. Dry wet surfaces within 24 to 48 hours.
Repair Foundation Cracks, Leaks, & Seepage
Anything that causes or allows water to get into your house or basement, you’ll have water and moisture that can cause mold.
Optimize HVAC System.
Let HVAC contractor check and optimize your heating and cooling system. This should include a check of your ductwork. A professional should optimize HVAC systems for your home (i.e., right-sized and tuned, etc.). This helps remove humidity.
Maintain Home Air Circulation.
Use fans and open doors this helps with airflow. Airflow can move heat to cooler surfaces that can create humidity and moisture. Moving furniture from against walls can also help with circulation.
Maintain Your Refrigerator.
Most people place refrigerators against walls. If the refrigerator is leaking, its easy for moisture to get into floors and walls. Also, seniors should check and clean refrigerator drip pans. If they’re cracked, they should be repaired.
Vigilantly Monitor Basements & Crawl Spaces
These areas notorious for collecting water that can lead to mold. They need to be well ventilated. If you use a sump pump, they need to be regularly tested and maintained. Improperly installed (no vapor barrier or improperly installed barriers) wall-to-wall carpets in basements are notorious for accumulating moisture and fostering mold growth.
Ventilate Basements & Crawl Spaces
Use fans and other ventilation techniques to ensure good airflow in these areas.
Encapsulate Basements & Crawl Space
One way to ensure that moisture and humidity to minimized, encapsulate your basement or crawl space and install a dehumidifier.
Moisture is present in areas where you wash and shower. Proper ventilation can remove moisture while you bathe or shower. In addition, carpets can trap moisture. Carpets that can be lifted up and dried are better than wall-to-wall carpets. Wall-to-wall carpets trap moisture.
How Seniors Remediate Mold
There are lots of techniques to remove mold. As a senior, if you have experience removing mold and are healthy, keep doing what you do. If you don’t have experience or your health has deteriorated, call the professionals.
Costs of Mold Remediation
Newly Found On Wall
Removing from easy to access walls. $150 – $500.
Embedded In Wall
Stabilizing water damage and remediating mold. $500 – $1,500.
In Crawl Space & Basements
Crawl space or basement encapsulation. $1,750 – $15,000
Consumer-grade dehumidifiers (requires regular monitoring and cleaning) for crawl space or basement. $250 – $1,000.
Commercial-grade dehumidifiers with pumps for crawl space or basement. $800 – $5,000.
Other Resources On Mold
Learn more at the CDC here.
Good article about addressing and remediating here.