Allergy & Air on November 21, 2014 1 Comment If you live in a humid climate or have ever had water damage in your home, you have probably been introduced to the fight against mold. It only takes a little moisture and a few hours for mold spores to begin to form. You may first notice a musty odor, and then begin to see the colonies that collect and grow. Spores invisible to the human eye can fly from the colonies and settle in other dark, moist areas where they flourish and fill your indoor air with particles that could become hazardous to your health. What Is Mold? Mold is a fungus that breaks down decaying organic matter. This process can be beneficial in that it provides fertilizer for the enhancement of new growth. Molds also play a role in the flavoring of various aged cheeses and have been used to create life-saving antibiotics, like penicillin. In the right setting, molds perform many useful functions. However, mold can also be extremely destructive. The same forces that help break down decaying matter also feed on wood, insulation, drywall, and leather. If conditions remain favorable for its growth, mold could eventually cause structural damage to your home. Expensive items such as mattresses, furniture, and carpeting may require extreme cleaning or even replacement due to the corrosive effects of the fungus. Moisture is a hotbed for mold growth. Humid climates, successive days of rainy weather, and water evaporation inside the home increase the opportunity for the development of colonies. Poor ventilation can allow humidity to remain inside for long periods. Some molds can thrive solely on humidity when levels are above 55 percent. Health Considerations More trouble follows as spores break off from the colonies and fill the indoor air. Molds use spores to spread in much the same way that plants use pollen. Even after the visible mold has been removed, the spores remain in the air. Whereas cilia and mucous inside the nasal cavity can help prevent most dust particles from entering the nasal passages, mold spores are small enough to pass through. They are so small, in fact, that they are hard to exhale and can even attach themselves to lung tissue. Some people can tolerate the presence of mold spores better than others. Common reactions may be dismissed as a cold or hay fever. For mold-allergy sufferers, however, symptoms are more severe and can increase over time. Sensitivity is heightened with prolonged exposure. Asthmatics suffer more intently from breathing the invasive fungi. Also at risk are the elderly, young children, people with chronic lung disease, and those with weakened immune systems. Some common reactions include: Coughing Wheezing Difficulty breathing Blocked sinuses Itchy skin or rash Shortness of breath Sore or irritated throat Eye redness or irritation If a person’s immune system is not strong enough to fight the mold, it may cause infection of sinuses, lungs or skin. The Role of Air Purification One of the most effective defenses against the menace of mold invasion is the use of air purifiers. It is the mold spores that travel through the air to find new venues for colonization. It is these same microscopic elements that are breathed into your lungs and threaten your health and well-being. Therefore, removal of these spores will protect your home and furnishings and also make you feel better. There are several different types of air purifiers. Some emit negative ions that attach to particles and cause them to fall to the ground. However, the particles are stirred up again when you walk by or can be lifted up by a gust of air as you open a door. Other types of purifiers emit ozone to kill the spores, but ozone in large quantities can be harmful to humans and animals. The most effective type of air purifier for mold protection is HEPA filtration. In filtered purifiers, a fan draws air into the unit and pulls it through a filter or series of filters before delivering the cleaner air back into the room. The effectiveness of the unit depends upon the capabilities of the filtering system. Models are rated for efficiency by the size of the largest particle that will pass through the filters. The filter that removes pollutants may be accompanied by a carbon pre-filter that helps eliminate odors. The musty smell of mold is neutralized as air passes through the pre-filter. Air purifiers are most effective when they are run constantly. Fortunately, most units use very little electricity. Though, it is important to note that filters must be changed as recommended in order to achieve optimal results. Air purifiers can also remove other air contaminants such as dust, pollen, pet dander, and smoke. The result is a cleaner atmosphere with fewer irritants for allergy and asthma sufferers. With carbon pre-filtration, the air smells as fresh as it feels. Air filters are portable and can be operated wherever needed. Placement in rooms where mold is frequently found helps to remove particles before they can travel to other areas of the house. A unit in the bedroom ensures cleaner air to breathe all night long. The Benefits of HEPA Filtration The most effective air purifiers utilize high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These filters must meet strict standards of particle removal. Mold spores range from one to five microns in size, so a successful filter must trap pollutants as small as one micron. HEPA filters have been tested and proven to remove 99.97% of particles as small as .03 microns in size. To be sure of having this level of filtration, select a unit that uses genuine HEPA filters. It’s important to not fall for filters that claim to be “HEPA-like,” or “HEPA-style.” That way you can be certain that the air purifier you purchase will clean the air more thoroughly and eliminate a greater number of irritants than those with other types of filters. Once trapped in the filter, mold spores are rendered inert. The dry, sterile environment stifles them and they are unable to survive. Changing the unit’s HEPA filter as recommended will ensure the air purifier will continue to operate efficiently. A Cleaner, Healthier Environment Continuous use of HEPA air purifiers with carbon pre-filtration can keep your indoor air fresh and clean by removing pollutants as they are introduced into the air. Mold spores are trapped and neutralized before they can take root in your lungs or form colonies in your walls and carpeting. Air purifiers can be one of your best defenses against mold, providing ongoing protection for your home and your health.