Frequently Asked Questions

Does Louisiana have a state program that can answer residents questions about mold?

Louisiana has been affected by many severe weather events recently and residents continue to struggle with the environmental results. In August 2000, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) / Office of Public Health (OPH) / Section of Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology (SEET) developed an Indoor Environmental Quality Education Service (IEQES) to serve as the agency’s primary program responsive to the public’s indoor environmental quality concerns (phone contacts: toll free 888-293-7020 or program office 225-342-8303). As part of SEET’s mission, “the provision of public health guidance to assist with positive decision-making....”, SEET determined that there was a need to provide accurate and current information to the public related to indoor environmental concerns. The two links below, to federal environmental and health agencies, present responses to common inquiries on the topic of mold.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/mold

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/indoorenv/mold.html

Can mold cause health problems?

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. This brochure provides a brief overview; it does not describe all potential health effects related to mold exposure. For more detailed information consult a health professional.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Can mold cause health problems? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Are there Federal regulations or standards regarding mold?

Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Are there Federal regulations or standards regarding mold? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Has EPA issued specific recommendations on how frequently carpet should be cleaned?

No. EPA recommends that consumers and others follow manufacturer recommendations and industry standards for keeping carpet clean to protect indoor air quality wherever carpet is installed. A number of carpet cleaning companies have been under the incorrect impression that EPA issued official carpet cleaning recommendations in a 1989 letter from the then-Deputy Director of EPA's Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office in EPA's Office of Research and Development. That official provided a response based on his own expertise and investigation. However, the table at the end of the letter identifying specific carpet cleaning frequencies for different indoor environments was not intended to and does not convey an official EPA position, and therefore should not be construed or represented as EPA carpet cleaning recommendations.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Has EPA issued specific recommendations on how frequently carpet should be cleaned? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Does ultraviolet (UV) radiation from UV lamps kill mold?

If properly designed, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) cleaners that use ultraviolet radiation from UV lamps may destroy indoor biological pollutants such as viruses, bacteria, and some molds that are growing on the moist interiors of HVAC surfaces (e.g., cooling coils, drain pans, or ductwork). But typical UVGI cleaners used in homes have limited effectiveness in killing bacteria and molds. Effective destruction of some viruses and most mold and bacterial spores usually requires much higher UV exposure than is provided in a typical home unit. Furthermore, dead mold spores can still produce allergic reactions, so UVGI cleaners may not be effective in reducing allergy and asthma symptoms.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Does ultraviolet (UV) radiation from UV lamps kill mold? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Does carpet cause indoor air quality (IAQ) problems in schools?

Carpet use in schools provides a decrease in noise, falls, and injuries. IAQ problems can be encountered with carpet and many other materials if the school has any type of water intrusion or moisture problem, such as a leaky roof. If carpeting remains damp, it can become a primary source for microbial growth, which frequently results in adverse health effects. Carpet and other furnishings that become significantly water damaged should be removed and discarded or steam cleaned and thoroughly dried before reinstallation.

New carpet systems (including adhesives used to adhere face fibers to backing materials, carpet cushion, and the adhesives often used to install carpets), like most new interior finishing materials, will off-gas VOCs for a period of time after being installed. These emissions can be significantly reduced, although not completely eliminated, in the first 72 hours through the use of proper ventilation techniques. With any floor covering system, low VOC emission products should be selected and used in school applications.

Carpet also acts as a reservoir for dust, dirt, pollen, mold spores, pesticides and other materials which may originate indoors or be brought into the indoor environment from outside. If kept very clean from the time it is installed, carpet can trap a significant amount of particles, which can be removed through regular and effective vacuuming. However, inadequate maintenance can allow large quantities of dust and debris to build up in carpet. Some studies indicate that poorly maintained carpet can release significant quantities of particles into the air during the course of daily activity. In addition, young children may play on carpet where they may be more likely to come into contact with contaminants that have not been properly removed through regular and effective vacuuming.

Read more about carpet at www.epa.gov/iaq/schooldesign/controlling.html#Carpet

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Does carpet cause IAQ problems in schools? (accessed April 3, 2017)

How can I tell if I have a mold problem?

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.

Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: How can I tell if I have a mold problem? (accessed April 3, 2017)

How do I get rid of mold?

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: How do I get rid of mold? (accessed April 3, 2017)

How does mold affect people with asthma?

Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with exposure to molds.

Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant and animal matter. Molds can be found almost anywhere, and grow best in damp places such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.

For information on mold and asthma, visit https://www.epa.gov/asthma.

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: How does mold affect people with asthma? (accessed April 3, 2017)

How do molds affect people?

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. For more detailed information consult a health professional.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: How do molds affect people? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Is sampling / testing for mold necessary?

In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Is sampling / testing for mold necessary? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Should I have the air ducts in my home cleaned?

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about 50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: EPA Mold and Moisture FAQ: Should I have the air ducts in my home cleaned? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Should I test or sample for mold in my home using the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, or ERMI?

No. The Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, or ERMI, developed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers, is a research tool and is not recommended for use except as a research tool.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: Should I test or sample for mold in my home using the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, or ERMI? (accessed April 3, 2017)

What about mold in large buildings?

EPA has a number of resources available, you can start with the Indoor Air Quality Building Evaluation and Assessment Model (I-BEAM). I-BEAM updates and expands EPA's existing Building Air Quality guidance and is designed to be comprehensive state-of-the-art guidance for managing IAQ in commercial buildings. This guidance was designed to be used by building professionals and others interested in indoor air quality in commercial buildings. I-BEAM contains text, animation/visual, and interactive/calculation components that can be used to perform a number of diverse tasks. See https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/indoor-air-quality-building-education-and-assessment-model.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What about mold in large buildings? (accessed April 3, 2017)

Should I use bleach to clean up mold?

Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain - these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced.

Please note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: Should I use bleach to clean up mold? (accessed April 3, 2017)

What does mold smell like?

Some compounds produced by molds have strong smells and are volatile and quickly released into the air. These compounds are known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). Because mVOCs often have strong or unpleasant odors, they can be the source of the "moldy odor" or musty smell frequently associated with mold growth. A moldy odor suggests that mold is growing in the building and should be investigated.

The health effects of inhaling mVOCs are largely unknown, although exposure to mVOCs has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. More research is needed to determine whether there are any human health effects from non-occupational indoor exposures to mVOCs.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What does mold smell like? (accessed April 10, 2017)

What are the basic mold cleanup steps?

  1. The key to mold control is moisture control.
  2. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  3. Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
  4. Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
  5. Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold (see discussions: What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas and Hidden Mold).
  6. Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
  7. If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration are commonly listed in phone books. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What are the basic mold cleanup steps? (accessed April 10, 2017)

What are the main ways to control moisture in your home?

There are many ways to control moisture in your home:

  • Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. (The ground should slope away from the house.) Water in the basement can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks in pipes or around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow.
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground. Be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside (not into the attic). Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
  • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don't become sources of biological pollutants.
  • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses. Use insulation or storm windows. (A storm window installed on the inside works better than one installed on the outside.) Open doors between rooms (especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms) to increase circulation. Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.
  • Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow. Use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often. In certain climates, if carpet is to be installed over a concrete floor, it may be necessary to use a vapor barrier (plastic sheeting) over the concrete and cover that with sub-flooring (insulation covered with plywood) to prevent a moisture problem.
  • Moisture problems and their solutions differ from one climate to another. The Northeast is cold and wet; the Southwest is hot and dry; the South is hot and wet; and the Western Mountain states are cold and dry. All of these regions can have moisture problems. For example, evaporative coolers used in the Southwest can encourage the growth of biological pollutants. In other hot regions, the use of air conditioners which cool the air too quickly may prevent the air conditioners from running long enough to remove excess moisture from the air. The types of construction and weatherization for the different climates can lead to different problems and solutions.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What are the main ways to control moisture in your home? (accessed April 10, 2017)

What are ten things I need to know about mold?

  1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
  2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
  3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
  4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
  5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
  6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
  10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What are ten things I need to know about mold? (accessed April 10, 2017)

What are some common asthma triggers?

Triggers are things that can cause asthma symptoms, an episode or attack or make asthma worse. People with asthma may have just one trigger, or they may find that several things act as triggers.

Common asthma triggers are:

  • Secondhand (cigarette) Smoke
  • Cockroaches and Other Pests
  • Pets and Dust
  • Molds
  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Cold viruses
  • Running, Playing, and Exercise

Be sure to work with your doctor to identify your -- or your child's triggers.

Then take steps to control these triggers.

Learn more about these triggers and others at the EPA Asthma Home Page.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What are some common asthma triggers? (accessed April 10, 2017)

What is the difference between mold and mildew?

Mildew refers to certain kinds of mold or fungus. The term mildew is often used generically to refer to mold growth, usually with a flat growth habit.

Molds include all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments, called hyphae. Molds can thrive on any organic matter, including clothing, leather, paper, and the ceilings, walls and floors of homes with moisture management problems. Mildew often lives on shower walls, windowsills, and other places where moisture levels are high. There are many species of molds. In unaired places, such as basements, they can produce a strong musty odor.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What is the difference between Mold and Mildew? (accessed April 10, 2017)

What is mold?

Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

Read more about mold at https://www.epa.gov/mold

Source: What is mold? (accessed April 10, 2017)

Who can test my home or clean, fix and remediate my home for mold?

EPA does not have a certification program for mold inspectors or mold remediation firms. EPA does not maintain a list of mold inspectors or mold remediation firms, though some states might.

Some states and organizations may require certification, trainings, or examinations for practitioners in the indoor air quality industry. Sometimes companies that provide radon, lead or asbestos inspection services provide mold assessment services as another part of their business. Ask about qualifications, training and experience and check references for professionals you are considering.

The key to mold growth is moisture so part of assessing mold problems is looking for existing or potential moisture problems. Companies that provide water damage inspection services may help look for moisture and some may be familiar with mold problems as well.

There are no established safe levels or regulatory standards for mold, so, although testing can be done, it may be of limited use in helping to understand the problem. Mold assessment is mainly done through visual inspection of areas where there have been moisture problems or water damage.

Source: Who can test my home or clean, fix and remediate my home for mold? (accessed April 10, 2017)

Why is mold growing in my home?

Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

Source: Why is mold growing in my home? (accessed April 10, 2017)