Understanding Mold and its potential risks

Mold spores are present in varying degrees and counts in every environment, including the cleanest homes and businesses.  They require little more than some food and a minimal amount of moisture to start their growth.  There are two major areas of concern associated with mold growth.  First and most importantly are the health risks. Factors to consider:
    • The type and severity of mold growth will impact health risks that range from mild allergies and respiratory issues to infectious diseases effecting the lungs and internal organs.
    • The most serious health risks are a result of toxins (called mycotoxins) produced from certain species of mold. There are about 16 different species of mycotoxins which are known to be toxic to humans and animals.
  • There are three main types of symptoms mold exposure can cause:
  1. Allergic and irritant symptoms
  2. Toxic symptoms
  3. Infections

Allergic and irritant symptoms

Most mold symptoms are caused by mold allergies. When you breathe in mold spores, your immune system responds by creating allergic reactions. These reactions are the immune system’s defense against foreign particles entering the body.
The more a person is around mold the more sensitive to it they will become. This means that they can end up unable to tolerate being around even small amounts of mold. Their allergic reactions will also become more and more severe.  Symptoms may include:
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Irritated, itchy throat
  • Blocked nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sinus headaches
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Irritated, itchy skin
  • Skin rash, hives
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy ears
  • Hair loss, baldness
  • Hay fever symptoms

Toxic Symptoms from Exposure to Toxic Mold

There are about 16 mold species which are toxic to humans. These molds put out highly toxic chemicals called mycotoxins.   Mycotoxins cause toxic symptoms which are much worse than the allergic symptoms caused by ordinary molds. Some of the symptoms caused by toxic molds include bleeding, damage to internal organs, mental impairment, cancer, and even death in some cases.

mold infectionsMold Infections

Sometimes mold spores that are breathed into a person’s lungs begin to grow inside them. Mold infections like this can also grow in the sinuses, skin, or digestive system. These mold infections usually don’t occur in healthy people. Elderly people or those who are sick with compromised or suppressed immune systems can suffer these infections since their immune systems might not be strong enough to fight off the mold.  Sometimes these mold infections can even cause death. The second area of concern associated with mold growth is the destruction of your property.  As mold grows, it consumes its host, i.e., eats/deteriorates the surfaces it’s growing on.  Any organic compound can be a suitable host for mold growth.

Typical areas for mold growth:

mold on drywall

Mold on Drywall

Because drywall is a substance high in cellulose, it is one of the most common materials mold grows on in the home. As there is no practical way to completely remove mold from drywall, you will have to cut out and dispose of any drywall you discover which has mold growing on it.
mold in floor

Mold in Floor

Mold can grow beneath the floor in your home just like it grows above ceilings and within wall cavities. Dirt and dust which fall under the floor become trapped, along with moisture, leading to perfect conditions for mold growth.  Tiles and especially carpets trap large amounts of dust and can become a haven for mold growth. Carpets hold moisture particularly well, taking a long time to dry out, which means they can very easily foster mold growth if there are spills, water leaks, or floods.
mold in basement

Mold Growing in Basement

Out of all the rooms in the house, the basement is usually the most likely to contain mold growth. Because the basement is usually lower than any other room in the house, it is often damp from water leaks flowing down into it. The cold temperature of the basement can also create a lot of moisture from condensation. To add to this, the basement is often dark, rarely attended, and the air is usually stagnant from poor ventilation.
mold in insulation

Mold in Insulation

Insulation can be a reservoir for mold. Any insulation which you can see exposed in your home should be checked thoroughly for mold, especially if there was once a water problem in that particular room, or if there was once mold growth anywhere in the room. Even if the insulation looks clean at first glance, make sure to thoroughly examine and inspect it.  If mold is present in your home’s insulation, removal will be required because it cannot be cleaned or disinfected.
mold on ceiling

Mold on Ceiling

If you see mold on the ceiling in your home, then you probably have a humidity or condensation problem. It is also possible that the mold is caused by a water leak above the ceiling.

Mold Growing Above Ceiling

Just as mold grows behind walls it can also grow behind ceilings.  Mold colonies growing above ceilings are usually fed by water from a leaking roof.  For clues that mold could be growing above the ceiling in your home, look for signs of water damage in the ceiling.  Small patches of mold growth visible from under the ceiling can be a sign that there is a large colony of mold on the other side.
mold in walls

Mold Growing Behind Walls

Mold commonly grows out of sight behind walls in the wall cavities. These spaces often contain pockets of humid, moist air. Mold can also grow hidden behind wallpaper. Wallpaper glue can hold organic debris which can then become a food source for mold growth.
mold in ducts hvac

Mold in Air Ducts and HVAC

Unseen mold could also be lurking in vents, ducts, air conditioning, and heating systems in your home; therefore, it’s imperative to inspect inside these areas when you’re looking for mold.
mold on windows

Mold on Windows and Window Frames

Condensation frequently forms on windows due to cold, outdoor air on the other side of the window, which cools the glass. Although mold cannot feed on the glass itself, it can feed off of the grime on the window glass and/or frame.  Condensation can also lead to mold growing around window frames and eventually migrating into the drywall.

Mold Inspection and Testing

Why You Should Have A Mold Inspection?

The obvious reason to conduct a mold inspection is you suspect mold growth in your home or business.  Even if the mold growth is fairly obvious because it’s visual and/or presents a musty odor, it’s highly recommended to conduct a mold inspection since visual mold growth often means there is more mold growing somewhere out of view.  The two main goals of a mold inspection are to identify mold growth and pinpoint the underlying cause of the mold growth; a water problem.

What Will Our Mold Inspection Include?

  • A detailed questionnaire to understand the background of the problem, all contributing factors, and any related health effects.
  • A thorough visual inspection of all accessible areas of the property.
  • Indicator measurements taken in effected, unaffected, and outside environments. Temperature, relative humidity, surface, and penetrating moisture readings will be recorded using infrared thermography, thermohygrometers, and both capacitance and resistance-based moisture meters.  A fiber optic borescope for wall cavity inspection may also be used.
  • If suspect mold growth is found, samples will be taken and a laboratory analytical report generated. Samples may be secured through spore traps, swabs, or tape lifts.

Mold Remediation and Removal

Once mold has been identified, it’s critical to both kill and remove it.  The EPA states, “Dead mold is still allergenic and some dead molds are potentially toxic”.  A plan (protocol) will be established to protect the health of both the building occupants and remediation professionals.  The remediation process needs to address not only the mold but also the catalysts behind the mold growth; the water/moisture problem.  Engineering controls will be established to prevent exposure risks to all building occupants and prevent contamination of unaffected areas.  Steps to the remediation process will be dependent on the severity of contamination and customized to address your specific needs.  They may include:
  • Full-scale containment of effected area.
  • Negative air pressurization utilizing HEPA air filtration devices.
  • Mechanical removal (scraping, scrubbing, sanding, dry ice blasting) of mold growth.
  • HEPA vacuuming of all contaminated areas.
  • Spray or fogging with an antimicrobial (killing agent).
  • Removal of any contaminated building material that cannot be salvaged.
  • Encapsulation of remediated structural materials with an EPA registered antimicrobial designed to kill any residual mold and inhibit future microbial growth (mold).

Electrostatic Spraying – Watch How it Works

Electrostatic spraying is a process that employs charged particles to thoroughly and efficiently encapsulate a target. At the tip of an electrostatic sprayer is a tiny electrode which applies an electrical charge to the spray. This electrical charging causes a natural force of attraction between the spray droplets and target surface, similar to the attraction between items of clothing created by the tumbling of a clothes dryer. The charge on the droplets is small, but the force pulling the spray towards the target is 75 times greater than the force of gravity. Droplets literally reverse direction and move upwards, against gravity, when passing a target surface. This remarkable phenomenon by which the spray coats the undersides and the backsides of the spray target is known as electrostatic ‘wraparound’. This wraparound ability allows ProGuard Environmental Services to enhance traditional remediation protocol and eliminate mold from virtually every surface in your facility.


There are numerous methods to achieve deodorization, but they all fall into three categories.
  1. A masking agent – Designed to cover the odor, e.g., air freshener.
  2. A pairing agent – A neutralizing agent paired with its host odor.
  3. Molecular change – Achieved either with an ozone or Hydroxyl generator to molecularly change the structure of the offensive odor.
hydroxyl generators We use Hydroxyl generators because they are completely safe to people, pets, and plants.  Ozone generators produce ozone which is an effective odor eliminator but is toxic to people, pets, and plants.  It also deteriorates leather products.  Safety is always paramount.

Air and/or Surface Sample Testing

air samplingAir sampling is a procedure utilizing electronic test equipment to secure a snapshot sample of air quality within a defined space and time. The sample is then analyzed by an accredited environmental microbiology laboratory. A report is generated detailing fungal identification and count. This process may be conducted pre-remediation to accurately identify the type and scale of contamination, post verification testing, or both. Swab or surface testing may also be conducted depending on the scope and job requirements. ProGuard Environmental Services believes that education is the first step in protecting the health of you and your family and safe-guarding your property. These links will help with that education: “The Hidden Damagers of Mold” “The Symptoms of Mold Exposure and Mold Illness from Black Toxic Mold Exposure” “Mold and How it Affects Your Body”

Infrared Thermal Imaging

Infrared thermal imaging or thermography is the use of an infrared imaging and measurement camera to “see” and “measure” thermal energy emitted from an object. It identifies thermal or infrared energy, which is light that is not visible because its wavelength is too long to be detected by the human eye; it’s the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we perceive as heat. Unlike visible light, in the infrared world, everything with a temperature above absolute zero emits heat. The higher the object’s temperature, the greater the IR radiation emitted. Infrared allows us to see what our eyes cannot. Infrared thermography cameras produce images of invisible infrared or “heat” radiation and provide precise non-contact temperature measurement capabilities. Those images detail thermal anomalies and identify areas of moisture not visible to the human eye. Moisture in building materials can destroy structural integrity and nurture microbial (mold) growth. The first step in resolving a moisture problem is to quickly and accurately identify the source of the unwanted moisture. Infrared cameras show you what’s wet and what’s dry with little or no physical disassembly of the premises and minimal disturbance of inhabitants. It’s an excellent diagnostic tool for identifying moisture, which is the principal catalyst behind mold growth.

Additional uses for Infrared Thermal Imaging:

  • Fire / Water Damage Assessment of Materials
  • Air Leaks Around Doors, Windows, Etc
  • Hidden Plumbing and Roof Leakage
  • Heat Loss and Energy Efficiency
  • Overloaded Electrical Circuits
  • Building Envelope Scanning
  • Radiant Floor Heat Surveys
  • HVAC Component Scans
  • Missing Insulation
  • Electrical Hazards
moisture in ceiling

Moisture in Ceiling

Wall Moisture Intrusion

Wall Moisture Intrusion

Water Leak Inside Wall

Water Leak Inside Wall From Bad Flashing

Infrared InspectionProGuard Environmental Services utilizes Infrared inspection as a powerful noninvasive method to monitor and diagnose the condition of buildings and quickly identify problem areas that can’t be seen by the naked eye – eliminating destructive probing methods. It is the preferred diagnostic tool of building professionals everywhere.

View Mold Glossary