UPDATED 8May2020: A few years ago I delivered 8 quarts of raspberries we’d picked for an elderly lady in town, and I noticed three things when she came to the door. First, this woman was very feeble. It took her a long time to answer my knock. Second, the reason it took a while to come to the door was that this poor woman was on oxygen. She had to carry her tank with her in a cart, and clear hoses led to a mask she was wearing. The third thing I noticed was the smell of her house as the door opened. This was the most telling detail of all.
The side door that I’d knocked at was one of those doors that opens onto a landing half way down the stairs leading to the basement. As soon as that door opened, I knew the home had a serious indoor air quality problem. The smell of mold was so strong and obvious that I couldn’t help but think that this was somewhere at the root of this feeble woman’s health difficulties. I’ve certainly seen this kind of thing before. Health problems from indoor mold issues is a bigger deal than many people realize, especially when those health issues are grave.
Mold: The Difference Between Health & Disease
Back in the winter of 2013-2014, I visited a house to patch a hole in drywall, and I noticed something that’s always a sign of poor indoor air quality problems. Every window in the house was covered in condensation on the inside, and even the attic access hatch in the hall where I was working was damp and covered in black mold. That’s a photo of the actual hatch below.
I had a task to complete on that drywall, so I didn’t talk about the wet windows and the obvious mold with the owner at the time. But when you live in a small rural place, as I do, you know things about people’s personal lives. In this case, I happened to know that the homeowner’s 13 year old son had suffered from asthma his whole life. Doctors had tried everything over the years, the young lad had been on prescription drugs nearly his whole life, and he used his puffer a lot.
A few weeks later I had occasion to talk to this homeowner again and I asked about the window condensation. It didn’t take long to realize that there really was a serious indoor air quality issue in her home, and it was something that doctors had never thought to investigate in the treatment of her son. I took a look around and found many examples of mold everywhere, like the mold bloom below that I found behind a bed pushed against a wall.
The crazy thing is, the rental house already had the ventilation equipment needed to solve this problem. It’s just that the homeowner didn’t know how to use it. A few minutes spent configuring things properly for her and two related problems were solved. First, window condensation cleared up nicely within hours. No more wet windows, no more mold. And second, the lifelong asthma of the boy with the puffer became a thing of the past. It’s amazing how little changes can make huge improvements.
Beating Household Mold
The main cause of mold problems in homes is too much moisture in all the wrong places. And there’s no point in killing mold in your house unless you also change your house and habits so the mold won’t come back.
I’ve helped a lot of people solve their own mold problems over the years, but many mold issues continue to go unrecognized. Too few people realize how closely tied mold is to poor indoor air quality and poor health. If you live in a cold climate, wet windows in winter are something of a canary in a coal mine when it comes the household air and mold, but mold rears its head in other places, too. Basement rim joists are a common area for mold growth, and of course bathrooms, attics and storage areas in warm regions, too.
Moldy bathroom ceilings and mold growing on walls are two big ones. A moldy basement is often the cause of poor indoor air quality throughout an entire house, just like with the elderly woman and the raspberries.
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