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Types of Crawl Space Mold and How They Affect Your Health

For some people, crawl space mold seems less of a concern than other problems like water damage or pest infestation. The truth is mold infestation is a serious problem that can affect your health in many ways. You shouldn’t take the issue of mold growth lightly. Aside from the cost of remediation, mold can render the underlying wooden structures useless. Your once comfortable home could become almost inhabitable and the value of your property will nosedive.

A musty smelly and clusters of white powdery substances are telltale signs mold could have taken over your crawl space. So what kind of mold could your crawl space be harboring?

Types of Crawl Space Mold

Your crawl space is likely to attract three types of mold, each with a varying degree of risk. Black mold is the most common and also the deadliest. It appears dark gray or greenish at times. And it can be fuzzy or powdery. Two strains exist: Stachybotrys atra and Stachybotrys chartarum. Both release mycotoxins that can cause serious allergic reactions.

White mold is another type that can grow in the crawl space. It mostly sprouts on exposed soil and wooden joists and appears fuzzy. While not as dangerous as black mold, it still has the capacity to release toxins that cause health problems.

Regarded as the house-eating mold, the yellow type feeds on wooden structures and organic materials causing them to decay and deteriorate. Yellow mold usually appears flat.

Whether it’s white mold you’re dealing with or the more serious black mold, it’s good to know how mold gets into the crawl space and what effects it has on your health so you can take appropriate measures, including crawl space vapor barrier installation, to protect yourself.  

How Does Mold Get into the Crawl Space?

Mold in your crawl space or home is an indication you have a moisture problem. Infestation is likely to worsen if the crawl space is vented or not sealed or encapsulated. As well as entering your home through open doorways, mold can also find its way in through windows and your HVAC systems. Mold from the outside can also attach itself to pets, shoes, clothing and get inside your home. When mold spores float and rest on surfaces with excessive moisture or where flooding has occurred, they will grow and spread. Organic materials in the crawl space such as old newspapers, cardboard, wooden tiles, and wooden fixtures are particularly conducive for mold growth. The same goes for wallpaper, torn insulation material, drywall, carpet, and upholstery.

How Can Mold Affect Your Health?

Exposure to damp and moldy crawl spaces can affect your health in many ways or none at all. Some people are extremely sensitive to mold spores. When they inhale them, they can start wheezing or display symptoms such as red/itchy eyes and skin, or stuffy nose. Individuals with allergies or asthma are badly affected and can have more serious reactions such as shortness of breath and fever.

A study by the Institute of Medicine in 2004 found there was enough evidence to link exposure to indoor mold with bronchial tract infections, chronic coughs, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Further, the study showed people with immune-mediated conditions are susceptible to hypersensitivity pneumonitis. And those with asthma are more likely to experience a worsening of their condition.

Am I at Risk?

Anyone with allergies or sensitivity to mold faces significant risks. Likewise, people with weak immunity, immune suppression or underlying respiratory diseases are prone to fungal infections. When a person with a chronic respiratory disease like asthma inhales mold, he or she can experience difficulty in breathing. If you or members of your family have underlying conditions, consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Your physician may do allergy testing for mold-related allergies. However, there’s no effective clinical test that can prove or pinpoint where or when you were exposed to a particular type of mold.

Is Mold Making Me Sick?

If you’re genetically predisposed to recycling toxins, come into regular exposure to mold, or have a high total body burden, then you’re the perfect candidate for mold-induced illnesses. Typical symptoms of mold diseases include.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic/persistent coughs
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Skin rash
  • Watery eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Recurring sinusitis

Ways to Keep Mold Out of the Crawl Space

Step one is carrying out a crawl space inspection to check for this toxic substance. The next step you should take is to correct conditions that trigger mold growth, specifically water leaks and condensation. Some of the things you can do to control or prevent mold growth are: 

  • Regulating humidity levels using a dehumidifier
  • Promptly repairing leaking pipes, windows and roofs
  • Cleaning and drying the crawl space floor after flooding
  • Sealing and encapsulating the crawl space using a plastic vapor barrier
  • Repairing cracks on the crawl space walls
  • Replacing decaying wooden joists and beams

Do you suspect mold has taken over the crawl space? Not sure of what to do next? Schedule a free crawl space inspection and discover what type of mold is present and how best to eliminate it.