Managing menacing mold

  • Published
  • By Maj. David Hunt
  • 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron
As summer approaches and humid weather settles in, mold will make its annual appearance in homes and buildings.

Mold that is normally in the air becomes challenging when it settles on moist surfaces and begins to grow, causing structural damage in addition to potential health problems for building occupants. It's important to take action to prevent mold growth in homes or offices well before summer begins.

Building occupants can prevent or eliminate most mold growth. The first step is to create an atmosphere that is not conducive to growth. A dehumidifier goes a long way toward minimizing the mold-friendly environment. Also, keep windows and doors closed to avoid excess humidity and condensation.

Next, if the contaminated area is less than 10 square feet, it can be wiped down with a solution of one part bleach and 10 parts water. Don't mix bleach with ammonia -- it will create harmful vapors.

Protect skin and eyes from irritation by wearing gloves and eye protection. N-95 respirators are also handy and can be purchased at local hardware stores. They look like dust masks but are designed to fit snugly around the mouth and nose to provide more adequate protection from spores. They don't, however, protect against chemical gases or vapors. No matter how many times large porous items are cleaned, they're very difficult to thoroughly clean and mold is likely to return, so it's best to dispose of heavily-contaminated items.

If the moldy area is larger than 10 square feet, it may be necessary to hire a professional to remove the waterdamaged area, but be wary of businesses claiming to test or sample mold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency don't advocate mold testing because test results provide little useful information. No matter what species or how many spores are present, the remediation process is the same. In addition, every person has a different threshold for mold sensitivity, so a higher quantity of airborne mold doesn't necessarily mean more health problems.

Anyone who experiences symptoms they suspect are caused by mold should visit their physician to be evaluated. If necessary, the doctor can direct an evaluation of the patient's on-base house. Those with no symptoms who see mold should notify their  building manager so appropriate steps can be taken to remedy the situation.

The bottom line is that mold is all around in southern Mississippi, but prevention and control can mitigate its effects.

For more information, review the 2005 Air Force mold policy or log on to or