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Home Mold Prevention Tips 

By Jennifer Sergent

Scripps Howard News Service


Mold has existed since the dawn of time, but it's become a big issue on the home front only in recent years with the improvement of building methods. Homes, apartment buildings, schools and commercial buildings are all much more energy-efficient than they were 20 years ago because they are better sealed against outside elements. But just as they seal the weather out, they seal in whatever moisture is generated inside, whether it's from water leaks, condensation from air conditioning, or steam from the shower and the stovetop.


Homes used to be built with solid wood frames and plaster walls. Wood must become at least 30 percent saturated before it can grow mold and plaster is an inorganic element that is impervious to mold.


In modern construction, particleboard and drywall with paper backing are common and these materials are much better hosts for molds because particle board contains bonding agents with sugars in them -- a favorite meal for mold; and the paper on drywall will quickly spur mold growth with the slightest moisture.


Molds are also more prevalent because people are increasingly trying to make living space out of the dampest area of the house- the basement. "Basements are used for the laundry or a workshop," said Jim LaRue, a household "troubleshooter" in Cleveland. Now, he said, "People have just slapped drywall up against the (damp basement) walls."

Prevent mold growth by keeping moisture away, he said. Make sure rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens are properly vented. Washer and drying machines and even gas fireplaces need proper ventilation too.


"If we don't solve the moisture source, then cleaning up mold is almost useless," LaRue said. LaRue and other experts also emphasized that people should not install any vinyl-backed wallpaper, anywhere. It prevents the give-and-take of air on each side of a wall, trapping any condensation that might arise from temperature changes and providing a perfect hidden breeding ground for mold.


"The basic message is, you shouldn't have mold growing in your home," said Mary Smith, director of the Indoor Environment Division of the Environmental Protection Agency. "If you're a homeowner, it's something you ought to be concerned and vigilant about."


If the problem gets to the point where a professional is needed to clean the mold, people should call a mold remediator, but only one who is specifically certified through the Indoor Air Quality Association. A list of certified remediators is on the group's website,


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