Debunking the myths of mold

If you control moisture, you control mold. If there is no moisture, there is no mold.

That's the message delivered by Morrie Newell, staff officer for the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC), whose group represents building materials companies, associations and government and academic organizations. The coalition released its Guiding Principles, a document designed to give dealers, builders and homeowners information on controlling moisture and, thus, mold.

The bottom line, according to the coalitions: mold spores are everywhere, and they can grow on virtually any surface where moisture is present. Consequently, controlling mold begins with moisture control through best building practices

"It comes down to water intrusion," Newell said. "Water intrusion should be treated like a smoldering fire."

Newell noted that water intrusion is not inevitable, but once it materializes, mold is sure to follow. No mold resistant product will work effectively if the building isn't first properly designed, according to the RSMC. "Mold resistant products are wrongly marketed," Newell said. "They are not the solution, they are backups, an insurance policy. People are increasingly looking for silver bullet answers when the key is a comprehensive approach that starts with keeping moisture out of the building."

RSMC, sponsored by grants from USG Corp., National Gypsum and American Gypsum, released "Myths about Mold." Here are four of them

Myth #1 Mold grows only on paper, wood and other organic material. Mold will grow on any surface, including glass, fiberglass and steel. Mold needs three things to grow: 1) mold spores, which are always in the air; 2) moisture; and 3) a food source. Houses are constructed using a variety of organic materials; therefore, the only effective strategy to control mold is to control moisture.

#2 Mold can be eliminated. Everyone benefits from some molds such as the species that led to the development of penicillin. Only "clean room" technologies can eliminate mold spores. Therefore, the only thing you can control in your home or office is moisture.

#3 Only experts can clean mold. Homeowners can clean small patches of mold using household detergents and warm water. After cleaning, rinsing and drying the spot where mold has grown, rubber gloves and cleaning cloths used in the process should be discarded. Larges patches of mold may need to be eliminated by trained professionals.

#4 Once mold starts, it will always be present. Mold can be stopped but only if moisture is minimized or eliminated. Therefore, leaks should be corrected as soon as they become apparent.

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