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Can Mold Exposure Increase Your Coronavirus Risk?

Can Mold Exposure Increase Your Coronavirus Risk? | Mold growing on a window sill

The coronavirus pandemic has many of us gripped with stress and worry over the health of our families. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and people are naturally concerned about how to protect themselves and their home environments. And now that many of us are confined to our homes, we’re wondering how to make them as safe and healthy as possible. So we have to ask: can mold exposure increase your coronavirus risk?

One thing to consider is mold growth and how it may affect us in our homes. With more people spending time at home, mold may become a problem as we are eating, cooking, showering, and cleaning more. And for those who are already prone to asthma and allergies, mold can be a more serious issue. Particularly when it comes to infections like coronavirus and its complications.

One thing to consider is mold growth and how it may affect us in our homes. With more people spending time at home, mold may become a problem as we are eating, cooking, showering, and cleaning more. And for those who are already prone… Click To Tweet

The Effects Of Mold On The Immune System

Most people know that anyone with a compromised immune system can become very ill when exposed to mold. This is because they don’t have the right amount of immune cells in their blood to fight off a systemic fungal infection 1,2,3.

However, people with otherwise healthy immune systems can also be affected by the toxins that mold secretes. To be clear, mold on its own does not cause illness. Instead, it’s the mycotoxins that mold emits that can impair the immune system and cause illness. In other words, people who are sensitive to mold may also be slightly immunocompromised 3.

Research has shown that these mycotoxins can confuse and impair the white blood cells in our immune system, making them less able to protect the individual. Furthermore, confused white blood cells have a tendency to overreact, which accounts for many allergic reactions 1,2.

Mold & Its Role In Asthma & Allergies

Unfortunately, asthma and allergies have increased exponentially over the past many decades 4. Also, mold growth has increased, particularly within modern homes 5.

Experts have shown clear connections between household mold and increased allergic illness and asthma attacks 3,4,5. The mycotoxins in mold have been shown to both cause and exacerbate allergies and asthma.

The concerning part is that conditions like asthma and allergies reveal an already impaired immune system. This means that people with allergies and asthma are also more susceptible to secondary infections from bacteria and viruses 6.

germsDoes Mold Make Us More Susceptible To Viruses?

It’s possible that mold exposure can make us more susceptible to pathogens like the coronavirus. This is especially problematic for people who have asthma and allergies related to mold sensitivity.

Since many of us will be home more, household exposure to mold can become a problem. And if a family member has increased asthma or allergies related to mold, they are likely to have their immune system compromised 1,2,3,4. And of course, this makes them prone to develop other infections like the coronavirus.

Since many of us will be home more, household exposure to mold can become a problem. And if a family member has increased asthma or allergies related to mold, they are likely to have their immune system compromised Click To Tweet

Also, people with asthma and allergies tend to touch their faces more through sneezing and wiping their nose or eyes. They’re also likely to cough more, which means they can also be exposing other family members to illness as well 6.

This means that while we’re at home in isolation, we need to be more thoughtful about household mold and what it may be doing to the health of our family members.

Mold growth

What Can We Do To Control Mold Growth?

What can we do to prevent mold at home to keep us better protected against illnesses like coronavirus?

The following are some practical steps you can take now:

Decrease moisture build-up in your home.

Mold growth depends on moisture, so be sure to turn on fans, open windows, and fix any water leaks in your home. Decreasing moisture build-up through air ventilation and reducing water issues will go a long way to keeping your home mold-free 3,7.

Be careful with your cleaning practices.

Cleaning requires water, but be sure not to dump large amounts of water while you clean the kitchen, bathroom, and other household surfaces. When you’re finished cleaning, make sure all surfaces have been wiped dry 3,7,8.

Also, be careful not to use large amounts of bleach or other bactericidal cleaning agents. While we may need to disinfect certain areas during the current coronavirus pandemic, we need to be careful not to overdo it. This is especially important if no one in the home is currently sick. Too much of these harsh chemicals can clear out helpful bacteria while providing free real estate for mold to grow 3,7,8.

Take preventative measures.

Besides moisture, mold loves to eat cellulose-containing products such as paper, drywall, and wood fiber. Make sure you clean up any clutter that may contain these products around water faucets or potentially damp areas of your home 3.

When in doubt, do a mold test to find out if your home contains mold. If you know for sure if your home has a mold problem, then you can take appropriate actions to remove it.

Soil-based microbes are known to balance out the flora in a home environment and help keep fungi from growing unchecked. These microbes usually come in through dirt on our shoes and from being outside. So don’t be afraid to get outdoors and allow some dirt to come into your home 7.

Lastly, you can add good microbes to your home to balance out the biome of your home. Homebiotic’s home probiotic spray adds beneficial soil-based microbes to your home. These microbes naturally eliminate the cause of musty odors.

Conclusion

There are simple and clear actions we can take to prevent mold growth while isolated at home during this coronavirus pandemic. People should understand how mold can impact our immune system, especially those with asthma and allergies. And unfortunately, mold illness can increase susceptibility to other pathogens like the coronavirus.

Mold decreases and confuses the immune response of specific white blood cells, which causes illnesses like asthma and allergies. And for immunocompromised people, mold can be more hazardous.

As we spend more time at home and in the company of our immediate family, you may want to consider some practices to help decrease mold. This includes minimizing moisture build-up, monitoring cleaning practices, and implementing mold prevention strategies. In this way, we can protect our vulnerable family members and keep our immune systems healthy.


REFERENCES:

1. https://www.cell.com/cell-chemical-biology/fulltext/S2451-9456(19)30001-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2451945619300017%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444319/
3. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28608416
5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935115000304
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4122981/
7. https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/148/170137
8. https://letthemeatdirt.com

 

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4 Tips To Prevent Mold At Home

4 Tips To Prevent Mold At Home | Mold Growing on wall

Mold is often an issue for many home-owners and home-buyers. No one likes that musty smell, which is a tell-tale sign of mold growth in your home. And once mold has taken up residence, it’s hard to get rid of it. In this article, we’ll look at what causes mold, which homes are more affected, and what types of mold are dangerous to our health. Then, we’ll look at some simple tips to prevent mold in your house.

The trickiness of mold makes prevention a critical issue when considering the health and safety of your home. Prevention is much easier than having to clean and eradicate mold that has already spread to several areas of the house.

The trickiness of mold makes prevention a critical issue when considering the health and safety of your home. Prevention is much easier than having to clean and eradicate mold that has already spread to several areas of the house Click To Tweet

CAUSE OF MOLD GROWTH IN HOMES

Mold needs three important things to grow: consistent moisture, limited airflow, and food. Any areas that remain moist without airflow have the potential for mold growth. Mold likes to feast on materials such as drywall, carpet padding, dust, mites, and some plant and bacterial cellulose1,2.

WHICH HOMES ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE MOLD ISSUES?

A common myth is that older homes are more likely to be full of mold, but this may not be true. In fact, older homes tend to have more airflow, and the positioning of water faucets and bathrooms help prevent widespread water issues. Also, older homes tend to have a more diverse and rich microbiome that helps naturally balance out mold2,3.

Newer homes, on the other hand, are more tightly built, which reduces air circulation. They also contain more building materials that mold likes to eat2,3. Lastly, newer homes have a less diverse microbiome because they are cut off from outside soil-based microbes that would otherwise balance out mold3,4.

Mold is also likely to be an issue in homes situated in humid climates or where there has been a catastrophic flood. Also, over-crowded homes tend to have more problems with dampness and poor ventilation. Lastly, low-income rental units have higher mold issues due to less money spent on renovating and cleaning moldy areas in-between renters3.

However, the reality is that any home can be prone to mold if the conditions are right for their growth.

WHICH SPECIES OF MOLD IS DANGEROUS TO OUR HEALTH?

Common household mold includes species such as Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria. The commonly feared toxic mold, otherwise known as black mold, is called Stachybotrys Chartarum5.

Common mold can cause allergic and asthmatic illness. In some cases, the illness can be severe if the person has immune issues or severe asthma and allergies. However, toxic black mold can be life-threatening, especially in people who have weakened immune systems. Thankfully, toxic mold is less abundant than common molds5.

Common mold can cause allergic and asthmatic illness. In some cases, the illness can be severe if the person has immune issues or severe asthma and allergies. However, toxic black mold can be life-threatening, especially in people who… Click To Tweet

No matter which mold you have in your home, they can all cause health issues depending on your medical history and immune system. Mold spores themselves can cause immune system issues, but more likely, illness occurs from the exposure to the mycotoxins produced by certain mold species2,6,7.

There’s no doubt that mold can be a real nuisance, and the best way to deal with it is to prevent it from growing in the first place.

4 TIPS TO PREVENT MOLD IN YOUR HOME

There are several ways to prevent mold from growing in your home. Some suggestions are more straightforward than others, but it’s worth looking into all of them to ensure that your family is safe and healthy.

1. Keep moisture as low as possible

Moisture collects in several ways: leaky faucets, condensation, accidental spills, flooding, a build-up of humidity in kitchens and bathrooms, and leaks around the shower and bathtub, to name a few.

Here are some tips to help keep moisture levels low2,8,9:

  • Make sure that all leaks or water accidents cleaned and thoroughly dried. Be extra vigilant to look for places that water may have escaped, such as under carpets or floor tiles.
  • Kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are prone to mold because of their high-incidence of water leaks and condensation. Be sure to check hidden areas for moisture build-up. Check faucets and water tubes for leaks or condensation. Make sure the exhaust pipe from dryers is intact.
  • It might be worth it to buy indoor humidity monitors to put in a few locations around your home. They are relatively inexpensive and can help you understand moisture changes throughout the seasons.
  • For high-moisture areas, consider dehumidifiers or renovations that keep moisture in check.

Next, we’ll talk about ventilation because you can’t keep moisture low without proper airflow.

2. Proper Ventilation

Good ventilation is vital in helping to keep moisture levels down, and it requires both air flow and circulation. Proper overall ventilation will help prevent moisture build-up in areas that are hidden from view such as tight corners, under carpets, or behind furnaces.

Here are some tips to improve ventilation in your home2,8,9:

  • If the outside air is dry and warm (not humid), open the windows to let air come through.
  • In cold weather, when there’s more condensation, keep the windows shut but use fans to circulate the air. Check for condensation around windows and doors in the colder months.
  • Be sure that your air ducts and filters are obstruction-free and operating correctly. Also, be sure to check for mold in these ducts, furnaces, and air-conditioning units as they can continue to spread mold throughout the house.
  • In areas like the bathroom or kitchen, make sure the ceiling and stove fan is working well.
  • In areas prone to moisture that are also low-traffic (such as basements, laundry room, and crawl spaces), consider a dehumidifier that also has a fan to circulate air.

3. Make Small Structural or Cosmetic Changes

Making a few changes around your home will help prevent conditions with which mold will take up residence and grow.

Here are some ideas for structural or cosmetic changes that can help prevent mold in your home2,8,9:

  • If possible, remove carpets in favor of hardwood, tile, or laminate flooring. Be sure that the floor underneath is dry and mold-free before putting down new hardwood, tile, or laminate.
  • Don’t store items on the floor or in paper boxes. Mold loves to eat paper and dust that accumulates in these items. Mold growth in stored items is especially problematic if they’re kept in damp areas like basements. Consider purchasing shelves or storage bins to keep things off the floor and protected from moisture.
  • Consider upgrading or repairing your heating, air-conditioning, or ventilation system in your home if required. Many issues of mold, due to problems with these systems, can be prevented by ensuring they’re operating well and up to code.
  • Ensure that outside water drainage moves water away from the foundation, rather than towards it.
  • Make sure that materials used in renovation and construction (i.e., drywall and wood) are adequately sealed if they’re near a water source. Mold loves to feast on these materials, so don’t give them any moisture to help them grow.

Avoid Over-Cleaning During the Pandemic Quarantine4. Choose Your Cleaning Products Wisely

Many of us think that applying bleach and corrosive cleaning products will eradicate mold, but this is not the case. These products can often disturb the environmental microbiome as well as adding vapors that contribute to chemical sensitivity in humans. We are learning that a healthy microbiome in the home provides a balance against these microbes naturally10,11.

Here are some tips around choosing cleaning products to help prevent mold growth:

  • Consider using water and vinegar as a cleaning solution. Mix one part vinegar to three parts water in a spray bottle and use on all surfaces, including floors. This solution is extremely effective at cleaning without disrupting the microbiome.
  • Consider using baking soda for stuck-on stains and grease. However, avoid using on surfaces that may get scratched by the baking soda.
  • Consider getting a probiotic solution, such as Homebiotic spray, to prevent the causes of musty odors in your home naturally

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, you know more about how mold grows, which homes are more affected, and how mold can be dangerous for our health. The prevention tips discussed above may help you in making decisions about reducing moisture, ensuring proper ventilation, making structural or cosmetic changes, and choosing cleaning products.

Mold will likely always be a part of our lives, but we can learn to live with it in better harmony while improving our mold prevention strategies.


REFERENCES

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_mold
2.http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
3.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115000304
4.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1471490615000022
5.https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm#Q3
6.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492391/
7.https://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/77(9)754.pdf
8.https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.8-emergency-salvage-of-moldy-books-and-paper
9.https://iseai.org/your-definitive-mold-clean-up-guide/
10.https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
11.https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/148/170137

 

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Cleaning Mold: Bleach vs Hydrogen Peroxide

Cleaning Mold: Bleach vs Hydrogen Peroxide | cleaning mold with hydrogen peroxide or cleaning mold with bleach

Although minor mold spots are easy enough to wipe away while cleaning, the mold often returns quickly. While you might think to reach for the disinfectant spray or prepare a bucket of bleach to douse the area to kill it once and for all, these are not the best solutions for fixing a mold issue. These disinfectants are named for their ability to dis-infect, or kill, microbes and while that may sound good, in many cases this can actually make a mold problem worse!

BLEACH 101

If you look underneath the sink of an average home, you’re most likely going to find a variety of disinfectants, including bleach. Bleach is often a go-to remedy for stubborn stains and is used for making areas of the kitchen and bathroom sanitized and clean, but have you ever wondered why?

The most common kind of bleach is chlorine bleach, a water-based solution containing sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient. Bleach removes stains from fabrics and non-porous surfaces by oxidizing and breaking down networks of double bonds between the carbon atoms making up the discoloration, removing the stain’s ability to absorb light. So the bleach doesn’t really neutralize and break down the matter creating the stain completely, just the bonds that make it visible to the human eye!

DOWNSIDES OF USING BLEACH

When you apply bleach to mold or mildew on tile grout, for example, it’s killing what’s on the surface and lightening the stain that the mold growth has caused, which makes it look as though it’s gone. But, that’s not the whole picture.

Bleach only works well on non-porous surfaces, and isn’t effective on porous surfaces such as wood, drywall or tile grout. While it may be effective at killing mold on the surface, the chlorine is unable to penetrate into the surface, so is either left on the surface or evaporates into the air of your home. Meanwhile, some of the water does seep into the surface and provides moisture to help the surviving mold grow back. And it does, more quickly each time it seems! If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve now added harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your home as well.

Bleach only works well on non-porous surfaces, and isn't effective on porous surfaces such as wood, drywall or tile grout. While it may be effective at killing mold on the surface, the chlorine is unable to penetrate into the surface,… Click To Tweet

Another reason to not use bleach to clean mold is even if the actively growing mold is killed, many of the health effects of mold are actually due to their byproducts, called mycotoxins, which bleach doesn’t affect. Bleach is also highly irritating to use, and should only be used with personal protective gear such as eye protection, a mask, and gloves, as well as good ventilation. For these reasons, we definitely recommend against using bleach to clean mold.

IS HYDROGEN PEROXIDE BETTER?

You may be more used to seeing a familiar brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your first aid kit than in your cleaning supplies, but it’s actually a very handy product to use for home cleaning! Hydrogen peroxide is often referred to as an oxygen bleach, because it acts as an oxidizer, chemically attacking the cell wall of bacteria, often rupturing it entirely. The oxidizing function when cleaning with hydrogen oxide means that it works similarly to chlorine bleach in killing microbes and eliminating stains, but without leaving toxic residues behind which pollute the air in your home – hydrogen peroxide leaves only water and oxygen as its byproducts.

Regular 3% hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing surface mold, and only needs to be sprayed on and left for 10 minutes or until it stops fizzing. Repeat as necessary until the visible mold is gone, taking care to not over-wet the surface.

Regular 3% hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing surface mold, and only needs to be sprayed on and left for 10 minutes or until it stops fizzing Click To Tweet

Don’t mix hydrogen peroxide with other cleaning products, including natural ones. There have been many “DIY Cleaner” articles posted online which recommend mixing hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, but this reduces the effectiveness of either the hydrogen peroxide or vinegar compared to when used alone, and it also creates peracetic acid which potentially toxic and irritates skin, eyes, and lungs.

I’VE CLEANED THE MOLD, NOW WHAT?

Regardless of what product is used to clean a surface, if the surface is left bare it will quickly be repopulated. If nothing is done, either sub-surface mold will grow back, or perhaps a harmful bacteria lurking in your kitchen or bathroom will move in.

The solution is to reintroduce friendly bacteria from healthy soil

These friendly bacteria naturally balance out these unwanted guests. When cleaning your home, and especially when cleaning mold growth, applying Homebiotic immediately afterwards will help keep these surfaces stay clean at a microscopic level. Homebiotic is colorless and scent-free, so you won’t even notice it’s there. It just forms a probiotic barrier for your home… naturally.

bathroom