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Soil-Based Microbes Provide Natural Mold Protection

Soil-Based Microbes Provide Natural Mold Protection | Sweeping dirt off of a tile floor

Did you know: soil-based microbes provide natural mold protection? One fact that surprises most people is that out of hundreds of thousands of microbes, only about fifty species actually cause us harm (1). These species include mold as well as dangerous bacteria that cause illness. So many microbes and yet so few are harmful. Yet, to this day, most modern research around microbes focuses on avoiding and removing them. As for the hundreds of thousands of microbes that are not dangerous, such as the many diverse bacteria that live in soil, we barely give them our attention.

In his book “Never Home Alone,” Rob Dunn recounts the many microbes that share our home environments. In modern homes, these microbes tend to be bacteria that live in and on human bodies. But there are many more microbes that have shared our living space throughout history (1). In fact, humans have always lived with many diverse microbes. However, in the last century or so, we’ve regarded them as a potential threat that we need to eradicate. And now, our modern lifestyle bears little resemblance to when humans lived closer to nature.

bright, airy home - homebiotic

As Dunn discusses, it’s only in the last century where humans have purposely lived in closed environments that are cut off from the outside. Before that, we lived together with soil-based microbes that created a vast and diverse microbial landscape (1). Unfortunately, we’re beginning to see the adverse effects of cutting ourselves off from a relationship with soil-based microbes. Indeed, experts have shown that when biodiversity decreases, human inflammatory illnesses increase (1,2).

Unfortunately, we're beginning to see the adverse effects of cutting ourselves off from a relationship with soil-based microbes. Indeed, experts have shown that when biodiversity decreases, human inflammatory illnesses increase Click To Tweet

Chronic illnesses such as allergies, asthma, irritable bowel disease, and autoimmune disorders have all been linked to dwindling biodiversity and a lack of beneficial microbes (2,3,4,5). Even worse, there is so much confusion out there about what makes microbes beneficial versus harmful. And most modern humans treat all microbes as a “nasty bug” that needs to be removed. More so, most people shudder when they hear that it’s a good thing to live with many microbes. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to learn when it comes to microbial education.

person in hiking boots standing on dirt - homebioticMold & Soil-based Microbes

We know that mold has the potential to make us sick, but most people don’t realize that mold was never an issue for human life before things got so modern.

For example, Dunn discusses research studies done in Amish environments where people live closer to animals and nature. Amish homes are teeming with microbes, but what makes them different from modern homes is that the microbial life is much more diverse. Not only that, but these homes also contain many species found only in soil (1,6,7).

Here’s what may surprise you – most of these homes don’t contain as much harmful bacteria or mold as many modern homes have. Why? Because diverse soil-based bacteria help keep the home microbiome balanced. Also, soil-based microbes keeps our human immune systems balanced and healthy (1,6,7,8).

Microbes, like any animal in nature, are opportunists. They grow wherever there’s food and space that allows them to reproduce. And for open environments where the outside and inside are more connected, species need to compete for food and space. This is what creates balance in nature (1,6,8).

One only has to observe biodiverse habitats like jungles or boreal forests to see how everything strives to live in balance. And wherever diversity is allowed to thrive, there is a healthy balance of microbes.

One only has to observe biodiverse habitats like jungles or boreal forests to see how everything strives to live in balance. And wherever diversity is allowed to thrive, there is a healthy balance of microbes. Click To Tweet

moss covered bridge in lush forest - homebiotic

Our modern homes are no different. Only a few species will thrive and reproduce if we remove the ability to create a diverse microbial balance. Unfortunately, this means that harmful microbes, such as mold, may have more chances to grow in a modern home precisely because it is void of soil-based microbes (9,10).

There’s a fascinating study looking at the mold and bacteria balance required to make cheese. Each microbe must live in balance with the other for the cheese-making process to happen at all. So, of course, bacteria and mold have ways to compete with each other and maintain balance (11,12). This same process happens in nature. And without this microbial competition, we wouldn’t have the life and death balance that actually helps nature to exist in the first place. As humans, we rely on our natural environment to survive. Thus, we absolutely need to live with and among diverse microbes.

woman laying in field of purple flowers - homebioticWhere Are Soil-Based Microbes?

The answers are fairly obvious. Soil-based microbes come from outside of our homes. But, our modern home structures, beliefs, and cleaning practices have made it almost impossible to live with soil-based microbes. Unfortunately, humans have never been more cut-off from nature than we are in the present day. Our homes are teeming with our skin, fecal, saliva, and food bacteria. However, studies show that most modern homes are void of outside soil-based bacteria (10,11).

So instead of creating a balance, we create opportunities for microbes like mold to grow. Almost all mold species love moisture, warmth, and the cellulose-containing materials that homes are made of. Therefore, we can see why modern homes are Petri dishes for mold (13). Research shows that homes containing more diverse soil-based microbes have fewer mold issues (10,11,13).

soapy sponge for cleaning - homebioticWhy Don’t We Have Them in Modern Homes?

We bleach, sweep, and do whatever we can to get rid of microbes because we mistakenly believe they’re bad for us. The good news is that we know the truth now, and there’s much we can do to live with soil-based microbes again. By understanding the need for microbial balance in our homes, we can allow soil-based microbes to enter and remain in our living spaces. This naturally reduces harmful microbes like mold and other dangerous bacteria.

So instead of running away from soil-based microbes, we can learn to invite them in again. This can be as simple as not using harsh chemical cleaners, spending more time outside, and not getting too upset about bringing in some dirt on our shoes. And if you have a dog living in your home, this is excellent news. Research shows that homes with dogs have more soil-based bacteria than homes without dogs (14).

Also, you can explore using products like Homebiotics probiotic spray. This product contains thousands of soil-based microbes that colonize and naturally protect against harmful microbes like mold.

Lastly, the more we learn and connect to our natural environment, the better we will be. Today’s answer to many health issues may be to enhance our biodiversity, not decrease it through fear and use of harsh chemicals to kill it off. We don’t need to go back to living on farms, but we can create a modern world that includes soil-based microbes and more connected to nature.


References

http://robdunnlab.com/science-portfolio/never-home-alone/

https://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8334

https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/44/Suppl_58/P1187

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/all.13002

https://www.pnas.org/content/110/46/18360?etoc=

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23103806/?dopt=Abstract

https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1508749

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/489

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0593-4.epdf?referrer_access_token=dbirv_c_z112blDos3pXLNRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NvGy2dylkGSz3KfaHrHWvz91WrdbO-hC1L5cRkm8uaNT_206dn91YHLRkkEthiaLvebtJej4odp6x8_o6PN9C4sBMg3aSzRXRoO2YCabzZXpWFXr0v027tEfwr0cTKZlPatZKGOACqFfaEnoF1P92hlljaBbcfjElLCR0Tzp6xVovmC84tkYdJawRACVDgwlT2BCyitwETaNo8a3b7DX_pnzgOL61ZX3_w1lLh07CGR3vnLkR14D6RSH0WRjo9A3WMhTeh8H34VG37MCopLsbAuS5lM85zEgO8dIVUIeQlbA%3D%3D&tracking_referrer=www.npr.org

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935115000304

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/01/29/579747917/the-cheese-does-not-stand-alone-how-fungi-and-bacteria-team-up-for-a-tastier-rin

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2956425/

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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