Mold: What is mold, where can it be found and who can it affect?
Molds are microscopic organisms that are categorized as fungi, and like most fungi, they break down plant and animal matter in the environment. Mold produces spores that can be found virtually everywhere indoors and outdoors. It can grow on any organic surface or any surface covered in enough dust. The conditions required for growth are an organic food source, moisture, warmth, and oxygen. In order to reproduce, molds release spores that can spread via multiple vectors such as the air, water, or on animals. Mold growths often appear as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth and can vary in colors of white, gray, brown, black, blue, green and many more. In most cases, mold growth is found within attic and / or basement spaces, but can grow anywhere else if the conditions are met. It is important to know that although mold is bad, in most cases, if not all, mold can be remediated.
Mold exposure in large enough quantities can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people because of the toxins they emit called mycotoxins. Significant exposure to these mycotoxins can also cause chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) also known as mold sickness. CIRS has a variety of symptoms that range from physical and mental conditions; these symptoms can be found in the chart below. People with mold allergies could have more severe reactions to mold exposure. Also immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses could get serious and potentially life threatening infections in their lungs if they are exposed to mold. For these reasons it is important to take care of any mold issues when possible.
Radon: What is radon and where can it be found?
Radon is a radioactive cancer-causing gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and gets into the air you breathe. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Any home can have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home, where you spend most of your time. Here in the capital region and its surrounding areas, radon is known as a red zone or an area to have an average radon level of 4.0 or higher as shown on the EPA Radon map below.