Does chlorine bleach kill mold.

If mold is present in a home., the next question has to be how do we get rid of it.

Review of various literature on the internet gives a host of home remedies, probably the most common being the use of chlorine bleach.

As discussed in other articles, we know that mold is a fungus  which grows a root structure that deeply embeds itself into building materials.  Since building materials are often porous substances such as wood and drywall, the roots must be killed to prevent re-growth of the mold

Bleach is a disinfectant and works effectively at killing bacteria’s and viruses on solid, non porous surfaces such as countertops, tubs and glass. It has not been proven effective in killing molds especially when used at the concentrations found in regular retail products.

Since Household  Bleach is 99% water the chlorine bleaches the surface and makes it look like the mold has been killed but the ionic structure of bleach prevents chlorine from penetrating into porous materials, The water does in fact penetrate but ends up only feeding the mold. That is why the mold growth returns within a few days, usually darker and more concentrated than before.

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Hazardous household products

Manufacturers do not want you to know about the hazardous chemicals used in many everyday household cleaners, air fresheners and disinfectants or how they effect people. If used on a regular basis many of these products can contribute to the poor quality of your indoor air and to your long term health.

What is in these products and how can they effect you?:

Air fresheners and Deodorizers 

Contain Formaldehyde which is toxic. Can be an irritant to eyes, nose and throat and may cause nausea, headaches, nose bleeds, dizziness, memory loss and shortness of breath. 


Contains Ethylene Glycol and Methanol, both of which are toxic. Can cause damage to the cardiovascular system, respiratory system and blood, skin and kidney problems.

Household Bleach (also known as Chlorine Bleach)

Contains Sodium Hypochlorite which is corrosive. A skin and eye irritant which can also cause burns on contact with skin. May cause pulmonary edema( fluid accumulation in the lungs) or vomiting if ingested.

Car Wax, Car Polish, Degreasers

Contain Petroleum distillates which are toxic.  A skin and eye irritant. Associated with skin and lung cancer and pulmonary edema.


Contain Sodium Hypochlorite which is corrosive. A skin and eye irritant which can also cause burns on contact with skin. May cause pulmonary edema or vomiting if ingested.

Contains Phenols which are toxic.  Can cause respiratory, circulatory or cardiac damage.

Contains Ammonia which is toxic. Can cause chronic irritation to eyes. skin and respiratory system.

Drain Cleaners

Contains Sodium or Potassium Hydroxide which is caustic. Causes burns to skin. Eye and lung irritant. Poisonous if swallowed.

Contains Hydrochloric Acid which is corrosive. Causes burns to skin. Eye and lung irritant. Can cause kidney and liver damage.

Contains Trichloromethane which is toxic. An irritant to eyes and nose and can cause liver and kidney damage if ingested.

Flea Powder

Contains Carbaryl which is very toxic. May cause skin, respiratory system and cardiovascular damage.

Contains Dichlorophene which is toxic. May cause skin irritation, liver and kidney damage.

Contains Chlorinated Hydrocarbons which are toxic. May cause damage to eyes, lungs, liver and kidneys.

Are you getting the message here? The list goes on. Floor wax, furniture polish, air fresheners, glass cleaners, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, spot removers, paints, solvents, laundry detergents and hundreds of everyday items which can be found in our homes.

If you suffer from allergies or environmental sensitivity, it is vitally important that you learn how to read product labels and minimize your contact with these toxic materials. The good news is that more and more “Green” products are becoming available plus people are searching out some of the tried and true old time recipes such as Borax (a natural mineral) for cleaning products. Be kind to your indoor air quality and to the planet by becoming informed.

Recognize these warning symbols

Poison — the contents of containers with this symbol are poisonous if swallowed, touched or inhaled.
Corrosive — the contents of containers with this symbol will burn skin or eyes and can also burn the stomach if swallowed.
Explosive — containers with this symbol can explode if heated or punctured.
Flammable — the contents of containers with this symbol catch fire easily if near heat, flames or sparks.

Each warning symbol also has one of these words under it.

CAUTION — means a temporary injury may occur from improper use of the product. Death may occur after extreme exposure.

DANGER — means that the product may cause temporary or permanent injury, or death.

EXTREME DANGER — means that being exposed to even a very low quantity of the product may cause death, or temporary or permanent injury. Be very, very careful.

Store all chemical products in their original containers.

Try not to store products that may release harmful fumes inside your home. These items include paints, solvents, gasoline, fuels or varnishes. Store them in a separate building, if you can, or in an area that is well vented to the outside. Buy only the quantity you need for the job, and discard any leftovers as directed by your municipality or township.

Dispose of leftover products safely. Check municipal guidelines for instructions.


  • burn household chemical containers
  • pour the contents down the drain
  • re-use empty containers for any purposes
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    Measuring Humidity in Your Home

    Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Indoor air increases in humidity as we go about daily living. We add water vapor to indoor air through routine household activities such as showering, cooking, dishwashing and breathing.

    We need a certain amount of humidity for comfort and health. However too much humidity often can be seen in the wintertime when homes are closed up and ventilation is limited. Usually it is seen as condensation on windows, musty smells, and mold growth. Low humidity can cause static sparks, dry skin and scratchy nose and throat.  High or low humidity levels can also damage wood furniture and flooring.

    Using a Hygrometer.

    In order to control humidity in your home, it is first necessary to measure it. This is done using an inexpensive instrument called a hygrometer available at most large hardware stores or garden centres. These instruments measure relative humidity (RH).  What that means is they measure the amount of moisture in the air relative to the maximum amount of moisture that the air could hold at that temperature. RH is expressed as a percentage.  For example if the air temperature is 70 degF and the air contains all the moisture it can hold at that temperature, then the RH is 100%. If the same air contains only half the amount of moisture, then the relative humidity is 50%. RH changes with temperature. Warm air is capable of holding more moisture than cold air.

    There are two types of hygrometer, mechanical or electronic and either type is suitable. Hygrometers are relatively inexpensive and not particularly accurate devices so variations of plus or minus 2% can be expected. This is quite accurate enough for most indoor applications. Follow manufacturer’s directions for calibration of the units if necessary.

    At any particular time the RH in a home will vary from floor to floor or room to room. Choose the area you wish to measure and leave the hygrometer in that location for a couple of hours before taking a reading.  When moving to other locations always allow a couple of hours for the unit to stabilize.

    What should the humidity be in my home?

    There are no strict rules for humidity levels. Some people are more comfortable at lower humidity levels than others. However, the experts generally agree that maintaining a level of 30% to 50% during the heating season is advisable. This will prevent moisture condensation on most double glazed windows and protect wood furniture and flooring. Generally the lower the temperature outside, the lower the indoor RH should be. When outdoor temperature is 14degF (-10 degC) or below then recommended RH is 30 %.

    How do I adjust the humidity in my home?

    Ideal humidity should be between 30% and 50%.

    In summer time humidity can be controlled by using a dehumidifier or running an air conditioner.  Either unit will reduce the moisture content in the air. Dehumifiers are not as efficient as central air conditioners and are more suitable for smaller areas or a specific room.

    In winter time, high humidity must be controlled by ventilation, increased  air flow and reduced moisture generation. If condensation is visible on windows then it is likely that condensation is occurring in other cold areas as well. Warm, moist air travels through the building structure and will condense when it reaches its dew point (a cold surface). Excess moisture plus a food source encourages mold growth.

    1. To minimize moisture generation. Always operate ventilation fans when cooking , bathing or showering. Bathroom fans are relatively low flow and should continue to run for a minimum of 20 minutes after showering.
    2. Deal with any problems such as a damp basement, roof leaks, excessive plants, excessive aquariums and any other sources of moisture.
    3. If you have a humidifier on your furnace. Turn it off or turn the humidistat down to add less moisture to the recirculating air.

    If low humidity is the problem:

    1. Air tighten the house. Seal all air gaps where cold outside air can enter the home. This includes vents dryer ducts, electrical outlets
    2. Install a humidifier. Humidifiers, both stand alone and furnace mounted will increase indoor RH levels. Be aware that they can also be sources of excess moisture and mold in your home so adjustment and ongoing maintenance will be necessary.
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    How do I get the ventilation that I need in my house

    If your house is stuffy, odours linger, or humidity is high in fall and winter, it is likely that your house does not have adequate fresh air. If you or your children have respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis or chronic colds, getting the proper amount of fresh air is even more important.

    The design, construction and maintenance of a home determine the amount of exchange between indoor and outdoor air.  Since most home pollutants come primarily from indoor sources then bringing in outdoor air can help lower the concentration of pollutants in the home.

    Today’s modern homes are relatively air tight and are constructed to resist air entry through use of air barriers, vapour barriers and sheet materials such as plywood, oriented strand board (OSB) and drywall. All this was done in the name of energy efficiency but little thought was given to the effect on air quality. Homes have in fact become so air tight that you must induce air change by the use of mechanical ventilation in order to maintain good indoor air quality.

    Older homes did not have this problem. They were often drafty and very dry in winter due to high air change rates. Sealing up these homes is usually the major issue in order to reduce heating requirements.


    There are a number of ventilation mechanisms that occur in any home:

    1. Air infiltration:  This is the air that naturally comes into the house through leaks in doors, windows, openings and gaps.
    2. Mechanical ventilation: Air pulled into the house by using ventilation fans such as kitchen fans, bathroom fans and clothes dryers.
    3. Stack effect: We know that hot air rises. When cold air comes into the basement and is warmed up, it rises and moves through the house eventually leaving through the attic to the outside.
    4. Distribution: Fresh air coming into the house needs to be moved around. This usually requires fans and ducting systems.

    At certain times of the year, when temperatures are mild and there is a light breeze then opening windows can provide good ventilation. In older homes open windows were the standard ventilation even for bathrooms, but these should be upgraded when remodelling to provide a fan that vents to the exterior. In newer homes or remodelled older homes, using mechanical ventilation or a heat recovery ventilator can be more effective particularly during cold winter months or when air conditioning is in use.

    Bathroom fans provide basic ventilation. The fan removes stale air from the house and natural infiltration through the various leaks allows outdoor air to enter. The furnace fan and ducting system if present mixes this fresh air with house air and distributes it around the house. In many new houses a ventilation switch is installed next to the thermostat which operates the bathroom fan. In some cases this is also electrically connected to the furnace fan.

     Ventilation fans should be run for a few hours a day. These fans should be relatively low flow (about 50 cu ft/minute) and as quiet as possible so that they are not annoying. Sound levels less than 1.5 sones are best.

    Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) are becoming increasingly common particularly in new homes. They provide good ventilation without too much additional energy cost. The HRV vents out stale air and brings in the same amount of fresh air. This is known as a balanced system and should be calibrated yearly.  The units are designed so that some of the heat in the outgoing air is used to warm up the incoming fresh air. Basic systems are connected into the existing furnace ductwork.  Efficiencies of 60 to 80% are quoted but I doubt that this level is achieved in normal operation. (Just my opinion!!)  The furnace fan also needs to run to distribute the fresh air around the house.

    Separately ducted HRV’s are also available where the HRV fan motor distributes the fresh air and collects the stale air through its own ducting system. Although more expensive to install, this system does not need to run the furnace fan and is therefore more energy efficient in the long term.

    HRV’s should be used anytime the house is normally closed up. They should be run continuously at low speed and switched to high for parties or other times when you want more ventilation.


    Improving ventilation may lower the concentration of pollutants in your home. Most homes will benefit from the fresh air supplied by mechanical ventilation. Opening windows and doors will increase the natural ventilation and exhaust fans will remove moisture and draw in fresh air by infiltration. For tightly sealed houses a HRV system may be necessary.

    Safety Note: Be aware that over sizing kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans is not advisable. High exhaust rates can cause lower pressures within the home. This in turn can cause dangerous Carbon Monoxide to be drawn into the home from gas fired appliances such as furnaces or hot water heaters or from wood burning stoves etc. If in doubt, check with a qualified Heating/Ventilation expert.

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    Essential steps to improve indoor air quality.

    Clean air is essential to good health and this is especially true when it comes to indoor air.

    It is estimated that North Americans spend close to 90% of our time indoors. With the advent of energy conservation and the trend towards tighter, draught free homes, the concentration of indoor air pollution can far exceed outdoor levels.

    Some simple steps can control the quality of your indoor air.


    Since moisture promotes mould growth, dampness is one of the most common causes of poor indoor air in homes. Minimize moisture by:

    • Measure indoor humidity levels (use a hygrometer available from hardware stores) and maintain levels of around 50% in Summer and 30% in Winter. If necessary use a dehumidifier.
    • Make sure that clothes dryers are properly connected and vented outside.
    • Repair basement, roof and pipe leaks as soon as you notice them. Clean up after any water damage and dry the area within 48 hours.
    • Discard clutter and excess stored materials. Mould can grow on fabrics, paper, wood, carpets etc whenever moisture is present.
    • Always use kitchen and bathroom fans to remove moist air at the source. Run bathroom fans for at least 20 minutes after you have finished showering. Check that fans vent outside and not into the attic.
    • Open windows when weather permits to provide circulation. Remember though that damp outside air will not dry the air inside.
    • Don’t overwater plants and watch for mold growth in containers.
    • Vacuum regularly. Central vacuum systems that vent to the outside or vacuums with HEPA filters are preferable.


    The most effective way to remove chemical contaminants is to eliminate them at the source. Those that you bring into the house are easier to remove than those that originate from the materials used to build the house.

    • Do not smoke or allow visitors to smoke indoors.
    • Do not burn candles, liquid fuel or incense. Soot, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and other hydrocarbons are byproducts of combustion.
    • Use non chemical pest control methods such as baits, traps or fly swatters instead of pesticides.
    • Do not allow any fungicide or biocide to be applied in the ducting system of your house.
    • Avoid plug in or aerosol deodorizers or air fresheners. Instead deal with the causes of odours.
    • Use unscented biodegradable detergents.
    • Avoid the use of bleach and other strong household detergents and cleansers. Replace with greener alternatives.
    • Avoid perfumed fabric softeners which leave residual chemical odours.

     Building Materials

    When possible select low emission materials, paints, sealants and carpets.

    • Minimize the use of furniture made of particle board, MDF or plywood, which are potential sources of formaldehyde.
    • Run ventilation fans (usually the bathroom fan) for a couple of hours every day to dilute indoor air with fresh air from outside.
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    Urea Formaldehyde Insulation- New Controversy

     Urea formaldehyde  foam insulation is again in the news. An Ontario Company has been ordered by the Federal Government to stop selling a formaldehyde based insulation that has already been installed in about 700 homes.

     Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced a “cease and desist “order against the company RetroFoam.  Canada Border Services has also been alerted to stop further importation of the product.

    The Company claims that its formulation is safe and is not the same as the Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) banned in 1980 due to potential health concerns related to elevated levels of formaldehyde following installation.

    UFFI was extensively used in Canada between 1975 and 1978 and it is estimated that over 100,000 homes were insulated with UFFI during that time. Its use was eventually banned in December 1980.

    The fear of health problems caused the federal government to set guidelines for reducing formaldehyde levels in houses. The initial threshold level set for formaldehyde gas was 1.0 part per million (ppm). As testing methods improved the level was reduced to 0.1 ppm. Interestingly subsequent testing found that formaldehyde gas levels in houses insulated with UFFI  were well below the 0.1 ppm level and it became apparent that levels of formaldehyde decrease rapidly after the foam has been installed, typically returning to ambient house levels within several days.

    Statistics showed in fact that of the homes tested, on average formaldehyde levels were slightly below that of homes of similar age without UFFI. The problems with UFFI were not substantiated and extensive testing has shown that health concerns appear to have been overstated. Home owners with UFFI insulation installed in the 70’s should not be concerned and continue to enjoy their homes.  It should be noted that formaldehyde is found in other building materials such as particle board, plywood, carpets and many other common items.

    If you have a concern about your indoor air quality consult with a qualified Environmental Consultant.

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    What is Formaldehyde and how does it affect me?

    Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature. It has a pungent, distinct odour and may cause a burning sensation to the eyes, nose and lungs at high concentrations. It has been in commercial production for over 100 years with American production reported as 11.3 billion pounds in 1998. The value of sales of formaldehyde and derivative products was over $145 billion in 2003 Worldwide formaldehyde production in 2005 was 50 billion pounds and growing fast. It is often marketed under different names such as methanal, methylene oxide, oxymethylene, methylaldehyde, oxomethane, formalin and morbic acid.Formaldehyde is everywhere.

    It is present in outdoor air and is probably the most common volatile organic chemical (VOC) pollutant in indoor air. Its low cost means that it is used in many building materials and thousands of household products.  In view of its widespread use, toxicity and volatility, exposure to formaldehyde is a significant consideration for human health. Indoor exposures come from a bewildering variety of sources; building materials, home furnishings, medicines and vaccinations, personal products and cosmetics, clothing, food, cleaning products, indoor burning such as candles and many other sources.

    There are no real US standards for residential formaldehyde emissions and no product labelling requirements. Studies have shown that at concentrations above 0.1 ppm in air formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and mucous membranes, cause headaches, burning sensation in the throat and difficulty breathing as well as triggering or aggravating asthma symptoms. A 1988 Canadian study of houses with urea-formaldehyde foam insulation found that formaldehyde levels as low as 0.046 ppm was positively correlated with eye and nasal irritation.

    In the US, travel trailers provided for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina were found to contain hazardous levels of formaldehyde due to the use of formaldehyde resins used in their construction. Some people who moved into the trailers complained of nose bleeds, breathing difficulties and persistent headaches. Similar problems were reported by people housed in trailers during the Iowa floods of 2008.

    Formaldehyde levels inside homes are affected by the amount of formaldehyde emitting products in the home, the product age, temperature, humidity and the ventilation conditions. It has been shown that formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new and decline over time. Medium density fibreboard (MDF), hardwood plywood and particle board emit the highest concentrations of formaldehyde.

    If you suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems, formaldehyde in the indoor air could be part of the problem. In order to reduce exposure:

    1. Remove materials such as MDF and particle board furniture, particularly in bedrooms.
    2. Seal the surfaces and edges of formaldehyde emitting products such as built in cabinets which cannot be removed.
    3. Buy only solid wood furniture.
    4. Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows when possible and installing exhaust fans.
    5. Install an air purifier capable of removing formaldehyde.
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    Other sources of Lead contaminants

    Lead is an inexpensive substance which may potentially be found in a wide variety of household products. Examples include:

    Glazed ceramics and glassware:

    Imported or manufactured glazed ceramics and glassware intended for food use are regulated under the Hazardous Products Act ( in Canada) which limits how much lead can be in these products. The risk of lead released into food is low if the regulated product is used only during the course of a meal; risk increases the longer the product is in contact with the food. Do not use glazed items for food storage.

    Caution should be used when using items made by craftspeople, hobbyists or purchased abroad. These should not be used other than for decorative purposes.

    Lead Crystal:

    Except for certain decorative trim, lead crystal is not regulated under the Hazardous Products Act. When lead crystal comes into contact with food or beverages, some lead may dissolve into the food. Acidic foods such as pickles, wine, port, fruit juices and soft drinks can be particularly contaminated when stored for long periods. Use crystals only for serving, not for storage and use only lead free tableware when serving children or pregnant women.

    Canned Foods:

    Some imported canned foods may still be found which are sealed with lead solder. Lead solder is rarely used in Canada or the USA. Lead soldered seams can be identified as a thick wide seam on the outside of the can.

    Costume Jewellery:

    Lead is often used in inexpensive costume jewellery. Suspect the presence of lead in jewellery which is soft and heavy for its size. Do not buy jewellery unless the retailer can assure you that it does not contain lead.

    Painted wood, coloured inks and hobby materials:

    Some materials used in crafts and hobbies may contain lead or other hazardous materials. Know what is in the products you are using. Do not burn any unused items in a fireplace or woodstove. Be sure to clean up work areas and wash up thoroughly.


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    Is there lead in my water supply?

    The concentration of lead in natural water supplies is generally low. However, significant levels of lead in home water can most often be tracked to either the city supply piping or the homes own plumbing system. Areas with soft drinking water or acidic water (low pH) are particularly vulnerable due to their ability to adsorb more lead. In newer homes, excessive leaching from solder may occur for the first few years until a protective oxide layer has formed in the pipes.

    Research has shown that lead concentrations at the tap originating from lead solders and brass fixtures decline with age, however lead piping can continue to provide a consistently strong source of lead after many years of service.

    An inspection of the piping in your home can indicate high risk factors such as main incoming lead pipes from the street, common in older homes. Your water Utility Company can tell you if there are lead pipes in their distribution system.

    You can’t see, smell or taste lead in the water supply. The only way to determine if you have lead in your water supply is to have it tested by a certified laboratory. State, Provincial and Local water authorities can provide lists of accredited laboratories. Testing can cost anywhere from free to $100. Rural residents should also monitor water from wells or other private sources of water for lead. Check with the local laboratory for sampling procedures.

    According to the Environmental protection Agency (EPA) lead levels in the area of 15 parts per billion or higher are cause for concern. Health Canada sets the limit at 10 parts per billion. In either case, if tests show that levels of lead in your household water are within this range, then steps should be taken to reduce levels.

    What can I do now?

    Ideally, replacing lead pipes and brass fixtures in your home is the long term solution. Make sure that plumbing fixtures in your home are ANSI/NSF61 certified. These components are lead free or have low lead content and meet the ANSI standards for use in water systems.

     Utility Companies although continually upgrading their systems are generally slow to react to replacing existing lead underground piping.

    lead water pipe

    You may be able to reduce the amount of lead in your drinking water by letting the cold water tap run until it is cold. This helps to flush out any water that has been standing in the pipes. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. Flushing the toilet and showering in the morning should flush out pipes; however you must run the water for 30 to 60 seconds at each tap before drinking. Anytime the water in a faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, flush the pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get.  After flushing, water can be stored in the fridge for use during the day. Hot water picks up more lead than cold, so don’t use water from the hot tap for drinking, cooking or making baby formula.

    Note that if you live in a high rise building then flushing may not work. In this case water samples will have to be collected and sent to a qualified laboratory for analysis.

    Do Filters reduce lead in water?

    A large variety of water filter systems are available for removing contaminants such as lead from water.  Often they are installed only at one tap, but whole house systems are also available. These include Activated Carbon filters, Water Distillers and Reverse Osmosis systems.

    Activated Carbon:    Usually supplied in granular or block form. A charcoal based material that can adsorb dissolved impurities from water. Different types and capacities are available and the charcoal must be replaced periodically as per manufacturers directions.

    Distillation Units:   Distillation units remove lead by boiling the water and then condensing and collecting the steam. The impurities are left behind and the process produces nearly contaminant free water. Approximately 99 percent of the lead is removed from the water. These units are quite expensive to run and most home units have small capacities. The water produced also tastes rather bland. A high mineral content or suspended solid in the water supply will rapidly foul the system.

    Reverse Osmosis:  The RO method forces water under pressure through a very fine membrane. Usually sediment prefilters are also required. Good quality water can usually be expected through these units, however capacities are low and most of the water entering an RO system is carried off as waste. As much as 90% of the entering water is discarded.

    All these devices have to be certified for lead removal. Please check the manufacturers claims and make sure they are certified by an independent agency such as NSF, a non profit organization that evaluates filter quality.

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    What are the signs of Mold?

    Moisture intrusion: Water from a flood, leaky pipe or condensation can provide the ideal conditions for mold growth. Molds can start to grow within 48 hours, so immediate cleanup and drying is essential in reducing further damage. If the moisture source is corrected quickly most mold problems can be resolved easily and inexpensively.

    Stains on surfaces: Stains on walls, ceilings, baseboards, floors and carpet caused by moisture. Look for the greenish, blackish, brownish patches that characterize mold growth.

    Musty Odors:  Musty odors are probably one of the most prominent signs of mold growth. These odors are generally formed from the release of volatile organic compounds as the enzymes break down the food source on which the mold is growing.

    Frequent Respiratory problems: Allergic reactions and sensitivity to mold spores or volatile organic compounds may produce respiratory problems.

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