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sources of VOCs in the home


What are molds? 

Molds are microscopic fungi that can be found almost anywhere, both indoors and outdoors. Mold growth occurs mainly in warm, damp, and humid conditions. They reproduce by making spores that are released into the air to be transported to other places where they can germinate and grow. When mold is in an active growth phase, it releases gases into the air called Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs). Not all of these gases can be detected by smell.

Where can molds be found indoors?

Molds can grow on wood and insulation, in carpet, and even behind walls where they can continue to grow undetected. When excessive moisture accumulates in the home, mold growth will often occur. This moisture build-up can stem from plumbing leaks, from condensation in air conditioning and heating systems, or from ground water penetration. If damp or wet drywall becomes moist and is not dried out within two days, mold can be suspected to be growing within the walls, even if it is not visible.

What are the health effects of molds on people?

When mold is present in large quantities, it can present a health hazard, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems in people who have sensitivities to mold. Molds produce allergens that cause hay fever-type symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and skin rashes. These allergic reactions can happen immediately upon exposure, or they can be delayed. More severe reactions may occur in people who have mold allergies, and may include fever and shortness of breath. In addition, molds can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma and who are allergic to mold. Some people with chronic lung illnesses can develop mold infections in their lungs with prolonged exposure to mold in the home.

Read about the effects of mold on people with asthma: “Mold Linked to Asthma,” ScienceDaily, September 11, 2007.

How does Home Air Check test for mold?

The mold testing method most widely performed today generally only measures mold spores and not the chemicals they release into the air. Since mold can grow behind walls due to small plumbing leaks or condensation buildup, it can be difficult to tell from a visual inspection if there is a problem. In addition, disturbing potential sites of mold growth when investigating for hidden mold problems could create even more problems. For example, if mold is growing behind wallpaper or drywall, removing the wall covering or drilling into walls to detect for visible mold could lead to a massive release of spores. With the high sensitivity of the Home Air Check™ test, mold hidden and growing behind walls, ceilings and flooring can be easily detected throughout the house — without disturbing or spreading any mold growth. Home Air Check monitors for Mold VOCs present only when mold is actively growing, not for single mold spores. Mold VOCs cannot be detected or measured by traditional mold spore traps.
Unfortunately, no government or EPA regulations, standards or threshold limit values for airborne concentrations of mold have been set. However, Mold VOCs detected above 30 ng/L indicate significant active mold growth, and most occupants of the home will be affected — particularly those with mold allergies or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD. Therefore, it is imperative that a homeowner take their own action and test for the presence of any hidden mold in their home.