Where Does Moisture Come From?

There are three main sources in your home; the first being air leaks.

Air can leak into the home through walls, roofs, and floors and have damaging effects on a house. Uncontrolled airflow through the envelope of the home not only carries moisture into framing cavities, causing mold and rot, but it can also account for a huge portion of a home’s energy use and can cause indoor air quality problems. In a leaky house, large volumes of air – driven by exhaust fans, stack effect, and the wind – can blow through the floor, walls, and ceiling.

moisture: Cut-away view of a two story house with a basement, using arrows to indicate the flow of air through the structure.

The second source of moisture is diffusion through materials.

This is a process by which vapor spreads or moves through permeable materials caused by a difference in water vapor pressure. An example of this is when the soil becomes saturated and moisture enters the crawl space through the walls by vapor diffusion. Installing a vapor barrier can help reduce the amount of moisture that makes its way into the crawl space and into the rest of the home.


The final source is internally generated moisture.

A family of four produces on average two pints of water an hour, or up to 25 pints of water a day, simply by washing dishes, taking showers, cooking, and breathing.

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5 Symptoms of Mold

Mold allergies are easily treatable when properly diagnosed, so it is important for individuals who suspect their symptoms may be related to mold to consult with an allergy specialist or a physician to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Taking steps such as repairing water leaks and installing dehumidifiers in the home can also help to hinder mold growth and relieve mold allergy symptoms. Understanding what causes mold allergies and taking preventative measures to avoid exposure are essential in managing symptoms.

Itching Eyes

Itching eyes are a common allergic symptom that can develop following exposure to mold spores, pet dander and seasonal pollens. Individuals who experience itching eyes during wet or humid weather or when moisture levels are high inside the home may be suffering from mold allergy symptoms.

Stuffy Nose & Post Nasal Drip

Nasal congestion is a common mold allergy symptom that is often triggered after periods of wet weather or when an individual is exposed to mold spores in the home. When nasal stuffiness occurs, it is often accompanied by postnasal drip, a condition in which nasal secretions run down the back of the throat. Additional symptoms of postnasal drip include bad breath and coughing.

Itching Throat

Individuals with mold allergies may also experience an itching sensation in the throat. Itching throat symptoms are typically caused by postnasal drip, but can also be a symptom of a serious allergic reaction that can lead to throat swelling if left untreated. It is important for sufferers to seek medical attention if itching throat symptoms are present to ensure prompt treatment.

Sinus Headaches

Mold spores can cause the sinuses to become congested, which in turn can trigger sinus headaches in individuals with mold allergies. Sinus headaches cause pain and pressure in the forehead and sinus cavities. In certain cases, sinus pressure can also cause tooth and ear pain. Sinus headaches tend to worsen when lying down.

Exacerbated Asthma Symptoms

Individuals with mold allergies who also suffer from asthma may experience exacerbated asthma symptoms when exposed to mold. Asthma symptoms include chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. Anyone experiencing a severe asthma attack following possible mold exposure should seek immediate medical attention.

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Allergen Glossary

Allergen – A substance that induces a specific immunological response that may lead to allergic disease.

Allergist – A physician specializing in treating allergies.

Allergy – Symptoms induced by exposure to an allergen to which previous sensitization has occurred.

Antibody – An antibody is a protein (also called an immunoglobulin) that is manufactured by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to neutralize an antigen or foreign protein. Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms commonly contain many antigens, as do pollens, dust mites, molds, foods, and other substances.

Asthma – A respiratory disease, often caused by exposure to allergens, marked by wheezing, chest tightness, and sometimes coughing.

Cockroach – Any of various oval, flat-bodied insects common as household pests. The two most common indoor species of cockroach in North America are the German cockroach (Blatella germanica) and the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana).

Dander – The tiny particles of skin and dried sweat and saliva that are shed by animals such as cats and dogs. These are a major cause of allergies.

Dust mites – Tiny creatures related to spiders and ticks. They are found in house dust. House dust mites, due to their very small size, are not visible to the eye, and live for approximately 3 to 4 months. The two most commonly occurring dust mites are the American house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).

ELISA – ELISA is the abbreviation for “Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” which is a highly sensitive technique for detecting and measuring antigens (allergens) in a solution. The solution is run over a surface to which immobilized antibodies specific to the antigen being measured have been attached. If the antigen is present, it will bind to the antibody layer, and then its presence is verified and visualized with an application of antibodies that have been tagged in some way.

Mold – Any of various fungi that produce visible growth on organic material.

Moldy – Covered with or containing mold.

Protein – Any of a group of complex organic compounds that are composed of amino acids.

Rhinitis – Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the nose, often due to an allergy to pollen, dust or other airborne substances. Seasonal allergic rhinitis also is known as “hay fever,” a disorder that causes sneezing, itching, a runny nose and nasal congestion.

Sensitization – Become responsive to external conditions or stimulation. In the case of allergens, sensitization involves the production of specific antibodies.

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When To Test For Mold

There are many reasons to get a mold inspection done on your home, but one important one would be when you have individuals living in the home that are having unexplained illnesses.  It may seem like that’s something that shouldn’t be explained, but many home owners and parents take a different approach when someone is continually having respiratory ailments.  The first step people take is usually to self medicate, then to a doctor whom starts a new round of medicine like antibiotics, and so on before they ever consider they may have a mold issue.  Even though mold may not be your problem, having a test done is another way of eliminating a possible cause, plus you’ll get peace of mind in knowing your home is safe.  If a mold test should reveal an issue, then the results can also be helpful to doctors or allergists since the test will have a detailed description of all molds present.

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Interpreting Mold Samples

A useful method for interpreting microbiological results is to compare the kinds and levels of organisms detected in different environments. Usual comparisons include indoors versus outdoors, or complaint areas versus non‐complaint areas. Specifically, in buildings without mold problems, the qualitative diversity (types) of airborne fungi indoors and outdoors should be similar. Conversely, the dominating presence of one or two kinds of fungi indoors, coupled with the absence of the same kind of fungi outdoors, may indicate a moisture problem and degraded air quality.

Also, the consistent presence of certain fungi, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus versicolor, or various Penicillium species, over and beyond background concentrations may indicate the occurrence of a moisture problem and a potential atypical exposure. Generally, indoor mold types should be similar to, and airborne concentrations should be no greater than, those found outdoors and in non-complaint areas. Analytical results from bulk material or dust samples may also be compared to results of similar samples collected from reasonable comparison areas.

Comparisons of total bacterial levels indoors versus outdoors may not be as useful as with fungi, since natural bacteria reservoirs exist in both places. Comparisons of the specific types of bacteria present, excluding those of known human origin, can help determine building-related sources.

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Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term commonly used for non-specific symptoms that are temporally related to occupancy of a particular building. When building-related symptoms are characteristic of a specific clinical entity, they are called Building Related Illness (BRI). These illnesses are varied, and include Legionnaires’ disease, building related hypersensitivity pneumonitis, building-related asthma, and others.

SBS symptoms include mucous membrane irritation (cough, scratchy throat, stuffy sinuses, and itchy eyes), headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and other non-specific symptoms. The causes of SBS vary with the building and its occupants. SBS was once called “Tight Building Syndrome” and was considered to be a result of excess tightening of buildings in response to energy use concerns. However, many buildings with an excess of symptoms among the occupants are well ventilated. Still, increase in ventilation rates is often the “cure” for the problem.

Some people consider that SBS is caused not by the physical environment, but, rather, by psychosocial factors. Gender, lack of control, poor management, too much work, too little work, perceived housekeeping quality, and many other social factors have been blamed for the symptoms. In some cases, psychosocial factors may be the major cause of complaints. However, clearly, in some cases, environmental factors are at fault. For example, paper dust, and photocopier use have both been related to increases in complaints in a dose-dependent way. An excess of volatile organic compounds have been blamed for SBS symptoms. However, one study attributed this effect to the perception of odors at VOC concentrations far below those that would be likely to have an effect. These authors discuss the possibility that reactive chemistry might produce irritants that might be responsible for some symptoms.

Mold contamination has clearly been related to cases of BRI. However, its relationship to SBS is less clear. A Swedish study documented that dampness in residential buildings was associated with SBS symptoms with symptoms increasing with the number of dampness indicators present. Whether or not mold growth was responsible for these symptoms remains unknown. An extremely interesting study exposed people to measured doses of airborne fungal spores from growth on building materials. In this study, symptoms were similar among the two fungi studied AND for the placebo tests, indicating no specific effect of the spores. Mycotoxins have not been measured in quantities sufficient to cause the normal SBS symptoms, and the data regarding the role of mycotoxins in indoor air remain equivocal.

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What is Fusarium?

Fusarium species are ubiquitous and may be found in the soil, air and on plants. Fusarium species can cause mycotoxicosis in humans following ingestion of food that has been colonized by the fungal organism. In humans, Fusarium species can also cause disease that is localized, focally invasive or disseminated. The pathogen generally affects immunocompromised individuals with infection of immunocompetent persons being rarely reported. Localized infection includes septic arthritis, endophthalmitis, osteomyelitis, cystitis and brain abscess. In these situations relatively good response may be expected following appropriate surgery and oral antifungal therapy. Disseminated infection occurs when two or more noncontiguous sites are involved. Over eighty cases have been reported, many of which had a hematologic malignancy including neutropenia. The species most commonly involved include Fusarium solani, Fusarium oxysporum, and Fusarium moniliforme (also termed F. verticillioides). The diagnosis of Fusarium infection may be made on histopathology, gram stain, mycology, blood culture, or serology. Portals of entry of disseminated infection include the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, and cutaneous sites.

The skin can be an important and an early clue to diagnosis since cutaneous lesions may be observed at an early stage of the disease and in about seventy-five cases of disseminated Fusarium infection. Typical skin lesions may be painful red or violaceous nodules, the center of which often becomes ulcerated and covered by a black eschar. The multiple necrotizing lesions are often observed on the trunk and the extremities. Onychomycosis most commonly due to F. oxysporum or F. solani has been reported. The onychomycosis may be of several types: distal and lateral subungual (DLSO), white superficial (WSO), and proximal subungual (PSO). In proximal subungual onychomycosis there may be associated leukonychia and/or periungual inflammation. Patients with Fusarium onychomycosis have been cured following therapy with itraconazole, terbinafine, ciclopirox olamine lacquer, or topical antifungal agent. In other instances nail avulsion plus antifungal therapy has been successful. In patients with hematologic malignancy or bone marrow transplant, who may experience prolonged or severe neutropenia during the course of therapy, the skin and nails should be carefully examined and consideration given to treating potential infection sites that may serve as portals for systemic dissemination. When disseminated Fusarium infection is present therapy with antifungal agents has generally been disappointing with the chances of a successful resolution being enhanced if the neutropenia can be corrected in a timely manner.

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