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Dr. Wood: Ways to win the battle against mold in the Northwest

Mold grows on the front porch of a home in Deltona, Florida. Mold is common in the Northwest because we have so much rain.
Mold grows on the front porch of a home in Deltona, Florida. Mold is common in the Northwest because we have so much rain. AP

Moldy and damp indoor environments can cause symptoms of upper-respiratory illness. Some people don’t feel the impacts of mold at all and some are more sensitive to mold exposure than others. Infants, small children, the elderly, people with asthma, lung diseases, allergies and other chronic health issues are more susceptible to the harmful effects of mold exposure.

Mold is extremely common in Thurston County since we experience so much rain. It’s easy to get worried when you find it in your home – especially if you’ve heard about “toxic” mold or “black” mold. Some molds produce toxins, but they are not very common. The color of mold doesn’t mean it’s more dangerous than another color. These are myths. Any mold in your home isn’t good for your health, but there are many simple ways to reduce the impact of mold.

Tips for reducing mold growth:

  • Keep roofs, gutters and downspouts in good condition and make sure rain water doesn’t pool up against the building structure.

  • Use bathroom fans or open a window when bathing and for 30-45 minutes afterward. Use kitchen fan when cooking.

  • Open windows briefly every day to let built-up moisture out of the home. Do this even when it’s cold out and even if it seems like there’s more moisture outside.

  • Fix leaks and dry out within 24-48 hours. Replace water-damaged materials.

  • Keep indoor temperature between 60-70 degrees F.

  • Allow air to flow throughout your home. Keep doors between rooms open when possible and keep furniture a few inches away from walls.

  • Keep dust down by dusting hard surfaces, especially around mold-prone windows, weekly. Reduce dust by not wearing shoes in the home. Mold will grow more quickly on a dusty surface.

Keeping roofs, gutters and downspouts in good condition is the first line of defense against this common problem. On a rainy day, take a walk around your home to see where the rain water runs and check gutters and downspouts for cracks and leaks. This month would be a good time to do this because the recent heavy snow might have damaged gutters and downspouts.

If a downspout is emptying rainwater in a way that causes it to pool against the building, you can purchase a downspout extender at a local home improvement store to direct the water further away. It can also help to landscape so that the ground around the sides of the home is slightly higher and slopes away, to keep water from pooling at the base of the foundation or skirting. In a mobile home, water pooling against the skirting likely means that water is getting under the home, which could also lead to moisture damage and mold.

If there’s mold already inside your house, there are safe ways to clean it, and maintain clean surfaces. Remember to stop the source of moisture (leak, humidity, condensation, etc.) or the mold will continue to grow.

Thurston County Healthy Homes Program has several workshops scheduled this spring throughout the county. Learn more about dealing with mold and other housing-related health risks like indoor air pollution, exposure to toxics, pest control and more. To register, contact HealthyHomes@co.thurston.wa.us or 360-867-2674. Here is the schedule:

  • March 19 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Quarry House in the Tenino City Park
  • April 11 6:30-8:30 p.m. at ROOF Community Services in Rochester
  • May 2 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Yelm Community Center in Yelm
  • June 5 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Thurston County Public Health & Social Services in Olympia
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.
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