Help For The Elderly
Customer calls me up to look at a condo unit owned by elderly family member. Customer said the family member often had respitory problems so wanted the air checked.
When I get to the residence the customer informs me, he found what he thinks is mold in the bedroom behind the dresser. As we walk into the unit, I can smell a slight musty odor of stale air. No biggie. As we walk by the spare bedroom, now empty, something catches my eye and so I breakout my bright flashlight and shine it down the face of the door, from about the door handle height and downward. White and yellow mold cover the lower 1/3 of the door on both sides.
We went into the master bedroom, and sure enough, there is mold on the vinyl wallpaper and some on the sheetrock, about 6" up from the floor.
I measure the relative humidity (rh) in the unit and it is dry. I measure the moisture content of the exterior wall with the visible mold and it too is dry. It is raining out, so now we know it is not water leaking in from gentle rain.
So where did the mold come from?
I learned early on in life that the elderly do not like to be cold, so they often don't run the air conditioner (A.C.) on warm or hot humid days. They usually do not open windows because they do not have the strength or energy to open and close them. Few in generations past would monitor the humidity in their homes because for decades the homes they lived in "breathed" a lot more than the newer places since the 1970's do after the increase of energy efficiency concerns.
The unit also had a beautiful hot tub in the master bath. A true joy to have when your bones are cold at any age.
The cause of the mold was most likely the air rh got too high, somewhere above 62.5 to 79% or higher . With little to no air movement or exchange, the air stratified, or layered, according to temperature and the moisture dropped to the cooler air nearest the floor.
When this takes place in as little as 24 hours mold can start to grow and is flourishing after 48 hours and because mold spores are microscopic, and can be only seen after it is well colonized and as we get older our eyesight gets worse, it goes unnoticed.
So, when visiting our more elderly friends and family, ask them how they are feeling. They will tell you they are fine, because you wouldn't understand the pain the elderly are in most of the time. So, ask them specifically if they are having allergy like symptoms like headaches, itchy eyes or breathing problems. Give them a gift of a humidistat that monitors high and low humidity (1 for each floor would be nice). When you come to visit, check the history. If it gets higher than 65% rh ask if you can use a flashlight to look for the beginnings of mold on surfaces. Reset the humidistat before leaving.
Encourage them to run the bath fan during and after a bath or shower for about 30 minutes. On nice days offer to come by and open the windows to get some fresh air in the house. If it is going to get cool that evening, come back to close the windows for them.
Baystate Mold Advisors is on FB and on the web. We post informative articles to help prevent mold in your home and how to clean it up if you find some. Check them out. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at (508) 930-7326.
The lesson of the story is "if you control moisture, you control mold."
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