It Doesn’t Require a Hurricane. 13 Different Ways to Identify Common Household Water Leaks That Can Lead To Toxic Mold

By Cesar Collado

In the news, we are witnessing the catastrophic damage left in Hurricane Harvey’s wake.  We are also anticipating Hurricane Irma, having reached category 5, as it approaches the Southeast coast.  Remarkably, though, water damage to any home is a common occurrence, posing similar dangerous risks to your health, just on a much smaller scale.  …Read More:  

Observations from damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Mathew proved that long-term dissipation of flooded water combined with sewage introduced an ecosystem with fungal and bacterial growth that had yet to seen before. Post-storm, most homes were rendered uninhabitable.  Mold exposure threatening human health continued long after the water damage was addressed.  Many homes were repaired; however, complete mold remediation was often unsuccessful and homes continue to test positive for toxic mold. 

Small Household Leaks 

Seemingly harmless, minor leaks from pipes or roofs can create water damage that poses the same biological risks that flooding can cause–mold overgrowth and exposure to dangerous mycotoxins.  The same fungi exist everywhere and can colonize and reproduce under the right conditions.  A water line crack as small as 1/8 inch can lose up to 250 gallons of water daily.  The leaked water may not be readily visible; but could be absorbed in walls, under carpets, or even home furnishings. 

 

Common household leaks often cannot be seen. Plumbing can be damaged by broken seals, clogged lines, corrosion, damaged pipe joints, excess water pressure, and cracked pipes, due to rapid temperature changes and intruding tree roots.  Loose water connections to appliances, such as washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators are also common sources of unwanted water intrusion.  Roof leaks can often occur from normal wear and tear or weather damage.  Any of these leaks can cause substantial damage to your home.  Drywall and sheetrock are porous materials that become food for mold when combined with moisture.  Water damage can occur prior to any visible evidence. A careful examination of your water meter or even monthly bills can be your first clue that there is a water leak. 

Unfortunately, homes are often only inspected for water damage when they are being bought or sold. As a homeowner, you can take a proactive approach to inspecting your home yourself.   

    1. With a flashlight, you can inspect walls, ceilings, floors and carpets for water stains or moisture.  Walls exposed to water can appear to be swollen and be soft to the touch.
    2. Check wood floors to see if they appear to be warped, start to buckle or have light or dark stains.   
    3. Check carpet for discoloration or dampness. 
    4. Check around window and door frames for stains or rotted wood on both the interior and exterior of your home. 
    5. Check windows for interior condensation that indicates excess interior humidity or faulty seals. 
    6. Inspect all visible pipes in kitchen, bathrooms, and basement.  Look for missing or loose caulking, moldy grout, corrosion and leakage around the water heater. 
    7. Check all attic pipes for excess condensation. Insulating them can prevent the excess moisture, dripping and subsequent mold growth. 
    8. Open sink cabinets and check for water or water stains, which can indicate that a pipe or sink is leaking. 
    9. A moldy smell or stench can often be detected in basements and crawl spaces. 
    10. Check the attic for stains, especially where the roof meets the walls.  Check insulation for dampness. Check flashing around roof vents and chimneys. 
    11. Use a hygrometer to ensure humidity is below 40% throughout the home. 
    12. Place dehumidifiers in unfinished basements and attics to remove excess moisture from the air. 
    13. Use mold test plates in these areas including around the HVAC system.  A professional HVAC technician should inspect units if you identify mold or suffer from symptoms.

Once you find water damage, it is critical that the source of moisture is corrected and the mold is safely removed from your home.   

Mitigating the inevitable risks of mold and toxins that will develop with leaks and moisture is a critical step in your family’s health and maintaining your property’s value.   

Mold Sickness 

Mold can cause sickness that can be both devastating and deadly.  It can cause numerous infectious conditions and many chronic debilitating symptoms: fatigue, exhaustion, neurological symptoms, headaches, pain, sinus and respiratory illness, and more. Because mold in most often inhaled, the sinuses provide a means for mold spores to directly enter the bloodstream and even the brain.  Dr. Donald Dennis, ENT and mold specialist has treated thousands of patients that develop systemic mold disease.  He has published numerous papers discussing the removal of mold and mycotoxins from the sinuses, home, and clothes. One particular paper published in spring, outlined some severe cases of patients living in water-damaged homes.  A Layman’s description of one of these publications can be found at http://www.sinusitiswellness.com/must-read-article-on-mycotoxin-poisoning/,

Determining Whether to DIY or Hire a Professional 

If you are mold sensitive or suffer from chronic sinus or respiratory diseases, getting to a safe, dry place is critical to your short-term health.  This may mean leaving your home until the source of the water damage and mold is removed and medical treatment can effectively help your body heal.  Significantly water-damaged homes likely need professional remediation to ensure the water source is found, corrected and all mold is safely removed. Virtually anything exposed with upholstery, wood, dust, a cushion, or carpet will have to be treated or discarded. If you hire a Professional, make sure they are experienced and licensed in Mold Remediation.  There is a certain amount of scientific knowledge required to safely remove and clean mold without potentially contaminating more of your home and ensuring it will not grow back. 

Testing your home with mold test plates will provide further information on the existence of mold spores in your home. 

 While not normally recommended, if you decide to attempt to fix the cause of a small leak yourself and remediate small amounts of mold from your home on your own, proper precautions must be taken.  You can read about these precautions at http://www.moldfreeliving.com/2017/07/05/best-construction-and-renovation-practices-for-do-it-yourselfers-who-live-with-a-mold-sensitized-individual/.

If you hire a professional, look for IICR Certification.  But do not stop there.  Ask questions about your issue concerning your issue.  Make sure the professional tests for mold with a lab analys

is before and after the job. Ask about what products are used , paying attention to toxic chemicals and products that do not penetrate porous surfaces.  Finally, Make sure they use proper equipment and processes to seal off the areas to prevent contamination.

 

 

Small Amounts of Mold Do to a Household Leak

The EPA suggest DIY cleaning efforts be limited to 10 sq. ft. (usually a 3’ x 3’ area).  If the water is fresh and a hard surface, clean with appropriate detergent within 24-48 hours. Make sure the surface is dry (Commercial dryers can be rented at a local hardware store). Pay attention to the detergent used, chemical detergents can be toxic themselves and some do not penetrate porous surfaces, such as Bleach. In this case, the mold will grow back quickly.  If the area is porous and absorbs the moisture, it will have to be safely removed and replaced. Microbalance Health Products offers a safe, all natural, non-toxic mold solution that penetrates porous surfaces. In addition, follow the following infographic to see all of the portfolio of products that can be utilized regularly to keep your nose, home and clothes clear of mold and maintain a healthy environment.   

Mold in your home is serious business. When mold is visible to the human eye, protective gear (mask, goggles, suit, gloves) must be worn at all times. Attempts to clean visible mold can result in releasing mold spores into the air that can make you sick and contaminate everything in your home.  Hiring a professional is usually the best option unless you are experienced with home improvements and take the proper precautions. 

Conclusion  

Identifying leaks, water damage, and visible mold is the first line of defense. These steps will help mitigate the significant risks of mold or mycotoxin exposure while you examine and fix the situation.  Sometimes, we have to do whatever we can to preserve our health. For mold-sensitive people, these steps will help keep you and your family safe by lessening the risks posed by water damage.