ATLANTA — First-time home buyer Kelly Sullivan knew to expect the unexpected when she and her husband, Sean, started looking for an east Cobb, Ga., home last year. With Sean just having left the Army for a civilian job and a toddler in tow, the couple had one surprise remaining after their offer was accepted on their dream home.
Sullivan was led to believe a previous mold problem had been fixed, but she decided to call in a mold inspector before closing to give her peace of mind.
The mold was still there.
“Thankfully, we did our due diligence,” she said, “and we received a mold allowance from the seller to take care of the issue.” According to the National Weather Service, temperatures were lower than average in summer. That means homes, schools and businesses such as restaurants are susceptible to mold outbreaks, and precautions should be taken, such as running a dehumidifier in your basement and making sure gutters and downspouts have been cleaned. If you think you have mold spores, a thorough visual assessment is a starting point, said Kip McCullough of Atlanta Mold Testing Services in Vinings, Ga.
A more accurate measure in mold testing would be the use of an infrared thermal imaging camera. These cameras are now being used by professional inspectors.
“Mold spores are microscopic and are not always seen during a visual inspection, and it can only be detected through mold testing,” said McCullough, who said his phones are already ringing off the hook.
McCullough said his high-tech cameras can find mold spores hidden in concrete or even drywall.
That’s important, as mold in a living space can lead to an assortment of health problems, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Ginger L. Chew.
“Exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing or skin irritation,” said Chew, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch. “Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath, and some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.” Sullivan said she was aware that mold could cause recurring heath issues, and with a toddler, she was prepared to walk away from that house.
In addition to homes, schools are often a breeding ground for different types of mold. In the past month, mold has delayed the start of school in cities from Florida to Massachusetts. Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta counted four areas that tested positive for mold in August. While it didn’t delay the start of school, the affected areas were closed off and not accessible to students until the problem was rectified.
Once a mold problem is diagnosed and the initial testing is complete, a remediation company is called in to bring things back to normal.
Neil Gallien of Global Prevention Services of Georgia in Buford says he started getting calls early in the summer from homes that never had a previous mold issue.
“It’s so widespread this year,” Gallien said. “It’s tough to look back, but many of these (mold) outbreaks could’ve been avoided by simply running a dehumidifier.” Gallien said repeated exposure to humidity is actually more dangerous than your foundation having direct contact with water.
“Persistent humidities of over 60 percent will lead to mold,” Gallien said.
In a hot, wet summer, that can be hard to avoid.
Should your home need remediation, it can be expensive. Many times it can run more than $10,000, and rarely will insurance cover the cost.
Gallien also recommends testing after remediation to make sure everything has returned to normal.
Sullivan concurs. It saved her family money in the long run.
“Finding mold in your home can be emotional, but you can’t ignore the problem,” Sullivan said. “Even a little issue is big money when it comes to mold.”