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Mold

Though the Health Department does not have a program with enforcement authority to address mold complaints inside residential property, it offers education. Below are common questions related to mold and basic answers.   

What are molds?
How do molds affect the health of people?
What causes molds to grow in residences?
What can I do to prevent mold from growing in my residence?
How do I clean up mold and keep it from coming back?
Is it necessary to remove all molds growing in a residence?
I live in an apartment or rental house and there is mold growing in it. Is my landlord responsible for removing it?
What steps should I take if my landlord refuses to or simply just doesn’t remove the mold?
Where can I find more information on mold?

What are molds?
Molds are fungi that grow most easily in warm, damp environments. Mold is found naturally in nearly all outdoor environments. Mold spores and related particles are regularly floating invisibly through the outdoor air, and can also be found in indoor air. It is when inside conditions become right for mold to grow that problems can develop. However, mold also can be used to the benefit of people such as in the production of some antibiotics, and in the processing of some foods such as cheese.  

How do molds affect the health of people?
The affect molds have on people varies among individuals. Many people have little or no reaction when exposed to mold. The type and amount of mold a person is exposed to, as well as length of time exposed, can be determining factors. The circumstances of the exposure can also play a role. How sensitive a person is to mold exposure depends on the individual. The most common adverse reactions to molds occur to those with allergy sensitivities. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, wheezing or skin irritation. More severe reactions may include fever, shortness of breath and development of asthma.

What causes molds to grow in residences?
For mold to grow inside a building, three factors are needed. These include a food source, moisture and initial mold organism such as spores. The food source can be dry wall, wood, ceiling tiles and other items. An ongoing source of moisture could include a leaky roof or window, plumbing leaks, damp foundations, or even excessively high indoor humidity. These conditions, combined with naturally occurring mold spores, can lead to the growth of mold in a residence if left unchecked.

What can I do to prevent mold from growing in my residence?
Regularly check your home for any types of leak and immediately correct any that is found. Consistent humidity levels of 40 to 60 percent in the home can also help prevent mold growth. De-humidifiers and air conditioners can help lower humidity levels. If more than minor amounts of mildew or mold are found growing inside, contact a professional contractor with mold repair experience. He can evaluate your problem, offer a corrective proposal, and perform any needed work in a safe and healthy manner.  

How do I clean up mold and keep it from coming back?Masks
Fix the problem that is causing the abundance of moisture in the affected area and allow it to dry. Even if mold is completely cleaned up, if the problem that caused it to form there in the first place is not fixed, it will likely return.

Porous items like carpet and ceiling tiles may not be able to be cleaned completely and may need to be thrown away. Dry wall may need to be properly removed and disposed, then replaced with new.

Hard surfaces (concrete, metal, plastic, wood, etc.) often can be addressed by cleaning with water and detergent, allowing it to completely dry, then treating with a mold inhibitor product if appropriate.  Special care must be taken to protect against exposure to the mold and products used during this process. These protective items can include gloves, an N-95 mask, safety goggles and proper clothing.  

It is also very important to take steps to ensure good ventilation of the room being cleaned. It is recommended that any area with more than minor mold growth be evaluated and corrected by a trained professional. Disturbing mold growth or moving material with mold growth on it without taking the proper precautions and appropriate steps can increase the mold problem and place you at greater risk of adverse health effects.   

Is it necessary to remove all molds growing in a residence?
While some minor mildew and mold growth occurs in nearly all homes from time to time, it is best to address any mold issue in a safe and timely manner. The sooner such conditions are addressed, the less likely it is that the individuals in the home may experience any irritation or other reaction to the mold.

I live in an apartment or rental house and there is mold growing in it. Is my landlord responsible for removing it?
It is important that tenants act as a partner with landlords to help address living conditions. Renters should take steps within their control to limit the potential for mold growth.

Apartment landlords generally are responsible for taking corrective action on mold issues beyond minor mildew-type growths that can be handled with regular cleaning. The same often goes for rental homes, though it may depend on the specifics of individual rental contracts. You may need to seek legal counsel to help answer your questions about such responsibilities. 
 
Unfortunately, most local jurisdictions do not have ordinances or programs that allow local officials to investigate or take enforcement action inside residential property for mold issues.  

What steps should I take if my landlord refuses to or simply just doesn’t remove the mold?
The Health Department does not have regulatory authority inside residential property for such conditions. Whether local city or county code enforcement officers have such authority varies depending on local ordinances. Contact your city or county to see if they can offer any assistance. If you do not believe your landlord is appropriately addressing mold concerns, you may need to look into taking legal action as a means to resolve the problem. 
    
Clean-up of flood related water and mold needs to follow additional practices.  Please see the Health Department’s page on floods for more information.

Where can I find more information on mold?
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services
The Aspergillus Web site
Toxic Black Mold Information Center
Environmental Protection Agency