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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2012

Tips for household water and moisture prevention

By Forest City and Balfour Beatty communities joint

What is mold?
Molds are a type of fungus found just about everywhere - on plants, mulch and even foods. They are beneficial to the environment because they break down dead carbon-containing material, and without them, leaves, grass, wood, paper and other cellulose materials would never rot away. Fungi (yeasts) are used in baking and when making beer, wine and cheese. Fungi are also found in other foods including soy sauce and sausages, to name a few. Certain types of mold have proven extremely valuable in the production of antibiotics, steroids, vitamins and other important products.

Molds produce spores, very tiny and lightweight reproductive bodies that travel easily through the air. However, when molds are present in large numbers, they may cause symptoms in some people that are similar to allergies caused by plant pollens.

Mold is found both indoors and outdoors, in the air and on many surfaces. Mold can enter your home through open doorways, windows, vents and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, bags and pets and can be carried indoors.

How does mold grow?
Mold spores, which are invisible to the naked eye, are constantly floating through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when the spores land on surfaces that are wet. Mold spores in the indoor air are usually innocuous, unless they happen to land on a food source where an appropriate level of moisture, temperature and oxygen is present. At that point they will begin to grow, digesting whatever they are living on and gradually destroy it.

Given their natural presence, it is virtually impossible to eliminate all mold spores in the indoor environment, nor is it necessary. Almost anything can be a food source for mold. Examples include just about everything in your house: cellulose materials, like insulation, paper products, ceiling tiles and wood; carpet; dust; paint; wallpaper; wallboard; insulation and even furniture. It's the water that's usually missing. However, even a small amount of moisture that stays in your house may be enough to allow the mold spores to grow. It can come from leaking pipes, roofs or windows, flooding, overflows from the washing machine or dishwasher, humidifiers improperly vented appliances or maintenance or repairs that have yet to be addressed.

Can mold affect my health?
Molds rarely affect healthy people. Many of the symptoms described here may be the result of seasonal allergies, the move to a different geographic region, the result of other illnesses including the common cold, as well as mold. In fact, we are exposed to molds and spores every day. If mold is growing on a surface, spores may spread into the air where they can be inhaled. We can also ingest (eat) spores. Some people who ingest or inhale a large number of spores may have health effects. For example, naturally occurring molds in outside air are associated with allergies in some adults and children, often producing symptoms like hay fever. Hay fever-like reactions are common and include:

· Respiratory problems, like wheezing, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, especially in individuals with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma.
· Nasal and sinus congestion
· Eye irritation (burning, watery, or reddened eyes)
· Dry cough
· Nose or throat irritation
· Skin Rashes
· In very rare and extreme cases, some people report headaches, memory problems, mood swings, nosebleeds, body aches and pains, and fevers.
· Also, some people are more sensitive to molds than others, including: infants and children, elderly people, immune compromised patients (such as people with HIV infection, cancer, liver disease, or those receiving chemotherapy) and individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies and asthma

If you think you have a health problem caused by mold in your home, contact you medical provider.

How do I discover if I have a mold problem in my house?
Look around! The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the sources of suspicious odors. Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. If you see what you think is mold (appears cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery; has varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green) or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume that potentially a mold problem exists.

How can I prevent mold in my house?
Some routine measures will help prevent mold growth in your home. The most effective step is to eliminate the source of water because mold must have water to grow. Mold growth is almost always associated with moisture, water leaks or elevated humidity levels. Here are some things you can do to keep mold from growing:
· Report any water problems or leaks by submitting a service request. These should be repaired as soon as possible.
· Keep indoor humidity levels low (30-60% is ideal) by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and dehumidifiers; increasing seasonal cross-flow ventilation by opening windows and doors periodically; and using exhaust fans when cooking, dishwashing and bathing.
· Don't install carpeting in areas that are likely to be damp (bathrooms, garages or foyers).
· Use of the bathroom exhaust fans during and following showers, as well as the kitchen exhaust fan when cooking on the stovetop, can help quite a bit to keep mold and mildew from growing.
· Dry out wet areas as soon as possible, but at least within 48 hours, to prevent significant mold growth.
· For routine housekeeping, clean small amounts of suspect mold on hard surfaces using soap and water. Wear rubber gloves and scrub the affected area with the soapy water until clean. Rinse with clean water. Let the treated area dry naturally overnight.
· Do not use ammonia cleaners.
· Do not clean up mold if you have been diagnosed with mold allergies or sensitivities.
· Do not clean large areas of mold, instead call your respective maintenance office.
· If the suspect mold comes back in a week or two, either the area is still getting wet, all of the material wasn't cleaned off or there is some other reason for the re-occurrence. At this point it is important to call in a service request.

High humidity and moist or wet surfaces are ideal environments for the growth of allergens, microorganisms, insects and insect-like pests such as dust mites. As such, it is important for residents to be vigilant about keeping households surfaces dry and taking steps to prevent standing water and excess moisture in the home. Although these things are a part of our natural world and common to any household, preventing an environment that enables the spread of these pests is essential to maintaining a healthy indoor air quality. These additional tips should prove useful in helping our residents maintain the highest levels of indoor air quality:

· Do not block or cover any heating, ventilation, or air conditioning ducts.
· Whenever possible, maintain a temperature in your home between 70 and 76 degrees in the air conditioning season and 65 to 74 degrees during the heating season.
· To allow an exchange of air and permit sunlight to enter your home, air out your home when weather is warm and humidity is low. Run the fan on your furnace to help circulate fresh air.
· In damp, humid, or rainy weather, keep windows and doors closed.
· Clean and dust your home on a regular basis. Use environmentally safe household cleaners.
· Regular vacuuming and mopping removes household dirt and debris that contribute to common allergens. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will help in removing allergens from the home environment.
· Periodically clean and dry the walls and floors around the sink, bathtub, shower, toilet, windows, and patio doors using a common household disinfecting cleaner. On a regular basis, wipe down and dry areas where moisture sometimes accumulates, such as countertops, windows, and windowsills.
· Use the bathroom fan when bathing or showering and allow the fan to run until all excess moisture has been vented from the bathroom.
· Use the exhaust fan in your kitchen when cooking or while the dishwasher is running, and allow the fan to run until all excess moisture has been vented from the kitchen.
· If you have a clothes dryer in your unit, clean the lint filter after each use and promptly report any damage to the vent connection. If condensation forms within the closet, wipe it dry. Dry damp clothing as quickly as possible.
· Limit houseplants to a reasonable number to limit excess humidity in your home and limit molds that could grow on the solid surface. Avoid over watering.
· If you clean up a spill on your carpeting, blot the area dry.
· Do not overfill closets or storage areas. Overcrowding restricts airflow.

What else can I do?
Anyone experiencing hay fever-like allergies or who has been medically diagnosed with allergies may want to:
· Use allergen resistant covers for mattresses and pillows.
· Periodically change the air filters for your air conditioner and indoor ventilation system as directed by GLMCs.
· If possible, avoid using carpets in your home because they trap dirt and allergens.
Do not worry about having your house tested for mold. In almost every situation, visible mold can be successfully removed without testing.

What to report to the Forest City or Balfour Beatty Communities Management Office
1. Any leak or water damage
2. Any malfunction in your heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system
3. Windows or doors that don't open or close properly
4. Any areas of visible mold or mildew, except very small areas that respond to routine cleaning.
5. Musty odors
6. Health issues which you think are linked to the air quality within your home.

How to report to the Balfour Beatty Communities Management Office
Any resident with these types of issues and concerns should contact the Work Order office at 706-772-9562.
These types of issues are considered Priority Urgent and our Community Manager and Facility Manager will quickly respond to perform an assessment of the home.

How to report to Forest City
Call in a Service Request to your Forest City Service Request Line (855) 831-3499 or Forest City Neighborhood Management Office (843) 552-0600 for any housing problems or if you have questions about cleaning suspect mold in your home.
If you suspect health problems
Call and make an appointment to be seen by your primary care manager.

More Information on Mold:
EPA's Mold, Moisture & Your Home
CDC's Mold in the Environment