What is mold?
Molds are fungi found inside and outside throughout the year. Molds play a beneficial role outside the home by breaking down organic matter. However, molds inside buildings can eat away at the building, changing its appearance and smell. It can also affect the structure of the property.
Molds can grow on almost any substance as long as they have the nutrients needed: moisture or water, oxygen and an organic source. They reproduce by creating tiny spores. Mold spores become a problem when they land on a damp spot and begin growing and can grow without sunlight. (See Mold Basic Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Frequent Questions, US EPA)
What are the health effects of mold in the home?
The Institute of Medicine found in 2004 there was evidence to link exposure to mold to:
- Upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheeze in otherwise healthy people
- Asthma symptoms in people with asthma
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune condition
- Limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children
Recent studies documenting the link between dampness and/or mold and asthma include:
- Dampness or mold had positive associations with multiple allergic and respiratory effects in a review of studies on dampness, mold and respiratory and allergic effects (see Respiratory and Allergic Health Effects of Dampness, Mold and Dampness-Related Agents, Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011 Jun).
- A causal relationship between indoor dampness and exacerbation of asthma in children was found in a review of 69 articles published from 2000 and 2013 on indoor air exposures and exacerbation of asthma. (See Indoor Environmental Exposures and Exacerbation of Asthma: an Update to the 2000 Review by the Institute of Medicine, Environmental Health Perspectives 2015 January)
- Increased exacerbation of current asthma symptoms in children and adults were associated with increased levels of Cladosporium, Alternaria, Aspergillus and Penicillium species (see Indoor Fungal Diversity and Asthma: a Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of Risk Factors, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2015 January)
- Moisture damage and mold in early infancy in the child’s main living areas were found to be associated with asthma development in a study looking at moisture and visible mold through detailed home visits (see Moisture Damage and Asthma: A Birth Cohort Study, Pediatrics, 2015 March)
- The relationships between mold contamination, home characteristics and the development of wheeze in the first year of life were evaluated among infants. Higher ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) levels were indicators of water problems, mold and type of housing. (See Environmental relative moldiness index and associations with home characteristics and infant wheeze, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 2015 April)
- Higher levels of airborne Cladosporium and yeast in the child’s bedroom increased risk of hospital readmission for asthma (see Bedroom air quality and vacuuming frequency are associated with repeat child asthma hospital admissions, Journal of Asthma, 2105 Feb 27:1-5)
Is mold regulated in Ohio?
The state of Ohio has no standards for mold exposure nor has the federal government enacted laws and regulations related to mold exposure limits. No certification or licensing requirements exist in Ohio for mold inspectors and remediators. The Ohio Department of Health has a very limited role with regard to mold but will answer questions from the public.
Ohio Revised Code 5302.30 requires a property disclosure form for all residential real estate transactions. Questions include whether the property has ever been inspected for mold by a qualified inspector, a mold inspection report is available and any remediation undertaken. In addition, disclosures is required of conditions that could cause mold including roof and gutter leaks, water intrusion, water or moisture related damage as a result of flooding, moisture seepage, condensation, sewer overflow/backup and leaking pipes, plumbing fixtures or appliances. A statement is made at the end of the section on Water Intrusion: “Purchaser is advised that every home contains mold. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. If concerned about this issue, purchaser is encouraged to have a mold inspection done by a qualified inspector.”
Mold is treated as a potential public health nuisance in some jurisdictions in Ohio. In some cases, health departments are willing to inspect rental housing and write orders when landlords will not remove mold. Some examples of how different jurisdictions in Ohio approach mold and moisture can be found in “Where to Find Assistance”.
Because the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law says landlords must make all repairs needed to make the apartment livable and keep major systems in working order, and because leaks and moisture are code violations, tenants may have recourse when facing a serious mold problem caused by leaks and moisture in their apartment. See Ohio Landlord Tenant Law What You Should Know, Ohio Poverty Law Center, 2014, p. 22-25.
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home, US EPA
Mold and Moisture in Homes, Minnesota Department of Health
Mold, US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mold: An Old Contaminant Creates New Concerns for Homeowners, Ohio State Bar Association