‘Can cause a slew of problems’: How to protect your house from mold

BOSTON — It’s just about the last thing any homeowner wants to hear: mold is contaminating their house.

Climate change may be making the situation even worse as we get hit with bigger and more frequent rainstorms.

The consequences of mold exposure can be serious.

“At the beginning of January, his lymph nodes swelled up and he had dark rings under his eyes, and he was just a lump. Very lethargic,” said Carmela Taylor of her two-year-old son, Jed.

Taylor was unhappy when she felt a doctor downplayed Jed’s symptoms, saying he would catch a million different bugs and viruses over the winter.

“You could call it mommy gut. I dug into it and really wanted to get him tested,” Taylor said.

That’s when she found out Jed and other members of her family had been exposed to high concentrations of mold.

“It was coming from the basement, and it was also coming from the bathroom of our house,” she said.

Mold is a fungus that thrives in wet, humid conditions which are becoming more common due to climate change. That’s because warm air holds more moisture than cooler air.

Historically, Boston averages 43 inches of rain a year.

Last year, the region got soaked with 50 inches of rain including a record amount during the summer.

Dr. Brian Cotter of Wellness Way Shrewsbury said mold “can cause a slew of problems.”

Taylor brought her son to this location, which practices holistic medicine. She now works there.

“You could have anywhere from somebody who is just being stiff all the time, to chronic infections, colds, blurry vision, and smelling issue,” Cotter said.

Jeff Bradley, the owner of Indoor Doctor, a company that analyzes air quality, said he’s very busy right now.

He said during a home inspection “We’re looking for signs of moisture. . . and then we’re looking for visual signs of any sort of fungal activity or growth.”

Indoor environmental specialist Mike Fanale starts his hunt for high moisture levels with a thermal imager.

“It shows temperature variation within the wall with the understanding that wet building materials are on average colder than dry materials,” Fanale said.

He added that they like the moisture content to remain below 15 percent.

Fanale is like a dog chasing a bone, crawling under the dining room table to root out potential trouble spots.

“You see in the middle bar, underneath the dining room table, there’s some white residue and of bubbling splotches,” Fanale said.

Samples from that area will be sent to a lab for additional testing.

Kitchens are notorious problem areas.

Fanale said even small leaks around the faucet or drain can cause issues in the cabinets below.

Bathrooms are another common source of mold.

“One of the most important things in the bathroom is proper ventilation and exhaust because when we have hot steaming showers going, we get that fog build-up, and that’s humidity,” explained Fanale.

He recommends checking that the fan has adequate suction by making sure it can hold a single sheet of toilet paper in place when the fan is running.

He also suggests running the fan for 30 minutes after a shower ends to pull all the extra moisture out of the bathroom.

In the basement, a dehumidifier is a must.

“The first thing we would encourage is to properly dehumidify the basement to control humidity below 45%. That’s going to minimize your odors and obviously a lot of mold growth,” Bradley said.

When asked about the expense of all this testing and possible upgrades, Bradley responded “I would suggest it’s more expensive to get sick. So safety is first, your health is first.”

Taylor is thankful Jed is now doing so well.

“Day and night difference, he’s doing awesome,” she said.

She’s happy this chapter in their lives has a happy ending.

“I would say to trust your gut. You’re not meant to be sick all the time. If you do have a house, it’s worth getting it tested because ours was newly renovated,” she said.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW

Comments on this article