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Molds are simple, microscopic organisms, present virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors.  Molds, along with mushrooms and yeasts, are fungi and are needed to break down dead material and recycle nutrients in the environment. For molds to grow and reproduce, they need only a food source - any organic material, such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt - and moisture. Because molds grow by digesting organic material, they gradually destroy whatever they grow on.  Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the form of discoloration, frequently green, gray, brown, or black but also white and other colors.  Molds release countless tiny, lightweight spores, which travel through the air. Some of the most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria.

If indoor mold contamination is extensive, it can cause very high and persistent airborne spore exposures.  Persons exposed to high spore levels can become sensitized and develop allergies to the mold or other health problems.  Mold growth can damage your furnishings, such as carpets, sofas and cabinets.  Clothes and shoes in damp closets can become soiled.  In time, unchecked mold growth can cause serious damage to the structural elements in your home.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not recommend testing as a first step to determine if you have a mold problem.  Reliable air sampling for mold can be expensive and requires expertise and equipment that is not available to the general public.  Owners of individual private homes and apartments generally will need to pay a contractor to carry out such sampling, because insurance companies and public health agencies seldom provide this service.  Mold inspection and cleanup is usually considered a housekeeping task that is the responsibility of homeowner or landlord, as are roof and plumbing repairs, house cleaning, and yard maintenance.  Another reason the health department does not recommend testing for mold contamination is that there are few available standards for judging what is an acceptable quantity of mold.  In all locations, there is some level of airborne mold outdoors. If sampling is carried out in a home, an outdoor air sample also must be collected at the same time as the indoor samples, to provide a baseline measurement.  Because individual susceptibility varies so greatly, sampling is at best a general guide.  The simplest way to deal with a suspicion of mold contamination is: If you can see or smell mold, you likely have a problem and should take the steps outlined below.  Mold growth is likely to recur unless the source of moisture that is allowing mold to grow is removed and the contaminated area is cleaned.

There will be a significant difference in the approach used for a small mold problem - total area affected is less than 10 square feet - and a large contamination problem - more than 100 square feet. In the case of a relatively small area, the homeowner or maintenance staff, using personal protective equipment, can handle the clean-up. However, for cases of large areas, it is advisable that an experienced, professional contractor be used. A list of contractors can be located at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not accredit, certify, recommend or endorse the listed contractors; their credibility can be checked at the following websites: http://www.acgih.org/http://www.aiha.org/ and http://www.ascr.org/.

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