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Why are apartments in San Francisco so mold? What can you do about it?

If you have ever lived in San Francisco, you have more than likely heard the horror stories about mold growth in someone’s home. You’ve heard about the damp closets that are covered with mold, or asthma-, headache-, and fatigue-inducing toxic black mold. You’ve probably seen walls being removed from homes and neighbors being evacuated because their homes were completely contaminated with mold.

It’s no secret that mold is dangerous, and it feels like the city of San Francisco is under attack. But why is it such a rampant problem here? Well, mold is a naturally-occurring substance and it’s all around us. In cities that are jam-packed with people – like San Fran – homes are breeding grounds for the fungus. All it requires is a bit of moisture and some warmth, and bam! – you can have a serious mold problems on your hands.

While mold definitely sucks, it’s helpful to known that it can be prevented – so long as you deal with it quickly and efficiently. So, what is it that San Francisco isn’t doing right and why are so many apartments in the city covered in mold growth? The answer to that question goes back to the housing crisis that the city is currently experiencing.

High humidity levels are also to blame. Humidity is moisture, and given the fact that San Francisco can get pretty humid, the microscopic spores of the fungi can take hold of any surface, colonize, and before you know it, you have a serious problem on your hands.

Karen Cohn, a program manager for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, says that the city is a particularly fertile environment for mold, “We are in a moist, humid environment. We have an extremely old housing stock – the fourth highest number of pre-1978 housing in the country – and in old homes, windows are single pane, and walls are badly insulated.” All of those factors combine mean that  many of the homes in the city can’t protect against moisture intrusion, which leads to the perfect environment for mold growth.

Just ask John Wilson, who lived in a Tenderloin apartment that was built in 1911. He quickly learned about moisture intrusion soon after he moved in. “It was one or two months into living there, and I couldn’t breathe in my apartment,” he said. “Turns out I’m super allergic to mold, so we started moving things around in our closet…” and that’s when he realized he had a big problem on his hands. His closet was always wet and it was covered with mold. “It was everywhere. On our clothes, our hats, our jackets. It was one of those moments where you feel like you’ve just lost the apartment contest.” Wilson also experienced a number of symptoms that are associated with mold exposure, including headaches, asthma, and lethargy.

Mold Inspection & Testing San Francisco has years of experience performing mold assessments in the city. We encourage all residents of San Francisco to arrange for routine mold testing from a reputable company, given the prevalence of indoor mold growth in the city. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 415.213.4831.

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