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What Are the Worst Places in the United States to Live if You Have a Mold Allergy?

Mold allergies are, research has found, on the rise in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between six and 10 percent of Americans are already sensitized — meaning that any exposure to mold, including mold species that do not usually pose a threat to human health, can provoke immediate allergy symptoms. Long-term mold exposure can cause someone who didn’t previously react to mold to develop allergies over time, however, and children who grow up in environment with mold infestations even have a higher risk of developing the serious chronic medical condition asthma.

If you live with allergies or asthma, or are simply health-conscious, you may be aware that the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America compiles updated lists of both the nation’s allergy capitals and asthma capitals — the worst places to live with these conditions — each year. Since the AAFA’s allergy capitals mainly pertain to seasonal pollen allergies, however, you may have wondered what regions pose the biggest threat to people with a mold allergy.

What Is Mold?

Molds are microscopic filamentous fungi that reproduce by releasing invisible spores into the air. These spores may remain suspended in the air for long periods of time, or are carried far and wide by the wind. When mold spores settle down and start growing, they form colonies referred to as mycelium. While the over 100,000 unique species of mold that have been identified so far are present throughout nature, that fact is of no concern to humans. Mold, in fact, plays a helpful role in breaking down decaying organic matter ranging from wood, leaves, and plants, to leather.

Mold can represent a significant threat when it grows in homes and other buildings, however. Besides the fact that mold can cause allergic reactions, worsened asthma symptoms, and respiratory symptoms like chest tightness and shortness of breath in people with other underlying lung conditions, some mold species are also toxic. In addition to health concerns, a mold infestation in a building can pose a structural threat, as mold damages the surfaces it feeds on. Because mold colonies can spread rapidly, it is essential to take action as soon as possible when you have spotted a mold problem or suspect one.

Does the US Have Any ‘Mold Capitals’?

New Orleans, LA, Jacksonville, FL, Houston, TX, Orlando, FL, and Tampa, FL, represent the top five most humid cities in the United States. Annapolis and Baltimore (MD), Atlantic City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, and Sandy Hook, NJ, are the cities most prone to flooding. Given that mold thrives in humid and moist conditions, you could easily suspect that these places are, therefore, the mold allergy capitals of the United States.

You would have a point, as mold indeed accumulates most easily and rapidly in environments that either feature high levels of relative humidity in the air, or are subject to water damage of some kind. The truth, however, is more complicated.

You may develop an extensive mold infestation in your home even if you live in Alaska, and you can also maintain a mold-free home in New Orleans. What are the worst places in the United States to live if you have a mold allergy? The answer is frustratingly simple — the worst place to live if you suffer from a mold allergy would be in your home, if it is infested with mold.

What Factors Contribute to Mold Growth in Homes?

No matter where in the United States you happen to live, your home may be hospitable to mold. The most common systemic challenges that lead to mold growth within residential properties are:

  • Moisture, which in technical terms refers simply to the presence of water or liquid within a space. The most frequent causes of moisture problems within homes would include leaky water pipes or pipes around which condensation settles, a leaking roof, and a lack of ventilation in rooms inevitably associated with moisture — bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  • Humidity, which indicates the percentage of water vapor within the air in any given space. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that the relative humidity levels in homes, businesses, and health care institutions be kept between 30 and 50 percent. Any higher, and you won’t merely feel uncomfortable, but also risk mold and dust mite infestations.
  • HVAC units. Improperly maintained HVAC systems easily accumulate moisture, inviting various types of harmful mold to begin accumulating. Once mold grows within a HVAC system, its spores are consistently released into your air.
  • A lack of ventilation. Ventilation, or the ability of air to freely move in and out of a space, is of crucial importance in maintaining healthy indoor air quality in any building. Even if you diligently air your home by opening your windows daily for at least 15 minutes, there will be spaces in your home that are harder to ventilate. Basements, crawl spaces, and attics are the most infamous examples, but bathrooms and kitchens often lack ventilation, too. When stale air has no chance to escape and no fresh air is coming in, humidity will rise and mold will have a chance to grow.
  • Floods and other forms of catastrophic water damage. Any water buildup that can not quickly and efficiently be eliminated and dried invites mold growth. Natural floods that leave standing water are one common culprit, but even burst pipes and spills that happen to land on carpets are risky. When water is present in any one space for too long, mold can take hold.

High humidity levels may be more likely in some areas than others, but keep in mind that your own activities — which may range from cooking to air drying your laundry — can also cause excess humidity. Plumbing disasters, improper ventilation, and poorly-maintained HVAC systems can strike any part of the United States, and that is why you should pay keen attention to mold no matter where you live.

What Can You Do To Prevent a Mold Infestation in Your Home?

While any home can develop a mold infestation, there is also positive news — the steps you take to make your home a healthier and cleaner environment can prevent mold growth. The simple measures you can implement to prevent a mold infestation include:

  • Dealing with water spills and leaks quickly. Whether your washing machine malfunctions or a window frame appears to be leaky, you will often successfully be able to stop mold in its tracks if you manage to clean and dry the area completely within 24 to 48 hours, before mold spores have a chance to settle down and begin forming colonies.
  • Keeping your kitchen and bathroom dry. Moisture will inevitably be present in these areas of the home on a regular basis, but by drying all surfaces, including counter tops, bathtubs, faucets, and floors immediately, you will help prevent mold growth.
  • Increasing ventilation within the home. This can be achieved in two ways — natural and mechanical. You will lower humidity levels within your home when you open the windows every day for at least 15 minutes, and using a box fan will improve air circulation. In spaces where that is not possible (commonly kitchens and bathrooms), installing exhaust fans can mechanically improve ventilation.
  • Installing a dehumidifier. If, in spite of your best efforts to increase ventilation, the humidity levels remain high at least in certain rooms, purchasing a dehumidifier can help you eliminate this excess humidity. In addition to preventing mold, a dehumidifier will also make you feel more comfortable. People who are unsure what the humidity levels are in their home can purchase a humidity meter inexpensively from almost any home improvement store. Measure the humidity levels in several spaces at different times, and take action if the humidity exceeds 50 percent.

What Signs Point to a Mold Infestation in Your Home?

A mold infestation is often visually apparent — when you walk into a space where mold is present, you may see smaller or larger areas covered in fuzzy or furry growths that may be tinted yellow, gray, green, blue, black, white, brown, and even pink. In most cases, you will immediately know that you are looking at mold, enabling you to take swift action.

Mold can also accumulate in more concealed areas, however. In that case, you may be able to smell it. Many people are familiar with the typical musty or damp odor of mold, but others may interpret the odor as rotten wood or even cigarette smoke.

The fact that mold so often causes allergy symptoms, like sneezing, a runny nose, a sore throat, chest tightness, itchy eyes, and shortness of breath, can also help you identify a mold infestation. If you notice tell-tale allergy symptoms whenever you come home, and you find that going outside relieves them, mold is one likely possibility — along with dust mites, which thrive in the same humid conditions.

Whether you know that your home has a mold infestation, because you have seen the mold, or you only suspect it, taking action quickly is crucial. Mold infestations are easier to remediate when they are less extensive, and by taking steps to find out what is going on, you will also avoid long-term health complications and structural problems in your home.

MI&T can help you determine the extent of your problem. As an independent and nationwide mold inspection only company, we perform in-depth visual mold inspections that include even the trickiest spots you may have missed. MI&T’s independent mold inspectors then take air samples that let you know precisely what types of mold may be present in your home, and in what concentrations.

Once you are know what type of mold you have, and what is causing it to grow, you will be able to take prompt steps to remediate your mold infestation — allowing you to enjoy a clean, healthy, and mold-free environment no matter where in the US you may live.