Monday, January 22, 2007

Taking Care of Apartment Mold

When a teacher first comes to Korea, it is difficult to see the apartment and to tell the difference between a good apartment and a bad apartment. Quite often a foreigner will be happy to have a large home or just a home of their own. However, what may be lurking in our walls may be far worse than an cockroach infestation and may be one of the common causes of the 'Korean cough.'


Indoor air quality plays a huge part of our life in Korea. Most homes in Korea have no air circulation due to the floor heating systems, and can get awfully humid. Perhaps this is the reason why many Koreans open all the windows in the middle of winter while cleaning. Sure they may say that it is to let the ‘germs out’ which sounds quite ridiculous when we first hear it. But in actuality it may dilute the mold spores in the house. Here are some articles about your health and mold.

“Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) deals with the content of interior air that could affect health and comfort of building occupants. The IAQ may be compromised by microbial contaminants (mold, bacteria), chemicals (such as carbon monoxide, radon), allergens, or any mass or energy stress or that can induce health effects. Recent findings have demonstrated that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air (albeit with different pollutants) although this has not changed the common understanding of Air pollution. In fact, indoor air is often a greater health hazard than the corresponding outdoor setting. Using ventilation to dilute contaminants, filtration, and source control are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings.”

Molds and other Allergens

“These biological agents can arise from a host of means, but there are two common classes: (a) moisture induced growth of mold colonies and (b) natural substances released into the air such as animal dander and plant pollen. Moisture buildup inside buildings may arise from water penetrating compromised areas of the building skin, from plumbing leaks or from ground moisture penetrating a building slab. Especially in the absence of light and with a lack of air circulation, mold colonies can propagate and release mycro-toxins] into the air. In a situation where there is visible mold and the indoor air quality may have been compromised a mold inspection and/ or mold remediation may be needed. Through an inspection one should be able to determine the presence or absence of mold, which can cause allergic reactions and respiratory effects; there are some varieties of mold that are toxic in nature. Indoors, mold growth can be inhibited by keeping humidity levels between forty and sixty percent and by eliminating leaks or moisture condensation and accumulation”
From Wikipedia

Now we can see why many Koreans open the windows for an attempt to dilute the mold spores.

Many people refer to the most dangerous mold as ‘black mold’ or ‘toxic black mold’ but its proper name is ‘Stachybotrys chartarum.’ This mold is not to be played with, so it is best to treat your apartment in Korea as soon as you see any sort of mold appearing. It is really difficult as a foreigner in this country to seek professional help, so it is quite often the our responsibility to take care of our own health in our home.

Some notes to be aware of:
If your house is old, there may be mold hiding under you wall paper, quite often Koreans will cover up old mold with more wall paper to solve the problem temporarily.

Mold not old can cause respiratory illness by inhalation, but also can enter in by the food we eat and by the pours in our skin. It is best to have as much ventilation as possible when cleaning. Where a safety mask when breathing during clean up and cover up all the food.

Mold may dry up and appear to die when it is dry, but in actuality it may be more dangerous. Mold spores are encouraged to grow in dryer weather so they can spread to different locations.

When exposed to black molds for a prolonged period of time it can cause cold or flu symptoms, sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, intermittent hair loss, generalized malaise, or other health-related problems.

How to clean up the mold (The best as possible when in Korea)

1. Where protective gloves and face mask. Where old cloths that you may want to throw away after, remember it can be absorbed into our bodies through our pours and we will be working with bleach, which may change the color of our cloths. Open all windows and ventilation in you home.

2. Mix Clorox bleach with water 50/50. You may want to add a little soap to keep the dust from flying. I put the ingredients into a spray bottle, which may not be too good because it puts the bleach in the air and may kick up the spores more. It is best to apply the bleach mixture by sponge. Apply the mixture on and around the infected area and let sit for 15 minutes.

3. Repeat the application of the bleach and try to scrub away the mold and old wall paper. Make sure you get through the several layers of wall paper if it is an old house.

4. Make sure you check under your floor matting, the water can gather and grow quite well on your wall next to the floor.
5. Let the bleach dry and repeat the steps over again if needed a few hours later.
6. If the mold reappears, repeat the steps. Mold has been around longer than humans have been on the earth and always finds a way to survive.

Prevention of Mold in your Korean Home

1. Yes, open the windows to dilute the concentrated spores in you home, even in the winter. This is not to let the ‘germs’ out but rather it’s to let the mold spores out. In the winter, quite often we tape up our windows and not let the humidity out also. Water condenses on our window and drains down on the wall, a perfect haven for the mold.
2. Try to not use a humidifier. In the winter our homes seem dry, but the moisture still condenses on the window. If you must use a humidifier, don’t use it all day and make sure it is set at a lower humidity level.
3. Try to get a air purifier, especially if you have seen mold in hour home.
4. Put moisture absorbers (the are little plastic boxes that have a hippo drinking from a straw, you can find everywhere in Korea) in your wardrobe.
5. Don’t let water sit! Clean up still water in the bathroom.
6. Try not to sign a contract with a room in the basement in Korea!
Remember it is more important to take care of your health in Korea. If mold persists it may be best to contact your school director and ask to change your apartment.