What is Mold?
Before we learn what types of mold there are, it is first important to define what exactly mold is. The term “mold” describes more than 100,000 species of microscopic fungi which grow on wet organic matter. When excess moisture is present mold problems can spread and proliferate rapidly. Mold Spores are tiny bacteria less than 4 microns in size, so small that as many as 250,000 spores can fit into a pin head and a person can inhale as many as 750,000 of these spores per minute!
- Growth requirements: oxygen and temperature (as found normally indoors), organic nutrient source (drywall backing, wallpaper, dust and dirt), and moisture
- Reproduce by specialized microscopic cells called spores.
- Most spores are very buoyant and dispersed by air movement easily
- Some spores may remain viable for several years
- A single spore can forma new colony which within a few days can release trillions of additional spores
A 1999 Mayo Clinic Study cites molds as the cause of most of the chronic sinus infections that inflict 37 million Americans each year. Recent studies also link molds to the soaring asthma rate. Molds have been an under recognized health problem, but that is changing. Health-care professionals now know that molds can cause allergies, trigger asthma attacks and increase susceptibility to colds and flu. Anyone with a genetic predisposition can become allergic if exposed repeatedly to high enough levels. In the year 2000 Dr. David Sherris at the Mayo Clinic performed a study of 210 patients with chronic sinus infections and found that most had allergic fungal sinusitis. The prevailing medical opinion has been that mold accounted for 6 to 7 percent of all chronic sinusitis. The Mayo Clinic study found that it was 93 percent – the exact reverse. Newsweek, 12/4/00
There are over 100,000 known living species of fungus, some of which are beneficial to mankind. Mycologists estimate that there may be as many as 200,000 more unidentified species of fungus. Yeasts, molds, mildews, rusts, and mushrooms are types of fungus.
Mold nor spores cause illness, other than allergy and/or infections. It is the mycotoxins released when the molds’ food source (moisture) is severed.
To help comprehend how small mycotoxins are, one common housefly could carry about 7.35 billion attached to its external body hairs. Consequently, IF 50,000 constitute a theoretically lethal dose, a housefly could carry a lethal dose for over 100,000 individuals.
Outdoor spores are not a usual cause of toxicity, (except for allergies and infection), but when growing inside, molds produce toxins, which are in much higher concentration and can cause illness.
Indoor mold spores indicate mold growth, which indicates mycotoxin production. Currently, we can measure spores, identify spores, but it is difficult to measure mycotoxins. Stachybotrys produces at least 170 known mycotoxins, and probably more that have not been identified.
What are these Mold Spores & Why are they so Dangerous to our bodies?
Mold spores are tiny bacteria less than 4 microns in size — so small that as many as 250,000 spores can fit on a pin head and a person/farmer can inhale as many as 750,000 of these spores per minute!
The body has natural defense filtering systems (such as mucous lining, coughing and sneezing) against dusty air which helps remove some contaminants, BUT most contaminants overpower and pass through these defenses. Mold spores not only bypass defenses because of their number, but also because they are so small.
Very fine particles, like mold spores, move into, accumulate and settle into the lower lungs. There they produce toxins. Remember that the lungs transfer oxygen to the bloodstream, and most of the actual exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place in the lower lungs. Now the lungs become a roadway for toxic materials to travel through the bloodstream with the oxygen. The body’s reaction to the toxins permanently affects the lungs’ ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. The lung tissue becomes permanently scared and each exposure to mold spores increases the damage.
The body’s last defense against these tiny invaders is to develop an allergy producing cold or pneumonia-like symptoms.
Places to Examine Mold Growth
Look especially for black, grey-brown, grey-green or pink mold areas. Gently pull back rippled, water damaged wallpaper or wallboard paper in order to look at what molds may be underneath. If you discover mold… STOP Contact Us for a free consultation. If ducts are suspect, dab a little sticky tape into their interiors to sample the materials adhering to their surfaces. When you find suspected mold growth, impress it onto sticky tape (cellulose-acetate, e.g., Scotch brand) and examine it under the microscope. Under the microscope, make sure you see not just conspicuous dark conidial types but also less conspicuous hyaline conidia, especially small, roundish conidia in chains, signifying the presence of Penicillium or Aspergillus. Look also for arthropods, their exoskeletal fragments, and their fecal pellets. Fungivorous (fungus-eating) mite pellets are rounded and usually full of conidia. Booklouse, beetle and millipede feces, at least when found in mold infestations, resemble short, broken cylindrical columns composed of masses of conidia. Sometimes arthropod pellets will contain interesting mold elements not seen directly on the material sampled.
If there are continued complaints and mustiness but no mold is found, consider whether or not there are any clues to where hidden mold may be. If building occupants remember a substantial leak or flood (or similar incident, e.g., fire extinguished with water) in a certain area, consider inspecting the wall, ceiling or floor interior at that place. The exterior of the damaged area may have been superficially repaired, leaving all the interior problems intact. You have 3 options. Call a certified Industrial Hygienist, Contact Us, or perform a little deeper investigation yourself. If you open a wall, wear gloves, eye protection and a resperator (be fit tested by a professional). Take out a ceiling tile or cut a 4- to 8-inch inspection port into the suspect area. The same may be done in areas where wallboard or ceiling tiles have become watermarked but the exterior is not actually moldy. The interior space, which forms a sheltered humid chamber facilitating fungal proliferation, as well as a conduit for leaks, is far more likely to be grossly moldy than the exposed exterior is. There is actually plenty of airflow between wall and ceiling/floor interiors and the inhabited parts of rooms, especially at the joins, so molds inside structural interior spaces are frequently sources of problems for building occupants.
If there is no strong clue to where mold may be, this is the best time to try air sampling, which is performed by a certified industrial hygenist. Analyse culture plates or strips in comparison to an outdoor air control to determine if there is an unusual mold buildup in the building. If there is, look up the mold’s general habitat characters in a reference work such as the Compendium of soil fungi.
Use the information given as a clue to what sort of indoor microhabitat you will find the mold growing in. It is best to use a medium such as DG18 (dichloran 18% glycerol) that both osmotolerant fungi (drought-tolerating fungi such as Aspergillus glaucus) and mesophilic fungi (fungi such as Stachybotrys requiring high moisture levels) are known to grow on. In addition to viable air sampling, non-viable air sampling may be used (e.g., Rotorod). It will detect significant dead elements such as effete Stachybotrys conidia. An alternative to this non-viable air sampling is direct microscopy of settled dust, e.g., from shelf surfaces. Dust from floors that are frequently walked on with shod feet may be difficult to analyse because of the deposition of outdoor mold spora elements.
**WARNING** – DO NOT attempt to remove mold on your own, it could make the situation much worse! Disturbing mold can cross-contaminate your home or business and can increase the risks to persons in the area!
**NOTE** – Mold Remediation and/or Water Damage Restoration / Mitigation is most likely covered by your Home or Business Insurance policy. Contact one of our remediation experts for complete details and a free consultation.
Mold can be a health hazard to many people. The young & elderly are especially susceptible to the dangers of mold. If you’ve had a recent flood, you should have your home checked for mold.