What is Mold and Where Does it Come From?
Mold is a type of fungi, and can be found just about anywhere. Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce, just as some plants produce seeds. These mold spores can be found in both indoor and outdoor air, and settled on indoor and outdoor surfaces. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds can release toxic gasses and may cause allergies, asthma, and other health issues. Since molds gradually destroy the things they grow on, you can prevent damage to building materials and furnishings and save money by eliminating mold growth.
Molds need both food and water to survive, and since molds can digest most things, water is the factor that limits mold growth. When excessive moisture or humidity is found in a building, there is the potential for mold spores to grow. Common sources or causes of water or moisture problems include roof leaks, deferred maintenance, condensation associated with high humidity or cold spots in the building, localized flooding due to plumbing failures or heavy rains, and slow leaks in plumbing fixtures. Uncontrolled humidity can also be a source of moisture leading to mold growth, particularly in hot, humid climates. Moisture control is the key to mold control.
If you can see mold on the outside of a surface, you should be concerned about what is growing on the other side. It is always best to have the mold evaluated and removed by a certified and licensed professional. The EPA and CDC’s websites contains lots of information about mold, mold removal, and hazards of mold exposure. A few links are below.
Conditions of Mold Contamination
The level of mold contamination found in a structure can be grouped into three categories known as conditions.
Condition 1: Normal Fungal Ecology. An indoor environment that may have settled spores, fungal fragments, or traces of actual growth whose identity, location, and quantity is reflective of a normal fungal evology similar indoor environment. The goal of mold remediation is to return a structure to Condition 1.
Condition 2: Settled Spores. An indoor environment which is primarily contaminated with settled spores that were dispersed directly or indirectly from a Condition 3 area and which may have traces of actual growth.
Condition 3: Actual Growth. An indoor environment contaminated with the presence of actual mold growth and associated spores. Actual growth includes growth that is active or dormant, visible or hidden.
Health Affects and Symptoms Associated with Mold Exposure
All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that may cause reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual’s exposure, the ages of the individuals, and their existing sensitivities or allergies.
When moisture problems occur and mold growth results, building occupants may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms. People with weakened immune systems may be more vulnerable to infections by molds. Aspergillus fumigatus, for example, has been known to infect the lungs of immune-compromised individuals. These individuals inhale the mold spores which then start growing in their lungs. Stachybotrys chartarum and trichoderma has also been known to infect immune-compromised children. Molds can also cause common skin diseases, such as athlete’s foot, as well as other infections such as yeast infections.
Molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. Some mycotoxins cling to the surface of mold spores; others may be found within spores. More than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds, and many more remain to be identified. Some of the molds that are known to produce mycotoxins are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. Exposure pathways for mycotoxins can include inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.
Many symptoms and human health effects attributed mycotoxin exposure have been reported including: mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer. More studies are needed to get a clear picture of the health effects related to most mycotoxins. However, it is clearly prudent to avoid exposure to molds and mycotoxins.
The following videos help explain the dangers of mold and the effects it can have on the human body.