Questions and Answers about Mold

Fungi are the "third" kingdom of life. Mold is a microorganism that is a subset of the fungi, but it is neither a plant nor an animal. In nature, mold can be found in soil, air and water, and it breaks down organic materials into the less complex substances that provide the means for plants and animals to live. At the micrqscopic level, molds have the appearance of a plant. The stalk-like structure of mold is called the hyphae. Many species of mold reproduce using spores which are "seeds" for the formation of new mold colonies. If spores are present, they are located in "packs" at the termination of the hyphae. Air movement, water and even insects can transport spores.

New mold colonies can be formed if the spores are deposited in a location with sufficient moisture and an adequate food source. Examples of food sources include dead plant and animal material and building materials like sheet rock, wood and wallpaper.

Molds vary in size, shape, color, length of cycle, moisture and food source requirements and level of toxicity.

Numerous circumstances dictate whether a person will develop a mold-related health condition. These include the species and concentrations of mold to which one is exposed, age and general health of the individual.

Current allergy tests that your health professional can provide are able to detect only a finite number of allergens related to mold. Therefore, if your health condition is mold-related it may not be discovered due to limitations in the number of different mold allergens that are detectable using current testing methods.

Yes, this condition may be mold-related. Spores found in a normal indoor setting are typically those form outdoor sources. These spores are often present in indoor air and settled dust due to tracking form the outside or form outside air infiltration. However, when sufficient water is present indoors, this scenario provides an opportunity for mold to grow inside a building. Mold genera that have been known to grow in water-damaged buildings include Aspergillus, Penicillium and Stachybotrys. These molds have been known to produce mycotoxins that are capable of causing adverse health effects.

Mycotoxins are chemicals that many molds produce as a natural part of their life cycle. These chemicals are primarily the by-products of the digestion of the mold's food source but are also thought to be released as a defense mechanism against other mold and microorganisms such as bacteria. Many factors affect when and what type of mycotoxin is released, including the species, the daily and seasonal cycles for the mold, temperature and its food source.

In laboratory tests mycotoxins have been shown to have adverse health effects on the major bodily systems including vascular, digestive, respiratory, nervous, urinary, reproductive, as well as skin. People having chronic immuno-suppressive conditions appear to have an increased risk of developing adverse health conditions related to exposure to mycotoxins. If you kill mold you still have the mycotoxins to deal with. You must remove the mold and eliminate the source to rid problem.

Penicillin is made form an antibiotic which is produced by genera of mold called Penicillium. The antibiotic is a by-product of the mold, not the mold itself. Antibiotics have the ability to stop the production of harmful bacteria within the human body or even destroy the bacteria all together. Penicillin is a good example of a helpful by-product of mold. However, other by-products, including some produced by the Penicillium genera, can be harmful.

A professional environmental consultant first conducts a visual inspection of the building to identify visible mold growth, the location of the water source that is supporting the mold growth and the pathway of the water within the structure. This includes investigation of all rooms, basements, crawl spaces and attics. Investigation of wall cavities using a bore scope can also be conducted to determine whether structural materials are affected. If water staining or biological growth is readily apparent, bulk samples of affected building materials are useful in determine whether there are species of mold present that would indicate a potential health concern.

Indoor and outdoor airborne viable mold samples are useful to test for the presence of problems molds is not if no growth is discovered during the visual inspection. These samples are able to detect mold spores that can produce mold colonies when exposed to adequate moisture and a desirable food source. Since certain molds are normally found outdoors, a comparison of the out door and indoor samples can be a valuable tool in assessing whether indoor molds represent outdoor species or they are species that indicate concealed water damage to building materials.

Total airborne mold tissue tests can be conducted to supplement the airborne viable mold samples and increase the scientific confidence of the survey. These tests are useful because they include non-viable spores and mold tissues; however, they cannot differentiate between specific species.

Washing walls with a disinfectant may give a temporary cosmetic solution, but it will not likely solve the problem. The key issue with all mold problems inside a structure is to find the source of moisture that is giving the mold an opportunity to grow. Steps to remediate mold contamination in a home or commercial property depend on the Extent of contamination and the species present. HEP A-vacuuming techniques, wet wiping surfaces with anti-microbial solutions and sealing porous materials are common methods of remediation. Materials such as drywall and carpet are often unable to be salvaged and are typically disposed of as general demolition debris. Retaining a professional to perform remediation work is advised because they are able to utilize appropriate engineering controls to prevent cross contamination of clean areas inside the structure.

There are several ways to prevent mold growth inside structures.

  • Maintain flashing around roof structures (vents, fan units, chimneys, etc); and the roof covering in general (shingles, rolled roofing, membrane, etc.); replace and repair when necessary to prevent water infiltration.
  • Promptly remove snow accumulation form roofs to prevent ice dams.
  • Ensure that attic spaces are well ventilated to help maintain a uniform temperature, preventing condensation of water vapor.
  • Ensure outside wall penetrations (window, conduit etc.) are adequately caulked.
  • Ensure that HVAC drain pan outlets are kept clean and free of debris.
  • Ensure that any sump pumps are maintained in working