What is Mold?
Mold and Mildew naturally occurs in our environment. In fact, over 100,000 types of fungi have been identified so far.
Mold produces some wonderful results. Yeast is a form of mold used in preparing breads, baked goods, and other food products including some alcoholic beverages. The unique flavor of bleu cheese is a result of mold. An edible mushroom is simply a type of fungi, and life-saving penicillin is a product of mold (Penicillium chrysogenum).
As with many things that provide value to our lives, excessive amounts of mold, different types of mold, or exposure to molds by some people may present health concerns.
What is not “Normal”?
Intrusion of water into your home is not normal. This could result from either a water incursion from long-standing leaks or from poor humidity control. An excessive amount of water offers an opportunity for mold spores that are normally present in your home to grow and multiply.
Organic materials found inside a building, such as wood, paper, drywall, and insulation, provide food sources for molds to flourish. Water intrusion that is left unattended for any period of time may lead to mold growth.
Should I be concerned if I notice mold in my home?
Mold can be a problem if one of two situations occur. Either the occupants are considered “At Risk Individuals” or if the environment has an Amplified Fungal Activity (having mold of abnormal type, quantity and ecology when compared to environments of like kind.)
“At Risk Individuals” can include immune suppressed persons, the elderly, the young, diabetics, persons with allergies, and individuals with asthma or other breathing difficulties.
Homes with elevated levels of mold or mold of certain types can produce mycotoxins. “Myco” means fungus, so think of mycotoxins as “fungi toxins.”
Such toxins are the defensive system of mold. They are designed for chemical warfare against other organisms, even against other types of molds. Living molds may produce these toxins to discourage other molds or bacteria from growing in the same territory. Unfortunately, humans who inhale ingest or touch mycotoxins may have a toxic reaction. Some mycotoxins have been shown to produce negative human health effects. Mold may cause a runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and aggravation of asthma, headache, or fatigue. In some situations, there may be more serious health concerns.
Today, little is known about the possible harmful effects of mold. As mentioned above, there are over 100,000 strands. We should not panic over mold toxins. Not all molds produce mycotoxins. Furthermore, molds that can produce mycotoxins do not produce them in all situations.
The Role of an IAQ/IH Professional
Industrial hygienists anticipate, recognize and evaluate health effects within a structure. The proliferation of reported Sick Building Syndrome, poor indoor air quality, microbial infested indoor environments and other indoor hazards has expanded the roles of industrial hygienists. These professionals may include HVAC specialists, Mold Remediation Technicians, Engineers, Microbiologists, and Indoor Environmental Hygienists.
Finding a consultant for mold remediation is complicated by several factors. First, the range of specialties in industrial hygiene is so broad. Many of these professionals are specialists in one aspect of indoor air quality, but they do not all have knowledge of molds and mold remediation. Remember that everyone who refers to himself or herself as an “Indoor Environmental Hygienist” is not necessarily qualified to consult on mold remediation. Second, laws have not governed the practice of industrial hygiene, and no governmental guidelines exist for regulating IAQ professionals who specialize in mold infestations. Some states enforce title protection, but in other state anyone who acts in a capacity of evaluating or advising on the health of workers can assume the title “Industrial Hygienist.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
1) What is mildew and is it different than mold?
The answer depends on whether you ask a scientist or a non-expert. Mycologists who study fungi will use the term “mildew” only for fungi that grows on plants. When a mycologists says “Mildew” they are referring to the white growth that causes diseases in plants.
The average person will tend to use the term mildew and mold interchangeably. For them, both terms are used to describe the black grayish growth within their home. In the Mold Remediation industry, it is correctly referred to as Mold.
2) How long does it take mold to grow?
To be more specific, we should ask, “How long does it take for a mold spore to germinate?” Then we should ask, “How long does it take growing mold to colonize?”
To grow, molds need a food source, a certain temperature and moisture. Where these conditions are present, molds can germinate and colonize. How fast growth occurs depends on the combination of conditions. Spores can germinate after only 12 hours and in some conditions and they will begin to grow in 24 to 48 hours. Houses offer an ample food supply; drywall, wood, and paper from homes insulation to name a few. When these materials become damp or wet, settled spores can become growing molds.
The following are several types of molds and the number of days in which colonization may take place:
- Mucor sp. colonizes between 1 and 2 days.
- Rhizopus sp. colonizes between 1 and 2 days.
- Aspergillus sp. colonizes between 2 and 3 days.
- Penicillium sp. colonizes between 2 and 3 days.
- Stachybotrys chartarum colonizes between 8 and 12 days.
3) Why do molds give off musty odors?
The musty odors produced by molds are known as Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds. (mVOC’s.) Some mVOC’s produce musty odors, which result from the chemical changes taking place during the mold life process. They are waste products given off by actively growing molds. Health effects such as headaches, dizziness and nausea have been linked to exposure to mVOC’s, but research is only beginning. Odors from mVOC’s are a sign that mold is actively growing and so may indicate a level of mold contamination requiring remediation.