There are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding mold, or ‘mildew’, as it is commonly referred to by lay people; these terms are interchangeable, and merely describe a visible colony of fungi growing in an environment-they hold no taxonomic significance (Storey et. Al, 2004). There are numerous genera of mold, and 100’s of species within each genus. This presents the following facts surrounding mold which are featured in a publication by the University of Connecticut Health Center titled Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors:
1. ‘Black mold’ is a generic term which is misleading. There are a multitude of molds which have a black coloring, including the Stachybotrys genus, the Chaetomium genus and the Ulocladium genus. When people are concerned with ‘black mold’, however, they are generally referring to Stachybotrys Chartarum species; this particular mold thrives particularly well on cellulose (drywall) and wallpaper.
2. In wet environments, bacteria tend to grow along with mold, which can contribute to the bioaerosols (airborne particles that are biological in origin) being released in the indoor environment, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
3. To thrive, the main variables fungi require are: moisture, nutrition (i.e. food source such as cellulose-drywall), light, oxygen and temperature (ideally, between 59 degrees F and 86 degrees F). The most important factors are moisture and nutrition.
4. The common sources of nutrition which mold feeds on include: dirt, dust, insulation, drywall, wood and paint; generally, most organic sources can be used for nutrition. Hence, often, one will find there are higher levels of mold spores naturally in a dirty residence.
5. Different molds can indicate different issues in a property. Stachybotrys is considered hydrophilic, which suggests it desires a higher moisture content than other genera of mold. Aspergillus and Penicillium are a lot less reliant on heavy moisture, and can grow from condensation issues.
6. Fungi can cause disease in humans and animals, which are classified into four groups:
ii. Allergic or hypersensitivity reactions
iii. Irritant reactions
iv. Toxic reactions
A report from the European Community respiratory health survey noted that patients with asthma are more susceptible to allergic triggers from bioaerosols produced by mold.
7. Various types of allergic dermatitis have been reported due to contact with mold and mold exposure, such as dryness and skin rashes.
Storey, E., Dangman, K., Schenck, P., DeBernardo, R., Yang, C., Bracker, A., Hodgson, M (2004) Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors. University of Connecticut Health Center. September 30, 2004.
The author of our microbial blog is Fareed Nazaryfar. He holds a Master's degree in Environmental and Petroleum Geochemistry from Newcastle University (United Kingdom). He is also a Certified Mold Inspector, as well as an Environmental Manager-holding an ISO 14001 certification in Environmental Management.
MOLD HEALTH EFFECTS BLOG AND RESEARCH