Mold

Mold FAQ

  1. What is Mold?
  2. What does mold need in order to grow?
  3. Are all molds the same?
  4. If mold is everywhere, why doesn’t everyone have a mold-related health condition?
  5. I often feel "sick" at home with headaches, sneezing and coughing, but when I go outside, the symptoms seem to dissipate. Could my condition be related to molds?
  6. I’ve been having allergy symptoms and have visible mold growing in my house, but my doctor says I’m not allergic to mold. What does this mean?
  7. What are mycotoxins, and exactly how can they affect my health?
  8. Isn’t the medicine, penicillin, made from mold?
  9. How does a professional test for mold inside a building?
  10. I am an insurance agent, and a client of mine sees what appears to be mold growing on the walls of their business office. If their housekeeping staff washes the walls with a disinfectant, will this solve the problem?
  11. What are some ways to prevent mold growth in my home or business?

Q. What is Mold? top
A. Fungi are the “third” kingdom in life. Mold is a micro-organism 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 less complex substances that provide the means for plants and animals to live.

At the microscopic 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.

Q. What does mold need in order to grow? top
A. 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.

Q. Are all molds the same? top
A. Molds vary in size, shape, color, length of cycle, moisture and food source requirements and level of toxicity.

Q. If mold is everywhere, why doesn’t everyone have a mold-related health condition? top
A. 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.

Q. I often feel "sick" at home with headaches, sneezing and coughing, but when I go outside, the symptoms seem to dissipate. Could my condition be related to molds?top
A. Yes, this condition may be mold-related. Spores found in a normal indoor setting are typically those from outdoor sources but because of poor air exchange rates, inadequate filtration or other conditions, may have concentrated to the point where they can cause the conditions you describe.

Q. I’ve been having allergy symptoms and have visible mold growing in my house, but my doctor says I’m not allergic to mold. What does this mean? top
A. 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.
 
Q. What are mycotoxins, and exactly how can they affect my health? top
A. Mycotoxins are chemicals that many molds produce as a natural part of their life cycle. The 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 molds and micro-organisms such as bacteria. Many factors affect when and what type of mycotoxins are 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 mycotoxins.

Q. Isn’t the medicine, penicillin, made from mold? top
A. Penicillin 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.

Q. How does a professional test for mold inside a building? top
A. 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 pathways of the water within the structure. This includes investigation of all rooms, basements, crawl spaces and attics. Investigations of wall cavities using a borescope 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 determining 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 problem molds 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 outdoor and indoor samples can be a valuable tool in assessing whether indoor molds represent outdoor species or whether 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.

Q. I am an insurance agent, and a client of mine sees what appears to be mold growing on the walls of their business office. If their housekeeping staff washes the walls with a disinfectant, will this solve the problem? top
A. Washing the 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. HEPA-vacuuming techniques, wet-wiping surfaces with anti-microbial solutions, and sealing the 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 contractor to perform remediation work is advised because they are able to utilize appropriate engineering controls to prevent contamination of clean areas inside the structure.

Q. What are some ways to prevent mold growth in my home or business? top
A. There are several ways to prevent mold growth inside a structure:

  • Maintain flashing around roof structure (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 from 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 order, and consider installing a back-up pump.
  • If water infiltration of condensation does occur, make every attempt to thoroughly dry all affected building materials (carpet, drywall, structural members, etc.) within 48 hours.
  • Maintain indoor relative humidity below 60%.

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