WHAT IS MOLD?
Molds are part of the kingdom known as Fungi. Mold spores, which float in the air like pollen, are living organisms that make up a large portion of the fungi kingdom. Mold is the generic name for over 100,000 different kinds of fungus.
Mold spores are microscopic in size and typically require 600X magnification to be identified. It has been said that 250,000 mold spores can fit on the head of a pin, so a visible patch of mold the size of a quarter can represent billions of spores.
Molds reproduce by releasing spores. When mold spores colonize (settle) on a surface they can grow and spread rapidly, giving off a variety of odors and exhibiting hundreds of different colors and textures.
ISN’T MOLD EVERYWHERE?
Mold is part of the natural environment and is virtually everywhere, all the time; outdoors and indoors. It is unwise to assume that just because mold is everywhere that it can’t become a problem.
Outdoors, mold plays an important role in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees. Indoors, however, mold can be a significant problem, destroying property and posing a number of serious health risks.
HOW DOES MOLD BECOME A PROBLEM?
Since mold spores are everywhere all the time, we are always exposed to mold. At any given time, outdoor air could have 100s of different types of mold spores floating about, along with a number of other airborne pollutants. Because mold spores are ever-present in the air, they drift freely in and out of buildings through doors, windows, attic vents, HVAC systems, etc. On any given day, airborne mold spore levels indoors could be expected be about the same as outdoors, unless mold is originating indoors.
Increased spore amounts:
When airborne mold spores find something damp to stick to, they colonize (grow) and release new spores. When mold grows indoors, spore levels can reach concentrations significantly higher than outdoors and cause a number of adverse reactions in people and animals, including rashes and itching skin, eye – nose and throat irritations, chronic headaches, respiratory infections, nausea, and trigger asthma attacks.
Increased spore types:
In addition to increasing the amount of spores indoors, mold growing indoors on wet construction materials tend to produce different types of spores that are not typically found outdoors.
For example, it is uncommon to find Stachybotrys outdoors. However, Stachybrotrys is commonly found growing indoors on drywall and carpet after a flood or other water intrusion has occurred. Stachybrotrys is often referred to as “black mold” and can be toxigenic. Exposure to high concentrations of toxigenic mold spores inside a building can present a wide range of health risks to the occupants.
While you cannot control Mother Nature, you can certainly limit the potential for indoor mold growth by limiting moisture sources and responding rapidly to any water intrusion issue. The biggest mistake people make is ignoring minor issues until they become major problems. Early detection and assessment can minimize the risk of exposure to toxic molds and save thousands of dollars in repair costs.
IS ALL MOLD BAD?
To answer that question you must first understand that mold can create two unique issues. There’s the issue you can visually see (mold growing on a surface), which can cause property damage. Then there’s the issue you don’t see (mold floating in the air), which can cause health concerns.
In both cases, the level of damage is directly related to the level of infestation.
Surface mold has the potential to cause significant property damage.
Molds spores secrete digestive enzymes that digest the surfaces they live on. For that reason, mold growing indoors on building materials can be a bad thing. The longer mold is allowed to infest any surface, the more damage it can cause. That is why hidden mold is such a threat. It’s potential to cause damage can be devastating because a great deal of time can pass before it is detected.
The visual appearance of mold on construction materials and personal contents indoors is an obvious indication of a mold problem. The pungent mildew or musty odor of mold indoors is another indicator, even when mold is not visibly present. If you suspect you have a mold problem in your home or office, immediate steps should be taken to identify and correct the cause. The longer mold is allowed to grow, the more damage it will cause to your property and the more it will cost to remediate. Prompt action can mean the difference between a few hundred dollars in repairs or several thousands of dollars.
Airborne mold has the potential to cause adverse health reactions.
Since airborne mold spores are everywhere all the time, indoors and outdoors, we are always exposed to mold at some level. In an open outdoor environment we are seldom exposed to any significant levels of spores because the air is continually moving. But indoors, where ventilation is restricted and air is often recycled through heaters and air conditioners, the exact same molds that don’t bother anyone outdoors can cause severe reactions indoors, especially when levels are significantly higher than outside.
When mold is growing indoors, the amount of mold in the air can be significantly higher than outdoors. Exposure to high concentrations of molds in enclosed spaces such as residential homes, commercial buildings, schools, automobiles, etc., can trigger asthma attacks, cause respiratory infections, bronchial polyps, and a number of other reactions.
SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT MOLD GROWTH INDOORS?
Absolutely! Eventually, mold destroys whatever it grows on. It can ruin furnishings, destroy cabinets and cause serious damage to the structural elements in your property. It can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma, and contribute to the onset of asthma in people who don’t have it. Asthma kills 5,000 people every year in the U.S. alone, and most of them are children. Of course you should be concerned about mold.
The best time to respond to mold is before it has the ability to do its worst damage. Eliminating leaks and moisture can slow the spread of mold, but a professional inspection by a qualified specialist and testing in accordance with industry sampling protocols is the best way to properly identify the problem and create an appropriate action plan.