What is Mold?
Classified as fungi, mold is a living organism that reproduces by developing spores that are separated and dispersed from a parent source or organism. In ideal environments, the spores or “seeds” attach to a source of nourishment and establish a colony. Mold spores are present pretty much everywhere, year-round and there are many indoor and outdoor sources for mold to flourish. Ranging in size from 3-30 microns, there are over 100,000 types of mold!
- Bleach is usually recommended to kill mold; however, it is not effective for removal as dead or dormant mold spores are just as toxic as living spores. The dead/dormant spores must be properly removed.
- A study in Science Daily indicated that Vitamin D supplements are helpful in the treatment and prevention of mold allergies.
- In many cases, mold is harmful, but also has many beneficial properties. It assists organic material decomposition, aids in medication production, produces enzymes that help make certain foods (like cheese), assists in the production of alcohol, flavorings, and even plastic!
- Molds are classified as either an A, B, or C hazard level. Aspergillus fumigatus, a hazard A classification, is commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens. It is highly unsafe and needs to be immediately remediated if present. A class C mold, Wallemia sebi, can grow in your carpeting or mattresses. Although not considered a health concern, it is capable of damaging the surfaces it lives on and should be removed.
Requirements for Growth
Mold requires only 3 basic conditions to grow:
- Food – any organic material or surface where organic material is present. These include upholstery, carpet, leather, wool, cotton, paper, wood, leaves, dirt, food, grease, insulation, drywall, dust, wallpaper
- Moisture – Areas with standing water, humidifiers, garages/outdoor sheds, leaky roof or pipes, damp basements/closets, condensation on window sills, vaporizers, drains
- Temperature – Growth can happen in temperatures between 32 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but the ideal temperature for rapid growth ranges between 79-90 degrees. When temperatures fall below freezing, mold goes dormant and activates once the temperature reaches the ideal range.
Mold will grow when the minimum requirements above are met, but there are certain conditions that increase the rate at which mold can multiply.
- Humidity levels of 50% or greater – higher indoor humidity can allow moisture to develop on surfaces
- Poor ventilation in bathrooms, laundry rooms, or kitchens. Proper air circulation can significantly reduce moisture in the air
- Areas where piles have collected – leaves, damp clothing, food waste – ideal for holding moisture
- Reduce humidity – indoor humidity should be below 50%, air should circulate via fans or proper ventilation, windows should be closed if raining outside
- Prevent moisture – when the idea conditions and moisture are present, growth begins in 24-48 hours. For instance, if you leave a load of laundry in the washing machine for a day or two, that musty odor is mold!
- High-efficiency pleated air filters remove airborne mold spores that settle on surfaces and potentially begin to multiply. Mold can enter your indoor air through doors, windows, and can be transported on your skin, clothing, shoes, and pets. Proper circulation and a quality furnace filter or air conditioning filter are necessary to reduce the amount of spores floating around in your air.
- Indoor room air cleaners are very useful if you have a mold sensitivity. They provide additional relief and protection from microorganisms that drift through your air.
Indoor and Outdoor Mold
Mold is typically found indoors. The effects range from unnoticeable to debilitating for people as well as animals. Indoor mold is usually identified by a musty odor and can be visible in different colors depending on what type is present. As mentioned above, moisture is a requirement for mold to multiply. Common types of indoor mold are Cladosporium, Aspergillus, and Penicillium.
The outdoor airborne variety of mold particulates are fungi related to mushrooms but they have no roots, leaves, or stems. Outdoor mold spores can be present almost anywhere and are carried in the same way as pollen by air currents, insects, animals, people, leaves, grasses, weeds, and flowers. Outdoor mold growth begins in the Spring with the highest concentrations occurring in different months by region. Common types of outdoor molds are Bipolaris, Ascospores, and Torula. Wet branches, leaves, compost piles, grass clippings, and structures that are frequently shaded and damp are all outdoor sources.
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