What is Mold?
Mold is a living organism, classified as fungi, that reproduces through the development of spores that are separated and distributed from a parent source or organism. When in the ideal environment, the spores or “seeds” will attach to a source of nourishment and a colony will be established. Mold spores are present nearly everywhere as there are many possible indoor and outdoor sources for mold. These microscopic organisms can be dispersed year-round. There are over 100,000 types of mold ranging in size from 3-30 microns!
Intriguing Facts About Mold
- Although bleach is commonly recommended to kill mold, it should not be considered an effective form of mold removal because dead or dormant mold spores are just as toxic as living spores. Bleach will kill mold spores, but the mold must be properly removed.
- Studies indicate that the use of Vitamin D supplements is helpful in the treatment and prevention of allergies to mold
- Mold, although harmful in many cases, also has many beneficial properties such as: assisting in the decomposition of organic material, aiding in the production of medications, producing enzymes that help to make certain foods such as cheese, assisting in the production of alcohol, flavorings, and even plastics.
- Molds are classified by hazard levels A, B, and C. An example of a hazard A mold is Aspergillus fumigatus. It is commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens and is considered to be highly unsafe and should be immediately remediated. A class C mold such as Wallemia sebi, is a type that can grow in your carpeting or mattresses. While it is not one to be considered a health concern, it is still capable of causing damage to the surfaces it lives on and should be removed for that reason.
Requirements for Mold to Grow
Mold requires a few basic conditions in which to grow. The 3 main requirements are:
- Food – an organic material or a surface where organic material is present. Examples include: cotton, wool, leather, paper, wood, food, grease, leaves, dirt, insulation, drywall, dust, carpet, wallpaper, upholstery
- Moisture – leaky roof or pipes, condensation on window sills, humidifiers, vaporizers, damp basements or closets, garages or outdoor storage sheds, drains, areas with standing water
- Temperature – mold can grow and multiply in temperatures between 32 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but the rate of growth is ideal and significantly increased when the temperature ranges between 79 and 90 degrees. When temperatures fall below freezing, mold will remain dormant and become active again once the temperature climbs back into range.
Accelerating the Growth of Mold
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
Inhibiting the Growth of Mold
- Reduce humidity – keep indoor humidity below 50%, keep air moving with fans or proper ventilation, and close windows when it is raining outside
- Prevent moisture – when the conditions are met and moisture is available, mold will begin to grow in 24-48 hours. A prime example that you may have encountered is forgetting a load of laundry in the washing machine for a day or two. That awful smell is mold!
- Use high-efficiency pleated air filters to help remove airborne mold spores which will eventually 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. With proper circulation and a quality furnace filter or air conditioning filter, you can drastically reduce the number of mold spores floating in your air.
- Add indoor room air cleaners if you have a sensitivity to mold. These can provide additional relief and protection from microorganisms such as mold that drift through your air.
Mold is commonly found indoors. The effects on people and animals can range from unnoticeable to debilitating. Indoor mold is typically identified by a musty odor and can be visible in the form of different colors depending on the type. As discussed, moisture is an absolute requirement for mold to multiply. Certain temperature ranges are ideal, but mold can grow at nearly any temperature but will become dormant below freezing. Common types of indoor mold are Cladosporium, Aspergillus, and Penicillium.
We often think of mold as something that grows on surfaces such as food, leaky pipes, or wet basements. These can cause serious health issues in some cases, but also of concern are the outdoor airborne variety of mold particulates. These microscopic organisms are fungi that are related to mushrooms but 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 begins to grow during the Springtime, with the highest concentrations occurring during different months depending on the region. Common outdoor molds types include Bipolaris, Ascospores, and Torula. Outdoor sources include wet branches, leaves, compost piles, grass clippings, and structures that are frequently shaded and damp.
Allergic Responses to Mold
We can all display reactions to mold, even if no allergy to mold has been formally diagnosed. An allergic response occurs when your immune system reacts unfavorably to the exposure of mold spores, either by contact or ingestion. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the level of sensitivity as well as the concentration of exposure.
- watery, itchy, irritated eyes
- runny nose, congestion
- headache, cough, throat irritation
- difficulty breathing, asthma, flu-like symptoms
- Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (also known as Sick Building Syndrome)
The best treatment is to reduce the factors that help mold to grow and minimize exposure. Because of the size of mold particles, a MERV 8 pleated air filter will do a great job of capturing mold. For severe mold allergies, we recommend a higher rating such as our MERV 11 or MERV 13 air filters. Our MERV rating comparison chart can help you see which rating is the best choice for your needs.
At US Home Filter, we enjoy assisting our customers to help determine the best solutions for their individual needs. Whether you need help with one of our standard stock size air filters, a Whole House Air Cleaner replacement filter, Grille filters, or if you are overwhelmed by choosing the right custom size air filter, we will be happy to personally work with you to help ensure you order exactly what you need!