Mold is pervasive; it is everywhere. You inhale spores outdoors. Some types of mold should not be present in your living/work spaces. Water indicator molds likestachybotrys, ulocladium, or chaetomium are not common in indoor environments unless there is an active water source. If we find these water indicator molds, we know there is a moisturesource such as a plumbing leak or water intrusion from the outside; we have a leak.
Some molds are commonly found inside. Molds such as aspergillus, cladisporium, and ascospores can exist, but not thrive, on normal humidity in the air. When we find amplified levels of these common molds, we generally find problems with the HVAC system or poor ventilation along with elevated humidity levels (over 60% RH).
There are over 5,000,000 different species of mold/fungi in the fungi kingdom. Fungi are eukaryotes. They are a kingdom unto themselves. They are different from plants, animals, Protista and bacteria. They feed by sending out enzymes and absorbing soluble breakdown products unlike animals and Protista which ingest their food. Fungi don’t have chlorophyll or photosynthesis like plants. They reproduce by spores in which each nucleus can germinate into a new individual. Most fungi have chitin walls. Fungi functions like the roots, trunk and branches of a tree. It is a network of microscopic tubes called hyphae or connected mycelium. This is the part of the fungi that feeds, expands, grows, eats, produces toxins and eventually forms the reproductive stage that will produce and release spores. We seldom see the mycelium (visibly) because it is usually embedded in its food source or substrate. The part we see, the black, green or blue mold, the mushroom, the shelf fungus on a tree, is the reproductive part. It does not eat, produce toxins, or even grow. It is totally dependent upon the mycelium and is produced when the mycelium quits growing. The reproductive part is like the apple on a tree – it is not the tree. If we remove all the mushrooms from the lawn or clean all the mold from the drywall, we don’t kill or remove the mold. Like picking an apple from the tree, we don’t kill the tree. The final part of the fungi is the spore, which is protected, resistant, tough, and can sit dormant in a physiological resting state for very long periods of time but, if you add water, it will wake up, form the first strand of hyphae (a germ tube) and seek food.
While there are millions of species of fungi,the good news is only a relatively few are found indoors. Generally, less than two dozen, and of those, we typically only find up to a dozen in our Florida homes and of those, we can easily break these down into two categories:
- Water indicator molds
- Common molds existing due to elevated humidity (opportunistic molds)
The truth is, all we need to know is what water activity (Aw) is required for the type of mold present. A mold requiring a high-water activity (greater than .95 Aw) means we have active water present (a leak). If we find and fix the leak, this mold will stop growing even if we do nothing else. If the mold is not growing (producing hyphae and spores), it poses no threat to anyone as it cannot release any mycotoxins. We will typically recommend some level of remediation simply for safety as the mold may be dormant but could return to active growth should a moisture source reoccur.
Molds which can thrive on elevated humidity are of greater concern. These common molds, like aspergillus, produces hyphae/spores rapidly with moisture vapor; they do not require a water source. Finding elevated aspergillus always requires some level of remediation to clean/disinfect the home as well as repairing or improving ventilation in the affected area(s). Healthwise, we find more people are affected by aspergillus than any other mold, including stachybotrys (black mold).
A lesser identified, but equally dangerous mold to aspergillus, is erisiphye(mildew). Far too many mold assessors and laboratories miss the presence of erisiphye. When you smell those strong fungal odors (that damp basement smell), you are most likely smelling erisiphye. It emits a strong fungal odor which easily permeates fabrics, carpets, carpet padding, upholstery, clothing and any porous material – even unsealed wood. Don’t confuse the danger of erisiphye with common mildew staining, we find on the outside of our homes (mostly caused by lack of sunlight in wet, shaded areas caused by sprinklers) or a little we find on grout/caulking in showers (that is caused by not ventilating the bathroom sufficiently). Erisiphye is difficult to remediate if it is firmly established in fabric material; you may have to discard the clothing or furniture.
FAR TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE MISINFORMED ABOUT MOLD.
YOU HAVE MOLD IN YOUR HOME.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS, WHY IS IT PRESENT?