What is Mold – The Basics

What Is Mold?

Mold is a general term used to refer to many types of fungi that can be found almost everywhere. The term mildew may often be used to refer to some types of mold especially white or grayish indoor mold. Active growth of mold happens mostly in warm, damp and humid environments. Indoor mold has been related to cause some unpleasant health issues in humans such as fungal infections and allergies.

Mold is composed of multicellular thread-like filaments known as hyphae. The hyphae, in turn, are arranged in groups called mycelium which gives the fungi a hairy look.

Similar to all fungi, mold is heterotrophic in that it gets its nutrition from other organic substances by secreting hydrolytic enzymes which break down complex food structures into smaller absorbable substances. Molds reproduce by means of minute spores which spread through the air. The spores are mostly harmless,

The spores are mostly harmless. However, they will start to grow if they land on damp surfaces such as laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, crawl spaces and so on. Mold causes biodegradation in organic materials which eventually lead to food spoilage and property damage.

Molds are mostly visible to the unaided eye when they have already formed large colonies. Some common molds include Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, Stachybotrys (also known as black mold), Rhizopus, Mucor and Acremonium among others. Two notable benefits from fungi include penicillin, yeast, blue cheese, and mushrooms.

What Are Health Effects Caused By Mold?

Prolonged exposure to mold may cause respiratory tract infections like wheezing, coughs, skin irritation and other asthma symptoms. People diagnosed with asthma or with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) are prone to a higher risk of symptoms and infections further caused by mold. Extensive studies have shown that an improvement in housing conditions in efforts to control moisture can greatly lower morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies. Elderly persons and infants are generally more vulnerable to flu-like symptoms imposed by mold exposure.

Persons diagnosed with immunodeficiency conditions like AIDS or those undergoing cancer treatments are usually more prone to fungal infections as compared to healthy persons. Some indoor molds may produce strong toxins which are readily absorbable by airways, skin and intestinal lining. The risk is even higher for persons with artificial joint, catheters or heart replacement valves.

Some molds may lead to toxic effects stretching from short-term mild irritations to immunological disorders and even cancer. Other severe symptoms that could come from prolonged exposure to indoor mold include neurotoxicity, hepatic, endocrine toxicities, hypersensitivity, pneumonitis and cardiac conditions. For instance, during the unprecedented outbreak of pulmonary hemosiderosis in babies in 1993/4 in Cleveland, OH, it was discovered to be related

For instance, during the unprecedented outbreak of pulmonary hemosiderosis in babies in 1993/4 in Cleveland, OH, it was discovered to be related to the presence of Stachybotrys atra (black mold) in the victims’ homes.

The biggest challenge in determining the health risks posed by exposure to mold is that there is no proven method to determine the amount of mold a person is exposed to and its actual effect on the person’s health. This is in addition to the fact that mold is found everywhere in the environment whether indoors or outdoors. Even though health and environment policy bodies lack a set standard on tolerable mold levels it is recommended across the board that control of moisture indoors will go a long way in alleviating the health risks.

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