Monday, April 15, 2013

Mold Types, Identification & Effects on Humans

UNDERSTANDING MOLD

Understanding mold, how it forms, and the factors contributing to its development is one of the best ways to prevent it from forming in your home or office. Molds are a diverse group of organisms that can be extremely toxic, or equally beneficial to humans in some cases.

The Good - Beneficial Molds

Mold, although generally considered a nuisance or hazard by most of us, plays an important role in our environment. What we commonly refer to as molds are generally a type of fungi with a couple exceptions (more on that later). These organisms are important because without them the formation of soil, and in turn the growth of new plant life would not be possible. They are nature's digestive system, breaking down dead organic material into nutrient rich compounds that fuel the growth of new plant life. Their powerful ability to externally digest organic matter make them potent antibacterials in same cases.Molds of the genus Penicillium produce penicillin, which is used as an antibiotic. Molds also breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide just like we do. This may work in perfectly if your goal is to grow lots of healthy plants, but too much of these molds in your home can cause a suffocating effect, further exacerbating the respiratory problems that are commonly associated with most types of mold exposure.

The Bad - Toxic Molds

There are more than 140 species of mold documented to be pathogenic or disease forming in humans.  Some molds can be so bad for you that they are considered the most toxic naturally occurring substances known to man. So toxic that it has even been used in biological warfare. The concentrated T-2 trichothecene mycotoxins (the same toxins found in Stachybotrys or toxic black mold) were responsible for thousands of deaths in Laos during the Vietnam war. Symptoms can vary drastically, ranging from severe headaches to nausea, vomiting, cancer and even death.



Most Common Types of Mold


Acremonium
Soil, dead plant material. Light colored. Slow growing in moist environments. Rarely infects humans, but can when   other conditions are present, or immune system is weak. If infection occurs it can be a real problem. This mold was previously known as Cephalosporium. Used to derive the class of antibiotics known as Cephalosporins.
Aspergillus
Toxic. Indoor, found in areas with high oxygen. This is a common contaminant of starchy foods such as bread and potatoes. It is known as the second most common mold to infect humans. This mold is also commonly found on damp walls. Watch for any signs of leaks or water damage.
Cladosporium
Indoor and outdoor, very common green to brown to black colonies. Found on living and dead plant material. This most commonly causes infections of the skin and toe nails.
Fusarium 
plants, soils, mostly harmless, in humans w bad immune systems: nails, cornea. used as a food and has been weaponized by the soviet union.
Mucor
white to gray/beige - plants, soils, most unable to infect humans because they cant stand warm environments, but those that do can cause a kind of flesh eating condition known as zygomycosis.
Stachybotrys
Occurs indoors and can cause serious illness and even death in humans. Best known as Toxic black mold, it is frequently associated with poor indoor air quality after water damaged building materials. All the symptoms listed below but heightened are very common with this mold.   
Alternaria
A major plant pathogen, Alternaria is are common allergens in humans which grow indoors. They can cause fevers and even lead to asthma. This mold is a fast spreader and is a large problem in human health. It has also been known to destroy crops.

Other Types of "Mold"
In some rare circumstances, mold isn't Fungus at all. The exceptions to the fungi rule are two types of mold previously believe to be members of the Fungi kingdom; slime mold, and water mold. Water and slime molds, as we later learned, are not fungi at all. This is important to acknowledge when identifying, and remediating these types of mold growths. These Fungi-like "molds" are classified as a diverse group of eukaryotic microorganisms known as protists. These Protists can be unicellular when food is abundant, or multicellular when it isn't. Unlike Fungi, their cells do not show differentiation into tissues in their multicellular form. Instead, each cell can change its role in the organism as it sees fit. This simple cellular nature is the primary difference that excludes them from the fungi kingdom. In most other respects, their behavior is considered very fungi-like.

These water and slime protists can be dangerous pathogens, such as in the case of Plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria in humans. You don't have to worry about this particular protist growing in your air conditioner though, as it is an exclusive parasite of animals, but it does help to illustrate how dangerous some of these organisms can be to humans.

When does mold Form?

The most common mold growths are triggered by environmental factors, such as high humidity, temperature range, oxygen levels, and the existence of organic material for the mold to consume. These conditions can be inadvertently created as a result of many common household occurrences, such as:

- Flooding, or water damage such as pipe leaks
- Malfunctioning air conditioning units
- Rodent / insect infestations
- Ground water absorption
- Keeping a steady ambient temperature for long periods of time

Some of the most common household environments perfect for mold formation are air conditioners, AC ducts, in between sheetrock or wooden walls, and basements. Even slime molds have been found to grow in air conditioners.

How can you eliminate mold in your home?

The mold remediation process can be a real challenge. Spores travel quickly and can spread throughout your home completely undetected. Even when a small mold growth is properly cleaned up, you may have new formations beginning to grow elsewhere. In some cases sections of wall or ceiling may need to be replaced entirely as the mold will not only be deep rooted and difficult to annihilate, it may even compromise the structural integrity of your home.

Common Symptoms of Mold Exposure
  1. Itchy eyes
  2. Itchy ears 
  3. Coughing
  4. Sneezing 
  5. Sore throat 
  6. Irritated, itchy skin
  7. Watery eyes
  8. Sinus headaches 
  9. Congestion 
  10. Weakness
  11. Shortness of breath 
  12. Hair loss

References:
1. "Common types of mold " -
http://www.mycology.adelaide.edu.au/Fungal_Descriptions/Hyphomycetes_(hyaline)/
2. "Mold Symptoms"
http://blackmold.awardspace.com/mold-symptoms-allergies.html

4.  Castlebury L, Rossman A, Sung G, Hyten A, Spatafora J (2004). "Multigene phylogeny reveals new lineage for Stachybotrys chartarum, the indoor air fungus". Mycol Res 108 (Pt 8) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0953756208604037
5. Nowicki, Marcin et al. (30 August 2012),
Vegetable Crops Research Bulletin,Versita, Warsaw, Poland, doi:retrieved 2012-09-01
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternaria_brassicae

4 comments:

  1. Hi there, nice post. This is an interesting and very informative topic about mold remediation. Thanks for sharing you thoughts on this issue. Keep it up, looking forward to read another one in the future. Cheers!
    Mold growth on building surfaces not only damages these surfaces, but also affects air quality as intact spores, as well as spore and mycelial fragments, are dispersed in the air. These can be inhaled depending on their size and concentration.

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  2. This is such a good post.Thanks for sharing.Keep it up!

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  3. Molds are part of the natural environment. In outdoors, molds play an important part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, etc. But indoors, mold growth should be avoided and prevented. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye (only on microscope) and float through outdoor and indoor air and contaminate areas. Mold may begin to grow indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet or areas with moisture. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. So, moisture plays a great part of it.
    They attack usually on foods but they also attack non-food items like leather, wood and porcelain. Do you notice your allergic reactions are worse when you're at home but you feel better when you go out? Well, expect it. If so then it's especially likely you could have mold. Don’t go weary of staying in one place. Find a way for mold detection

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  4. This would also include fungal, mold or bacterial growth that was a result of the environment; especially in very warm, Mold Inspector Houston

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