What is mold?
Mold is a microscopic organism, which grows from spores. There are mold spores everywhere in our environment but they are usually inactive. However, when the relative humidity exceeds 60% they germinate and multiply. As the mold develops, it produces enzymes to digest organic materials including paper, books, cloth, photographs, leather and wood.
There are 100,000 different species of mold in the world. Mold is part of the fungi kingdom; a realm shared with mushrooms, yeast and mildews.
What does mold need to grow?
In order for mold to grow it needs a food source such as leaves, wood, insulation, wallboard, drywall, carpeting, clothing, paper or dirt. In addition, mold needs a source of moisture for at least 24 to 48 hours. Temperatures above 65 degrees increase the likelihood of mold growth. Below is a list of moisture sources that may cause mold problems:
- Backed up sewers
- Leaky roofs
- Mud or ice dams
- Damp basement or crawl spaces
- Constant plumbing leaks
- House plants
- Steam from cooking or boiling
- Clothing dryers vented indoors
- Combustion appliances
Can mold make me and my family sick?
Mold grows everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. Most often mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. Outdoor mold spores travel indoors through windows, cracks, crevices or are carried inside on shoes and clothing. It is very common to find mold spores in the air of homes and growing on damp surfaces.
We are all exposed to mold on a daily basis without evident harm. However, health problems arise when mold spores enter our bodies in large numbers. For some people a relatively small amount of mold spores can cause health problems, and yet for others it may take a considerably greater amount. The following are three ways mold spores can enter the human body:
- Inhalation: Breathing in airborne mold spores.
- Skin: Touching moldy surfaces such as furniture or coming in contact with plants that may have molds.
- Ingestion: Eating toxic fungal species on spoiled food, including nuts, grain, rice and agricultural products.
What symptoms might I see?
The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as: