What are the Characteristics and Health Risks of Mold?
Mold comes in thousands of different varieties, each with its own set of characteristics. But the one thing all species of mold have in common is that they can negatively affect your health if they spread. Now, this isn't to say that a small patch of mold on your shower curtain or in the workplace is going to cause illnesses. However, large amounts of mold left untreated can lead to sneezing, fatigue, and even organ failure, depending on the type of mold present. In honor of National Mold Awareness Month, we are diving into the common characteristics of mold and the health risks they can pose.
What is Mold?Let's start by identifying mold. Mold is a type of fungus that consists of small organisms found almost anywhere. Mold thrives on moisture and reproduces through tiny spores that travel through the air until they find a new breeding ground. Small amounts of mold can be harmless, but mold grows quickly. If you see a small spot, or smell must, you should immediately tackle the issue before it gets out of hand.
Where Can Mold Grow?While mold naturally grows outside, it's the indoor growth that concerns us. Mold needs moisture to grow. So typically you will find it in places facing water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, and crawl spaces. That's not to say you won't find mold in other places—it can be found anywhere, including walls, floors, appliances, carpet, and furniture.
How Do Different Types of Mold Affect Health?As you may know, not all species of mold are dangerous. After all, without mold, we wouldn't have blue cheese or penicillin. However, toxic molds do exist, and as the name suggests, they can lead to serious injury or death. There are five main types of toxic mold:
1. StachybotrysMore commonly known as black mold, Stachybotrys produces mycotoxins wherever they're distributed, which can cause a wide range of serious infections. Black mold typically grows on materials made of cellulose (like ceiling tiles and wood) that have remained damp for an extended period. Additionally, black mold doesn't grow overnight. Stachybotrys severely affects young infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms from black mold include:
- respiratory issues
- nasal and sinus congestion
- chronic fatigue
- central nervous system issues
2. PenicilliumThere are over 200 known species of Penicillium molds found in the air and soil. Their most visible effect is that they can cause produce and perishable goods to spoil. Like other molds, they grow and expand in areas with high moisture levels and will typically grow on walls, floors, and carpets.
- Penicillium can cause
- nail fungus
- lung, liver, and kidney infections
3. CladosporiumUnfortunately, not only is Cladosporium extremely common, but it's also hazardous. Cladosporium can lead to pulmonary edema and emphysema, both of which can be deadly. This genus of mold comes in green, brown, grey, and black colors and can be found on painted walls, wood, carpets, and wallpapers.
4. FusariumUnlike the other types of mold we've mentioned, Fusarium molds steadily grow at low temperatures, as well as the typical warmer temperatures. Fusarium can be found on water-damaged carpeting and fabrics and is often orange in color. The side effects of Fusarium are:
- mild allergic reactions
- severe respiratory conditions
- gastrointestinal illnesses