Facts taken from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Healthy Homes Issues: Mold. Version 3
In a scientifically reference article by Dr. Harriet Burge titled "Fungal Allergens", featured on EMLab P&K's website, the author discusses the nature of fungal allergens and the effect they can have on the sufferer. Here are 5 facts derived from the publication:
1. Once sensitization has been accomplished, such as with mold exposure, then re-exposure can cause the same symptoms; the re-exposure tends to create almost immediate symptoms.
2. For surface growth of allergens, the spore(s) that are present may not need to be living to cause sensitization in the sufferer.
3. It is not 100% conclusively known whether all fungal spores can create allergens. However, some of the more prosaic ones documented during air quality testing have been shown to cause sensitization and create symptoms. The symptom causing mold genus types were documented as: "Cladosporium, Alternaria, Bipolaris, Curvularia, Pithomyces and Stachybotrys".
The three noted genus types which did not create symptoms included: "Epicoccum, Fusarium, and Spegazzinia".
4. In reference to one case study, Dust mites can potentially cause allergens twice as bad as Stachybotrys Chartarum.
5. "Given that some spores must be alive to release allergens, it is possible that spores produced in an indoor environment would be "fresher" and more likely to be alive than those outdoors. If this were true, then indoor exposures to some fungi may be more important than outdoor exposure." This reinforces why people exposed to fresh indoor mold growth may be experiencing stronger symptoms.
The information provided here is not meant to act as medical advice and Dr. Harriet Burge has no affiliation with Mold Mitigation Professionals. To review the article referenced in the this blog in full, please visit the following link:
There are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding mold, or ‘mildew’, as it is commonly referred to by lay people; these terms are interchangeable, and merely describe a visible colony of fungi growing in an environment-they hold no taxonomic significance (Storey et. Al, 2004). There are numerous genera of mold, and 100’s of species within each genus. This presents the following facts surrounding mold which are featured in a publication by the University of Connecticut Health Center titled Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors:
1. ‘Black mold’ is a generic term which is misleading. There are a multitude of molds which have a black coloring, including the Stachybotrys genus, the Chaetomium genus and the Ulocladium genus. When people are concerned with ‘black mold’, however, they are generally referring to Stachybotrys Chartarum species; this particular mold thrives particularly well on cellulose (drywall) and wallpaper.
2. In wet environments, bacteria tend to grow along with mold, which can contribute to the bioaerosols (airborne particles that are biological in origin) being released in the indoor environment, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
3. To thrive, the main variables fungi require are: moisture, nutrition (i.e. food source such as cellulose-drywall), light, oxygen and temperature (ideally, between 59 degrees F and 86 degrees F). The most important factors are moisture and nutrition.
4. The common sources of nutrition which mold feeds on include: dirt, dust, insulation, drywall, wood and paint; generally, most organic sources can be used for nutrition. Hence, often, one will find there are higher levels of mold spores naturally in a dirty residence.
5. Different molds can indicate different issues in a property. Stachybotrys is considered hydrophilic, which suggests it desires a higher moisture content than other genera of mold. Aspergillus and Penicillium are a lot less reliant on heavy moisture, and can grow from condensation issues.
6. Fungi can cause disease in humans and animals, which are classified into four groups:
ii. Allergic or hypersensitivity reactions
iii. Irritant reactions
iv. Toxic reactions
A report from the European Community respiratory health survey noted that patients with asthma are more susceptible to allergic triggers from bioaerosols produced by mold.
7. Various types of allergic dermatitis have been reported due to contact with mold and mold exposure, such as dryness and skin rashes.
Storey, E., Dangman, K., Schenck, P., DeBernardo, R., Yang, C., Bracker, A., Hodgson, M (2004) Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors. University of Connecticut Health Center. September 30, 2004.
Here are 5 things to know about Stachybotrys, which is commonly referred to as "black mold" or "toxic mold" due to it's mycotoxin production:
1. The mold is generally slimy, which makes it harder to sporulate (reproduce, or spread into the air) compared to other molds. When the Stachybotrys genus is discovered in air samples taken in a property, high spore counts can suggest that this is a longer term mold issue in the property.
2. Mycotoxin poisoning by this fungus is referred to as Stachybotryotoxicosis (Nelson, 2001).
3. The Stachybotrys fungus is most notably found within buildings which have sustained a long term flooding issue, or general water damage from broken piping, roof leaks etc.
4. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the most commonly reported symptoms related to airborne Stachybotrys exposure include: "allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms,) dermatitis (rashes,) sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms are more general, such as inability to concentrate and fatigue. Usually symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed." (FOH, 2017)
5. Exposure can be through ingestion, inhalation and skin exposure.
If you suspect you may be subjected to Stachybotrys in your property, it is advised to contact a professionally licensed microbial expert to properly assess the property.
FOH (2017)What is Stachybotrys atra? (on-line) Federal Occupation Health. https://foh.psc.gov/NYCU/EnvHM.asp
Nelson, B. (2001) Stachybotrys chartarum: The Toxic Indoor Mold. APSnet Features. Online. doi: 10.1094/APSnetFeature-2001-1101
Often, clients will posit the following question: can all of the mold in my home be eradicated?
The answer to this question, in short, is no.
Mold exists all around us in the outdoor environment, and inevitably in our indoor environments due to the oscillation and transference of air due to foot-traffic, open windows, etc. Outdoor mold is generally good, since mold breaks down and feeds on decaying, dead organic matter. This is vital to how nature works in relation to decomposition. Decomposition aids farmers, preserves the health of forests and also, most famously, aids in the process of biofuels.
After decomposition, carbon is released, which is the basis of life since living organisms capture this carbon and build new life; this is often referred to as the carbon cycle.
The reasons mentioned above are why outdoor molds are considered 'good'. When interpreting lab data, inspectors and microbiologists compare the potentially contaminated indoor air sample with the outdoor control sample to see if there is an issue in the property. When analyzing the data, discrepancies are registered. For example, if there are 5,000 spores m/3 of Cladosporium outdoors, and 4,000 spores m/3 indoors, then we can deduce that there isn't a mold issue in the property since the source is obviously the outside air.
Conversely, if there are 1,200 spores m/3 of Stachybotrys indoors (also referred to as 'black mold', even though there are numerous 'black molds'), but no spores outdoors, then we know that there is an indoor source for the mold and we have a mold issue within the property.
This isn't to say that outdoor molds can't cause an issue; they can in certain circumstances (in very high counts). People have reported the same side effects as we generally allergies to pollen.
Indoor molds, at high levels, is of concern since it usually suggests an indoor source (i.e. roof leak, high humidity, window condensation, slab leak, pinhole leak etc.). The reason one should be concerned with an indoor mold, even if it's a typical outdoor mold, is because if it's present in the indoor air at exponentially high levels, then it suggests that the outdoor air entering the property is actually reproducing inside and has found a moisture source to thrive in.
It is also of concern due to the concentrated health effects people report when exposed, the structural diminishing of a property, compromising the aesthetics of the structure, as well as rotting wood.
MOLD HEALTH EFFECTS BLOG AND RESEARCH