Why Does Mold Grow?
Mold needs three things to grow: Food, oxygen, and most importantly moisture. Mold feeds on organic material as it primarily degrades cellulose. In homes and offices there are plenty of organic materials used in construction which contain cellulose, such as drywall, wood, and even carpet with organic fibers. Mold will not eat synthetic materials but it will dine on organic debris that land on these synthetics such as dead skin, dust, or oils. (Think back to the mold that builds up in your shower when not cleaned regularly.) They can thrive in cool and warm climates but most prefer temperatures ranging from roughly 50 degrees F to 80 degrees F making our indoor environments an excellent place to live. The only ingredient for mold growth that is not generally present in our dwellings is MOISTURE. Moisture is the key to mold growth and enters our dwellings in a variety of ways: leaky roofs, high humidity, wet basements, plumbing leaks, and improperly sealed windows or doors are just some of the ways water infiltrates a structure and allows mold to grow.
What are Spores?
Mold reproduces by way of spores, which are microscopic in size. Mold spores are measured in units called Microns. Generally, one of the smallest things someone with 20/20 vision can see is a raindrop, which is approximately 600 microns. Most mold spores range in size from 2-20 microns making them impossible to see with the human eye and easily moved through the air from even the smallest force. Wind, insects, human or animal movements can all move spores around a dwelling and they can easily pass through small cracks, window screens, and doorways. Mold spores can stay dormant for prolonged periods of time and will do so until appropriate conditions are found for reproduction.
Mold and Health
Due to their incredibly small size, mold spores can be easily inhaled or ingested. Spores most commonly enter a human or animal's body by way of inhalation. Certain health effects have been associated with mold such as but not limited to: runny nose, sneezing, coughing, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, fatigue, short-term memory loss, diarrhea, asthma, aspergillosis, pnuemonitis, hair loss, and even death.
Generally mold spores are classified into three different categories when pertaining to health. They are Toxic, Pathogenic, and Allergenic.
A Toxic mold is one that produces a mycotoxin which has been associated with adverse effects in almost anyone if found present in elevations. Some examples of mycotoxins include: tricothecene (produced by the fabled Stachybotrys genus), petulin (generally produced by Aspergillus sp. ), and sterigmatocystin (also produced by some species of Aspergillus sp. ).
A Pathogenic mold will affect those who are already immune-compromised. Many types of mold fall into this category. Immune compromised individuals include but are not limited to: cancer patients, pregnant women, and small children with undeveloped immune systems, some animals, people with heart disease, and others who suffer from illness.
An Allergenic mold is one that may affect some but not others. This affect is very similar to an animal or pollen allergy. An allergenic mold can sometimes divide a family because only one person may complain of symptoms while others do not have concern for the problem and ultimately do not address it. An individual can develop an allergy as well as become more susceptible to other diseases after chronic exposure.
Mold spores can be viable or non-viable. A viable spore can actively reproduce while a non-viable spore will not actively reproduce. Mold spores have been associated with effects on human health both when they are living or dead. The health effects associated with a spore are not negated when the spore is rendered non-viable. In fact a dead spore, which still contains mycotoxins, may be more detrimental because it becomes lighter and can become airborne more readily. Not all non-viable spores are dead, some may simply be dormant until favorable conditions for growth arise. RTC Restoration & Renovation can remove both viable and non-viable mold spores.