Mold in Your Home
Molds are tiny microscopic organisms that digest organic matter and reproduce by releasing spores. Molds are a type of fungi and there are over 100,000 species. In nature, mold helps decompose or break-down leaves, wood and other plant debris. Molds become a problem when they go where they are not wanted and digest materials such as our homes. Mold enters the home as microscopic airborne spores, from a variety of sources. It is important to know that mold needs moisture to grow. Controlling mold is a matter of controlling the moisture in the home. You generally know you have mold when you smell a musty odor or see small black, darkened, or white specks along a damp bathroom, kitchen or other walls.
Molds do not generally affect healthy individuals however those with allergies or asthma may be more sensitive and develop reactions to mold. Mold-sensitive people (and those with prolonged mold exposure) may experience hay-fever type symptoms including: coughing, skin rash, running nose, red eyes, nasal congestion, and aggravation of asthma or difficulty breathing. Also, individuals with immune system suppression, lung diseases, are at increased risk for infection from molds. Mold can have more profound symptoms in very young or old individuals. San Diego offers the type of atmosphere for several different types of mold growth to flourish!
Is mold a threat to you and your family?
All mold can potentially have negative effects on health. Mold can produce allergens that may trigger reactions and in some cases, asthma attacks, for people who are allergic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), other types of mold may produce potent toxins/and or irritants.
Toxic mold is defined as any mold that produces mycotoxins in its spores and is common in many commonly found species. The three most dangerous (and commonly found indoor toxic molds) are identified as Stachybotrys (black mold), Aspergillus, and Penicillium. These mycotoxins are dangerous because they are cytotoxic, which means they have the capacity to pass through the human cellular wall and disrupt certain cellular processes.
Mold is a fungus, and such can cause health problems for both humans and animals. When exposed to elevated levels of indoor mold, health problems like allergies, asthma, bleeding lungs, breathing difficulties, cancer, central nervous system problems, chronic colds and coughing, dermatitis, skin rashes, diarrhea and eye/vision problems. Other symptoms have been known to include: seizures, sinus congestion and other sinus problems, verbal dysfunction, vertigo and vomiting.
What does mold look like?
Mold colonies are very small and individual mold colonies are nearly impossible to see without a microscope, however, once a mold colony emerges, it can form visible spots. Mold usually appears in black, blue or green color and coloration is determined by various factors like type, nutrient source, age of colony, etc. Of all the mold types, black mold (or, Stachybotrys) is typically considered to be the most harmful to humans and animals.
How mold remediation is carried out depends upon the type of mold. With that, it’s important to have your home or building tested for mold to know what you have to deal with before beginning the remediation process.
Each type of mold has its own characteristics, growth patterns and health effects to be aware of. Harmful mold is generally classified as follows:
- Allergenic: molds that cause and produce allergies and allergic reactions such as asthma attacks.
- Pathogenic: molds that cause health problems in those suffering from an acute illness.
- Toxigenic: molds that produce toxic substances that can lead to dangerous or fatal health conditions. This type of mold is often referred to as “toxic mold”.
Below, we’ve identified 12 different types of mold that is commonly found in homes and workspaces.
- Acremonium: a toxigenic mold type that evolves in its appearance over time, Acremonium, starts out as a small moist mold and develops into a fine powdery substance. It is often pink, grey, orange or white in color and typically grows in household systems and areas such as condensation from humidifiers, cooling coils, drain pans and window sealants.
- Alternaria: Alternaria is the most common form of allergenic mold and typically grows wherever dampness occurs, like showers, bathtubs, and below leaking sinks. Alternaria is a common mold species that results from water damage. It causes asthmas-like symptoms in the respiratory tract, specifically the upper respiratory tract, the nose and the mouth. It spreads quickly, so it is important to remediate this mold before it overtakes your home.
- Aspergillus: Aspergillus is a common mold that is often found in American households and can be identified by its long flask-shaped spores. It forms thick layers or wall of mold and can create long chains of mold growth on surfaces. With over 185 different species of aspergillus mold, it can appear in many different colors. Although Aspergillus is an allergenic mold, it can also become more toxic depending on the species and its location indoors. There are also certain Aspergillus mold types capable of producing aflatoxins, a known and deadly carcinogen.
- Aureobasidium: Aureobasidium is an allergenic mold that can be found growing behind wallpaper or on painted or wooden surfaces. It is generally pink, brown or black in color and as it ages, it typically turns a darker brown color. Aureobasidium can cause infection of the eye, skin and nails and can potentially cause dermatitis. Therefore, is should never come into contact with bare skin.
- Chaetomium: Chaetomium is generally found in water-damaged homes and buildings. It has a cotton-like texture and changes from white to grey to brown color, and eventually black, over time. Chaetomium mold is usually found in leaking roofs, basements, or sinks and can be easily identified by its musty odor. Some of the health effects caused by Chaetomium mold include skin and nail infections. Chaetomium mold is capable of producing mycotoxins that can be extremely dangerous to individuals with compromised immune systems. Chaetomium mold is the direct result of water damage to your home.
- Cladosporium: An allergenic mold type, it can grow in both warm and cold conditions. Cladosporium is often found in indoor materials like fabrics, upholsteries and carpets. It may also be found under floorboards and inside cupboards. It generally appears as an olive-green or brown colored mold and has a suede-like texture. Cladosporium causes allergic reactions to the eyes, nose throat and skin. Exposure to Cladosporium can cause skin rash and lesions, asthma, lung infections and sinusitis. While not known to be toxic, Cladosporium should not be handled directly since it can potentially irritate the skin and lungs.
- Fusarium: Fusarium is another mold type capable of growing and spreading at cold temperatures. It is both allergenic and toxigenic and grows in homes with water damage. It generally grows in carpeting, wallpaper and other fabrics or materials. Fusarium is often pink, white or reddish in color and naturally grows on food products and compost. Exposure to Fusarium can cause skin infections and allergic reaction symptoms like sore throats, runny noses, sneezing, itchy eyes and dermatitis. Fusarium can produce toxins that damage the nervous system and can potentially lead to hemorrhages and internal bleeding. If Fusarium is identified, it’s important to examine other indoor surfaces, since Fusarium spreads quickly from room to room.
- Mucor: Mucor is an allergenic form of mold that is often white or greyish in color. It grows in thick patches, oftentimes quickly. It is most commonly found near air conditioning, HVA systems and ducting due to moisture. Old, damp carpets can also grow mucor spores. Mucor can cause a range of health problems that affect the respiratory system and can cause asthma or worsen existing asthma conditions. Mucor can cause difficult breathing and flu-like symptoms and fever.
- Penicillium: Penicillium is another allergenic form of mold and is easily recognizable by its characteristic blue or green color and velvety texture. Like Fusarium and Mucor, Penicillium is often found in water-damaged homes and buildings and is generally found in materials such as carpets, wallpapers, ducting and even mattresses. Penicillium also spreads quickly from one are of the home to another, like Fusarium and Mucor. Penicillium spores can easily become airborne and travel throughout the home and can be inhaled by occupants, causing pulmonary inflammation and asthmas. Prolonged exposure can lead to chronic sinusitis.
- Stachybotrys: Stachybotrys is a toxigenic type of mold that can cause allergic reactions. It is also commonly referred to as “black mold”. Stachybotrys is dark greenish or black in color and has a slimy texture. It thrives in damp, wet areas with high humidity levels that maintain these environmental conditions for a prolonged period of time. It is known for growing on woods, cardboard, paper, hay or wicker. Stachybotrys is referred to as “toxic mold” because it produces mycotoxins that can cause severe health problems to those exposed to it. Stachybotrys exposure symptoms include difficult breathing, sinusitis, fatigue and even depression. Stachybotrys has also been linked to neurological problems in children and infants.
- Trichoderma: Trichoderma is an allergic mold type with five different subspecies. It is generally white in color with green patches. Trichoderma grows rapidly as wooly-texture clusters that become more compact over time. It commonly grows in the home on wet surfaces, within wallpaper, carpet and other damp fabrics. It thrives in moist areas, like air conditioning filters and HVAC system ducts where condensation builds up. Most Trichoderma molds are non-pathogenic, however, there exist some types that have been linked to pulmonary and hepatic (liver) infections. When it produces mycotoxins, it acts similarly to Stachybotrys.
- Ulocladium: Ulocladium is black in color and thrives in wetness and water. It is typically found in homes and buildings that have extreme water damage. Ulocladium can grow in conjunction with Stachybotrys and is a good indicator of water damage. Ulocladium also has two different subspecies of molds that can cause serious health problems for humans. Since Ulocladium is easily confused with other types of mold, you should consult a professional to identify the mold type and potential danger to your inhabitants.
Rarefied Air Environmental provides the most comprehensive, technologically advanced and detailed mold site assessments in Southern California. Water intrusion sources that may cause mold growth can range from:
- Plumbing/drain lines
- Roof leaks
- Concrete slab leaks
- Faulty window installation
- Water from exterior/crawlspace soil
- Bath tub leaks
- Refrigerator lines
- Humidity issues
- Poor ventilation
- Counter-top issues
- Poorly sealed block/brick walls
Our experts can identify the source of the intrusion and provide a fully comprehensive report with a scope of work for remediation. You may hand this report to licensed mold remediation professionals who can then remediate the issue and deliver you back a healthy, livable space!
We utilize moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras to find the source of water intrusion or to determine how far water has travelled. We can also collect air and surface samples to identify what types of mold spores may be present in your environment. Several spore types are associated with water intrusion on construction products. Certain mold spore types may indicate whether it has been a long-standing or ongoing problem. We may even be able to tell you if the mold colony is still alive and growing!
Mold Air & Surface Samples
Air sample collection can be a great indicator as to whether there is a mold issue occurring in your dwelling space. An “Air-O-Cell” cassette is placed in a bio-aerosol sampling pump and run for a set duration of time based upon the environment being assessed.
The “Air-O-Cell cassettes are designed to collect a wide variety of airborne particles including but not limited to: fungal spores, pollen, insect parts, skin cell fragments, fibers and other inorganic particles. The “Air-O-Cell” samples are delivered to an independent and accredited laboratory for analysis. The laboratory performs a direct fungal examination of the inner film of the cassette and provides the analytical data.
Rarefied Air Environmental will assess the laboratory results and be able to indicate whether there are any airborne issues based upon the mold spore types present and the quantities as to which they are present! Some of these indicator spores are as follows:
- Cladosporium (in highly elevated amounts)
- and more…
Rarefied Air Environmental can also collect surface swab samples of suspect fungal growth and have them analyzed for the same types of mold growth that is present in the air as well!
Post-Mold-Remediation Site Assessments in San Diego
You should never trust that a remediation contractor has performed the mold remediation activities fully and completely without third party testing. If mold remediation is typically greater than 10 square feet of removal, the remediation contractor will request that come type of clearance testing be performed. Proper remediation should include isolated work areas behind polyethylene sheeting, HEPA air filtering devices, bagging of waste and use of environmentally safe cleansing products.
Rarefied Air Environmental technicians will assess the work are containment to determine if all of the wet materials have been properly removed and if the materials remaining in place have been properly dried and cleaned. Air samples will be collected as an indicator if mold spores are still present in the environment at acceptable levels. If the levels are acceptable, we will provide a report that is your so to speak, “Bill of Clean Health.” We do not recommend performing reconstruction following mold remediation without performing the Post-Mold-Remediation Site Assessment. This documentation will also assist in full disclosure if you are ever to sell a property.