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Mold and Black Mold: Separating the FACTS from the HYPE

    Mold (fungi) is present everywhere, both indoors and outdoors.  It grows anyplace that it can find a source of moisture, and reproduces by releasing spores into the air.  These spores can lie dormant for long periods, until conditions are favorable for growth. 

   Mold needs moisture and a food source to grow, and the food source may be something as simple as dust particles that have collected on a window surface.  It can grow on nearly any surface, including concrete, brick, wood, drywall, wallpaper and ceiling tiles.  Basically, anywhere that moist conditions exist.  Mold can also grow in some very harsh environments, and in temperature extremes from 40 to 122 degrees. 
   The most common indoor molds are Penicillium, Stachybotrys, Alternaria, and Cladosporium.  You probably recognize Penicillium as the "bread mold", although most molds are quite at home on a loaf of bread.  Some of these molds are found outdoors as well. 
   Although the vast majority of molds are not toxic, exposure to mold and mold spores can aggravate conditions such as hay fever and allergies, particularly in children and those with weak or compromised immune systems. 
   In addition to the possible adverse health effects of mold growth, mold can break down many building materials over time.  The mold secretes an enzyme that breaks down the cellulose fibers in many materials, such as wood and ceiling tiles.  It damages drywall by breaking down the paper covering that encloses the gypsum. 

Black Mold

   Some molds are capable of producing toxins; specifically mycotoxins. There are several kinds of molds that can produce toxins, but of course the most infamous is the black mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum). 
   Black mold is most often found growing on materials with a high cellulose content, like gypsum board, paper, and fiberboard. The spores of "SC" are very small, so there is a danger of inhaling the spores, especially if the mold has started to dry out and release spores into the air.  Inhalation can cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, and diarrhea. 
   Although ALL black-colored molds are ugly, not all are toxic as everyone assumes.  We've all heard the horror stories of restaurants shelling out $50,000 to have a remediation company clean their food preparation facilities after black mold was found. 
   Don't be fooled by the hype; the black mold that you see growing in a basement or bathroom may be a non-toxic variety.  The simple truth is that you won't KNOW until mold or spore samples are taken by a trained professional and those samples are tested by a reputable laboratory.  Don't you have enough to worry about right now? 

 Testing Procedures
   Samples are taken outside the home, and compared to samples taken inside the home.  Two samples are taken on the windward side, and one on the leeward side.  Ideally, the indoor and outdoor samples would match, since you would expect to find the same species of mold, and in the same concentrations, inside and outside the home. 

   Samples must be taken certain distances from the ground, indoor ventilation sources and  HVAC vents, and during certain weather conditions.  If a mold testing procedure is corrupted by poor protocol, you may as well not have the test performed.  The results are unreliable and useless.  Test results can be compromised by something as simple as poor calibration of testing equipment, samples taken too close to a home ventilation source, or too far from a heating register. 

Is there a lot of mold?
    If there is a large area with evidence of mold, a professional abatement company may be needed to clean the area and eliminate the source of moisture that enabled the mold to grow.  Some molds can be cleaned with something as simple as household bleach, but testing is necessary to ascertain that the mold is not toxic or dangerous before tackling it with a bucket of Clorox. 

NEVER attempt to clean a mold growth before determining it's species and/or toxicity beforehand.
   Re-testing is recommended after the cleanup to make sure that mold is no longer present.


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