Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What is the difference between mold, mildew, and fungus?
A. They are all fungi (singular = fungus). The study of fungi is called mycology.
Q. What is pathogenic fungi?
A. Pathogenic fungi are fungi that cause disease in humans or other organisms.
Q. Are many molds human pathogens?
A. There are over 80,000 fungi we know of, and estimates are as great as 400,00. Of all of these fungi, only a very few are human pathogens. According to the research done to date in medical mycology, most of these are only pathogenic on people with severely suppressed immune systems. There are more problems in the tropics than in the colder climates.
SHOULD I HAVE MY HOUSE OR OFFICE TESTED?
Q. I think I am allergic to mold. How can I tell and should my house be tested immediately?
A. First, see your doctor and ask about being tested. If the tests are positive and you believe your house is making you sick, then you may want to have your house tested or ask for your office building to be tested.
Q. Are molds a problem for everyone?
A. Some people live in houses that have molds and do not have a problem while another family member may become sick. For example, a client had an attic full of mold. One family member had no difficulty although the spore count was exceptionally high but a second family member had swollen eyes and various other health problems and was diagnosed with mold allergies.
Q. Are mold spores the only cause of mold allergies?
A. Most fungi have an odor, even if they are not producing spores. The odors can cause problems for some sensitive individuals. Wood rot fungi may take a long time to produce spores, but the smell may be quite strong and clients have reacted to these odors.
Q. What is the scientific name for black or toxic mold?
A. Stachybotrys chartarum. Stachybotrys is a genus of molds, or asexually reproducing, filamentous fungi. Closely related to the genus Memnoniella, most Stachybotrys species inhabit materials rich in cellulose. The genus has a widespread distribution, and contains about 50 species. The name comes the Greek words “stakhus” (ear of grain, stalk, stick; σταχυς) or “stachy” (progeny) and “botrus” (cluster or bunch as in grapes, trusses; βότρυς).
The most infamous species, S. chartarum (previously known as S. atra) and S. chlorohalonata are known as “black mold” or “toxic black mold” in the U.S. and are frequently associated with poor indoor air quality that arises after fungal growth on water-damaged building materials. Stachybotrys chartarum can cause respiratory damage and severe headaches. It frequently occurs in houses in regions that are chronically damp.
Q. Are all black molds toxic mold?
A. No, there are many other black molds.
Q. Can I tell if it is toxic mold by looking at it?
A. Only with a microscope.
Q. Why is toxic mold called toxic?
A. Sometimes the fungus releases a type of neurotoxin called Tricothecenes into the air.
Q. Do all of the toxic molds produce neurotoxins?
A. No, some do, some do not. Some research has shown that even with a very heavy infestation, toxins may not be released into the air. There are two different fungi that both look like toxic mold but genetically they are different. Currently, we do not know if they both produce the toxin or what causes the toxin to be produced although one hypothesis is that the fungus needs very high (70%) moisture levels and variable temperatures.
Q. Where does toxic mold grow?
A. It is most frequently found on sheet rock (the cardboard, not the gypsum) and particle board. It may grow on wood that has been constantly damp for months. It is normally found in the soil.
DOES MY HOUSE HAVE MOLD AND WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Q. How can I tell if my house has a problem with mold?
A. If you can see it, you have mold. If you can smell it, you have mold. But, some people cannot detect the smell of mold and you cannot always see it especially if it is growing in the walls or in the attic. Additionally, sometimes odors from chemicals are confused with mold.
Q. Will ultra violet light kill fungal spores?
A. If a spore is exposed to UV for several hours, maybe. If it has a very dark, thick wall, probably not. Anything that can survive in the stratosphere is very tolerant of UV exposure.
Q. There is mold growing on the insulation, but it is covered by the plastic vapor barrier. Can it get out?
A. The spores are microscopic and thus can get out. The odors the fungi produce are not stopped by the barrier unless it is air tight. If there has been any condensation between the vapor barrier and the wall or between the two vapor barriers, then the conditions are perfect for the molds to thrive.
Q. Is there a best way to test for mold?
A. There are several methods, one method may be preferred to another, depending upon the circumstances. There are no national standards or state regulations. You need to be sure that the individual performing the tests is well qualified and understands fungi. The Mycological Society of America has published concerns about the lack of standards.