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MOLD – TOXIC MOLD – MILDEW- FUNGUS – SPORES

ARE THEY ALL THE SAME THING?

Lets clear up the air on some common toxic mold inspection terms such as mold, mildew, fungus, toxic mold, and spores. Lets start with fungus



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WHAT IS FUNGUS
Fungal organisms are similar to bacteria and plants in many ways. For example, like plants, fungi grow for the most part slowly and motionless attached to substrates. Like plants fungi produce root like structures called hyphae, these are structures that superficially resemble plant roots, and like roots hyphae absorb moisture and nutrients from the surrounding substrate. Thus in some very basic ways both fungi and plants grow in a similar manner.

In addition fungi release spores into the air in order to reproduce. Many bacteria can under harsh conditions, form protective enclosures around themselves and become dormant. When this happens the bacteria is said to have formed a spore. When the environment is more favorable then the bacteria come out of this protective covering and starts feeding and reproducing once again. Thus both bacterial and fungi both produce spore like structures. However fungi are neither plants, nor bacteria. They are in their own kingdom that contain one hundred thousand known species, this is the Fungi Kingdom.

MILDEW AND MOLD ARE THEY THE SAME THING

The words mold and mildew are used interchangeably by most people.
However few people besides farmers and mycologists ( mold scientists) know the true meaning of the term mildew. In more accurate and scientific terms, mildew are a specific fungal group that form a powdery growth that infect plants, two main groups of mildew exists, powdery mildew, and downey mildew. Mildew cases severe costly crop and tree damage and have had a serious negative impact on mans attempts to cultivate plants for his personal use.
The term mold is used to describe a specific group of many fungi that form fuzzy growths and release spores. You might need a magnifying glass, or a microscope to see the fuzz, mold may look powdery or look like a scuff mark however molds are fuzzy because of the root like structures called hyphae. Unlike mildew that infect mostly plants, molds are found growing on a wide variety of substrates. In conclusion molds and mildew are pretty much the same thing, but mildew grow mostly as plant diseases while molds grow just about everywhere included in water damaged buildings.

MILDEW – THE REAL ESTATE AGENTS PREFERRED WORD FOR MOLD
Mildew is also a meaningless term used as a euphemism for mold. In other words when someone sees mold growing in a home and wants to believe that it is not a mold problem, then that person will not call the growth mold, but will very often choose to call it mildew. In the United States this is a very common practice among real estate agents and landlords who do not want to scare off potential home buyers and renters. It is especially common for people to refer to mold as mildew when it is powdery in appearance and appears to wipe off of surfaces easily, example: ‘see mr mold inspector, see mr home inspector, see buyer, this is not mold at all, it is mildew because it wiped off on my hand when I rubbed it. Now lets throw some bleach on it and get on with the sale of this house. However this is still mold, it is not the farmers powdery mildew infecting and killing crops, it is not completely harmless, and though it may appear to wipe off, this common household mold is in almost every case one of several species of common xerophyllic Penicillium / Aspergillius mold and it will usually grow back and can and often does grow into serious mold problems if the humid stagnant air conditions that enable it to grow are not corrected.

TOXIC MOLDS

When conducting Florida toxic mold testing we are asked about toxic mold. Molds that produce toxins are known as toxic molds and the toxins they produce are called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are chemical weapons used by toxic mold in microbial warfare to help in the competition against bacteria and other microbes. All living things need a little space and food in order to live well. By producing toxins mold can kill off other molds, bacteria, and microbes, that would otherwise out compete them in the struggle to find a little space to grow on a suitable wet surface.

TOXIC BLACK MOLD

Most people fear and think of Stachybotrys when they think of toxic mold testing in the home. Stachybotrys also know as toxic black mold or black mold is just one of many toxin producers. Though some versions of the New York City Dept of Health mold removal guidelines mentions about one half dozen different toxic molds, Stachybotrys mold is the most well known toxic mold because of several reasons.

1) The most obvious reason is because it is probably one of the most common toxic molds found growing indoors.
Though some Pen Asp molds can also produce toxins, it is often never determined if the Pen Asp species growing in a moldy home are the toxic ones or not.

2) The news media and court system helped create a frenzy of attention in regard to toxic black mold or Stachybotrys. Starting in the late 1990′s with very serious toxic black mold problems in a 22 bedroom mansion owned by Melinda Ballard in or near Austin Springs Texas.

3) Dozens of younth suffering from bleeding of the lungs and later dying after flooding occurred in the midwest in the 1990′s. initially this was blamed on toxic mold, later studies appeared to indicate other factors were likely involved.

4) Adding fuel to the concerns over stachybotrys is the case of horse and human exposure to Stachybotrys mold that resulted in toxic reactions in the Ukraine in the 1920′s. This case is well documented.

5) Stachybotrys produces some of the most powerful mold toxins known.

Mycotoxins have been reported to cause symptoms such as sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, flu symptoms,hair loss, fatigue, general malaise (tiredness), itching skin, and depression.” (Jarvis, 1995 and Croft et al, 1986, ). “Other reported symptoms includes skin rashes, lesions of the gastrointestinal tract and skin as well as interference with blood formation.” (Sorenson 1993).

More recently doubt has grown as to if typical home, office, and other normal toxic mold exposure levels are ever elevated enough to cause any toxic exposure effect at all. Effects of mold mycotoxins on humans and animals resulting in severe illness or even death have been well documented in scientific literature. However such undeniable proven toxic effects from mold have typically been by way of eating foods that were contaminated by toxic mold. The horses mentioned above in the Ukraine, many of them suffered severely from toxic stachybotrys mold exposure, but they did not just breath the spores in, they also ate hay contaminated with Stachybotrys also known as toxic black mold.

SPORES

Most fungi typically reproduce by releasing spores. Fungal organisms or molds that grow indoors typically release spores that are about 3 to 15 microns across roughly and best seen under 1000X magnification. Some mold spores can be up to a few hundred microns, however even these are typically only a few microns across. Chemicals such as mycotoxins as well as allergens typically are found in greater concentrations in the molds spores. Such spores can be found in live or dead spores.

 

MOLD SPORES AND FRACTAL THEORY GROWTH PATTERNS

The following has nothing to do with mold inspections and might seem a bit different than anything you have ever read about mold, but the internet is the place for posting information that someone might find interesting, helpful, and even a bit strange so here we go.

It is very interesting that some of these tiny spores resemble objects in the macroscopic (normal size world). Like natural phenomena and natural growing objects in the normal size world that are influenced by some fractal theory growth pattern forces, mold spores take on familiar growth patterns. They seem to succumbed to these same mathematical fractal laws of physics, and as a result their shapes and patterns copy natural reoccurring patterns that we see with our own necked eyes. This does not appear to be the result of convergent evolution (whales looking like fish because they live in the same environment.)  Why is it not convergent evolution? because spores are not subject to the same exact natural selection forces that drive change in larger organisms adaptive features in the same exact environments. For example mold spore may live in water next to a snail, but because of small size, spores do not interact with the environment in the same way thus might as well be in their own little distinct evolutionary world far from that of fish and snails.

Some familiar spore shapes that you already know are:

Helicoma spores, they looks like a snail shells.

pestalotiopsis looks like small insects

Nigrospora looks like a buckeye from a buckeye tree

Cladosporium mold looks exactly like a cactus without spines

Aspergillus niger spores looks a sea urchin test (sea urchin shell with the spines missing)

Stachybotrys spores looks like rat feces

Cercospora looks like a tapeworm

Circinotrichum a coiled tendril from a vine such as a wild grape vine or bean plant tendril

Leptosphaeria like a maggot

Aspergillus like tiny bubbles

Penicillium like tiny bubbles

Basidiomycetes look like tiny seeds especially like sesame seeds.

 

 

  See stachybotrys / toxic black mold photos below.

 

stachybotrys toxic black mold testing discovered on a wall in Lake Worth Florida

near perfect typical toxic black mold or stachybotrys growth

Note dark black patches of stachybotrys on the bottom and left side of this wall at a hurricane damaged property we inspected in Greenacers Florida. Also on this wall was cheatomium and pen asp.

This photo from Aerotech Laboratories of stachybotrys mold (aka toxic black mold) growing on wall paper is a perfect    example of how this type of mold very often grows as concentric circles (a circle within a circle within a circle etc.)

 

 

more stachybotrys or toxic black mold in a bank in north florida photo by our mold testing service toxic black mold in florida bank wall inspected by our mold firm

Behind the insulation of the perimeter walls of this 4 story Florida building, large amounts of stachybotrys mold was growing. Mold coverage was over 90% of the total area of all the perimeter walls. Everywhere that I removed insulation stachybotrys was found, virtually no other mold was growing in the building.

The leaks that caused the mold was due to a delay in roof completion during construction. At the time of inspection this building was still under construction.

 

stachybotrys spores toxic black mold in the lab
Stachybotrys spores under the microscope. Both the allergenic and toxigenic components of molds are found in their highest concentrations in the spores. Note how the spores are all clumped together. This is because some molds such as fusarium and stachybotrys are slimy spore producers. The slimy spores they produce stay together till disturbed by physical agitation. In nature this may be rain drops hitting the mold, in homes it may be from a person trying to remove the mold. In this photo you can see how stachybotrys mold growing in a petri dish looks very different that the same species of mold growing in your home.

 

 

Recommended Reference Materials For Additional Information

1) Bioaerosols Assessments and Controls, Janet Macher

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, Cincinnati, Ohio (1999)  

2) Damp Indoor Spaces and Health (2004)

Board of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Institute of Medicine.

 

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We provide Florida toxic mold testing, Fl black mold inspection by a certified mold inspector. Suspect problems with toxic black mold or stachybotrys ? Need help, advice, or facts? We have Stachybotrys photos and information. The above photos are from some of our own inspections, the report is written by our inspector. We have the knowledge and experience to help with mold problems.

 


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