Molds (also spelt as moulds) are a variety of fungi that are found growing on organic substances. They usually breed in filaments and replicate by forming spores which are capable of travelling via the air. In fact, the word mildew denotes a variety of types of molds, especially molds that grow in the home having white or greyish color. This term also refers to molds that grow in bathrooms and shower stalls. Molds can be found both indoors and outdoors and they flourish in humid, warm and damp conditions. Moulds essentially exist in any season or environment.

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Molds do not undertake photosynthesis for producing their food. In its place, they obtain their food directly from their environment. Molds are found in a variety of colors - for instance the common green that is seen covering bread or fruits, which is actually the reproductive part of fungi. These green colored substances are the fungal correspondent of flowers and fruits. The primary part of fungi comprises a thin and transparent network of filaments which are called hyphae. The hyphae are not much visible.

The most widespread variety of molds that are found indoors includes Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria and Cladosporium. Another type of mold that is found in homes, although not as widespread as the above named molds, has a greenish-black color is Stachybotrys chartarum (also called Stachybotrys atra and often mentioned as "black mold"). These black molds grow on surfaces of household items having high content of cellulose, for instance paper, wood, gypsum board, wood, lint and even dust. In addition, some molds are also capable of growing on a variety of substances, including foods as well as carpets.

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Molds that grow outdoors often play an important role in the rotting or decomposition of organic substances like compost, dead trees and leaves. These molds are commonly found in damp and dark places or in places where plants start decomposing. Often people find molds growing indoors in places such as shower stalls or basements. It is worth mentioning here that molds that grow indoors in residential areas can be dangerous and be responsible for health issues. Moreover, they also have the capability to obliterate the objects and surfaces, on which they grow.

While molds can prove to be botheration and can even be hazardous for our health on occasions, they are also useful in a number of ways. These fungi are necessary for decomposition of organic matter that is dead in the natural environment. In fact, molds are an excellent source of drugs and antibiotics. In addition, they are also utilized in production of a number of foods.

For millions of years, humans have co-existed with molds. However, in the present day domestic environment they are capable of causing various problems. The black molds that are usually found on bathroom walls are ugly and can even harm the structure. Moreover, when large number of spores is airborne, they may result in various unwanted symptoms. In fact, some people have allergic reactions when they come in contact with molds and such people may suffer from eye irritation, sneezing and even skin rashes. The problems may be more severe for people who are already suffering from asthma. Their breathing problems may increase greatly due to the airborne spores.

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It may seem unbelievable, but the atmosphere always has numerous mold spores and you cannot do anything to get rid of them. Nevertheless, these mold spores are not a direct threat to our health when they are present in low concentration in the air outdoors. On the other hand, when the spores are produced in large numbers indoors, especially in an enclosed area, they may cause serious health problems.

Generally, mold spores are able to survive in extreme conditions, but they need moisture as well as some amount of heat to thrive. In fact, humid and dark places in the home are perfect settings for them to grow, particularly when the air circulation is poor and they get very less natural light. This is the reason why you commonly find them growing in basements, bathrooms and attics. When these airborne spores land on a damp surface indoors, they are capable of germinating and form molds that can multiply and even travel rapidly.

In case a homeowner is finding it difficult to deal with molds in his home, it is advisable that he/she should spend some money on face masks and avoid inhaling the harmful spores or, for that matter, any particle that may cause health problems. Ideally, they should use a surgical mask or wear the type of mask used by carpenters to avoid inhaling mold spores. The carpenter’s mask, which prevents dust from entering the respiratory system, is effective against mold spores too. At the same time, they need to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants for proper protection against mold spores.

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However, there are a number of ways to get rid of molds from your home. You can scrub the area affected by molds with detergent and warm water and allow the place to dry. In addition, you can also disinfect the area using a solution prepared by adding one-fourth cup (roughly 60 millilitres) of bleach 3.8 litres to one gallon (about 3.8 litres) of water. You can repeat the disinfection process a few times to make sure that most of the molds, if not all, have been done away with. Apart from this, various products are available commercially to help you eliminate molds from your home. These products are generally sprayed on the areas where you find presence of molds.

However, if you want to eliminate the molds permanently, you will need to get rid of the source of dampness. Dampness occurs due to high humidity. Therefore, the common damp places in your home are bathrooms and sometimes the kitchens. These places have a high humidity owing to hanging damp clothes indoors to dry them. Quite normally, these are the places where you will also find molds.

You may be able to get rid of dampness indoors by using air conditioning, dehumidifiers, enhancing ventilation and also dry your clothes outdoors whenever possible. If it is practical, you may also use a tumble drier. Dampness may occur in other places of your home too, for instance leaking pipes, leaking roof and/ or seepage from the sodden ground. If you want to remove the dampness from these places you will require professional help.

Some mold species produce toxins and they have been found to be very effective in killing bacteria. Scientists have utilized this discovery to develop antibiotics. The maiden antibiotic prepared from molds is penicillin. This was in the year 1928. Penicillin is a major development in the field of medical science as it helped to transform treatment of various infectious diseases. Scientists, however, did not stop after preparing penicillin, as many other compounds that are of medical value were obtained from molds after this.

Different types of mold

However, it is unfortunate that all types of molds are not same. Some are also harmful for us. The various types of molds can be divided into three major groups and they include allergenic, pathogenic, and toxigenic molds.

Allergenic molds: These molds are considered to be least damaging among all types of molds. Nevertheless, they can be problematic for people who have asthma or have allergic reactions to molds. Generally, allergenic molds are not life threatening.

Pathogenic mold: As the name suggests, this type of molds is usually harmful and causes several symptoms. Pathogenic molds not only cause harm to people suffering from asthma, but also to healthy people. For instance, this variety of mold can be responsible for hypersensitivity pneumonitis - a severe response that has similarity with bacterial pneumonia.

Toxigenic mold: These moulds are really very harmful and can be responsible for a number of serious health problems. The health problems caused by toxigenic molds can be temporary (such as cough or eye irritation) as well permanent (for instance, immunological disorders and even cancer in some cases). Toxigenic molds generate mycotoxins - which is a toxic compound found within or on the surface of the spores of these molds. The problems are caused when you inhale, touch or ingest the spores in some way or the other.

What are symptoms and signs of mold exposure?

Molds generate substances that cause irritation and they may work as an allergen (a substance that causes allergies), especially in sensitive people. Moreover, some types of molds create toxic substances that are known as mycotoxin. However, the mold itself is not noxious or poisonous. Hence, the term "toxic mold" denotes that specific types of molds are able to produce mycotoxins. Scientists are, however, yet to ascertain the conditions that kindle the molds to produce toxins. On the other hand, the mere presence of any type of mold, even those that can produce toxic substances, does not always mean that they are producing toxins or they pose a health hazard to us. Sometimes presence of molds does not necessarily pose any threat to our health. Then again, at times they may be responsible for allergic reactions or various other symptoms in individuals, both children and adults, who are very sensitive to molds.

The most common health problems caused by molds are allergic reactions and, hence, it is considered to be the major health hazard of inhaling, touching or ingesting mold spores. Such allergic reactions may occur immediately after exposure to molds and sometimes after a period of the exposure. Growing molds as well as the spores of molds may cause allergic reactions. When you are exposed to molds and have allergic reactions you may experience a number of symptoms, including runny nose, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, wheezing, redness of the eyes, itching eyes and even skin rash or skin irritation.

People who are already suffering from asthma should be additionally cautious so that they are not exposed to molds or mold spores as both may be responsible for asthma attacks. Even people who are mildly allergic to molds should adopt necessary precautions. Molds can cause various symptoms like skin irritation, irritation of the eyes and airways even in people who are not allergic. For instance, Stachybotrys or "black molds" along with a number of other mold varieties, generate toxic substances known as mycotoxins, which are capable of causing skin and airways irritation in susceptible people.

There are times when individuals may suffer from acute reactions after being exposed to molds or mold spores. However, symptoms of acute allergic reactions are rather not common. These symptoms usually include fever and breathing problems. People suffering from chronic lung ailments and individuals having a compromised immune system can easily develop serious infections when they are exposed to molds or mold spores.

The degree of ruthlessness of the health problems related to molds at one's home is never possible to predict. Even people who are allergic differ in degree of their vulnerability to molds and mold spores. Moreover, the symptoms as well as the health hazards are subject to the precise type of molds and the extent of the molds' presence.

According to a report of the Institute of Medicine, there is adequate evidence to relate exposure to molds indoors to cough, wheezing and the symptoms in the upper respiratory tract even in people who are healthy otherwise. However, the report clearly stated that exposure to molds does not result in health issues such as asthma, bronchitis and any other type of respiratory problem. On the other hand, exposure to molds or mold spores aggravates the symptoms of asthma in individuals who are already suffering from asthma.

The report further stated that brief as well as protracted exposure to molds was associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in people, especially those who are vulnerable to this immunologic condition. This is a rare health condition that has similarity with pneumonia. Susceptible individuals can be affected by this health condition after even after brief or protracted exposure to molds and mold spores. However, the report did not offer any decisive evidence to substantiate this kind of relationship.


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