Does my House have Mold and What should I do?

FUNGUS FACTS

Q. What is the difference between a mushroom, a toadstool, a mold, a mildew, and a fungus?

A. They are all fungi (singular = fungus). The study of fungi is called mycology.

Q. Where can I find fungi?

A. Everywhere, including the Arctic, Antarctic, tropics, deserts, woodlands, oceans, lakes, streams, in the air, in the soil, and even on the soot in chimneys.

Q. What is the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?

A. They are all mushrooms.

Q. Are there any useful fungi?

A. * Fungi are an essential part of the natural world. When they decay sheet rock they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do, decaying dead matter.

* All trees and most plants in the wild have a fungal symbiont that helps the tree to get extra nutrients and water, and protects the tree from root parasites.

* Penicillin and other antibiotics are produced by molds.

* Bread, wine, and beer are made with yeasts.

* Soy. tamari, and shoyu sauces are fermented with a species of Aspergillus, and cheeses such as Roquefort , Stilton, and Camembert are made special strains of Penicillium.

* Some of the wood decay fungi show promise in cancer treatment.

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, an attic was full of mold. One member of the family had no difficulty although the spore count was exceptionally high but a second family member had swollen eyes and various other problems and had been 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.

TOXIC MOLD

Q. What is the scientific name for Toxic Mold?

A. Stachybotrys chartarum.

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 if you have 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. Will toxic mold kill me?

A. * There is only one report of a death in the United States that is attributed to toxic mold and other researchers have questioned the protocols and conclusions.

* There are reports of farm animals dying as a result of eating hay that has been heavily infested with toxic mold.

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. And, sometimes odors from chemicals are confused with mold.

Q. Can my house be entirely mold free?

A. Molds are everywhere, all houses have a few.

Q. Does my ductwork need to be cleaned regularly to make sure there are no molds?

A. Health House of the American Lung Association says that ductwork only needs cleaning if there is a specific problem. If you use disposable filters, they recommend Filtrete. Their web site is www.healthhouse.org.

Q. Will ozone kill mold spores?

A. Spores can survive in the stratosphere where they are exposed to high ozone and UV levels. The ozone may help precipitate the spores to the ground, but it is doubtful that it will kill them. Check out the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/iedweb00/pubs/ozonegen.html

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, maybe 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 tiny and 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 good for the molds to grow.

Q. I have carpenter ants. Is that different from mold?

A. Both carpenter ants and wood rot fungi like damp wood. The ants may even bring in mold spores and they do make it easier for the fungi to grow in the wood. Never store firewood against the house.

Q. Is there a correct way to test for mold?

A. There are many methods; depending upon the circumstances one method may be preferred to another. There are no national standards and no state regulations. You need to be sure that the person performing the tests is well qualified and understands fungi. The Mycological Society of America has published concerns about the lack of standards.

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 research 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.

Q. Are all mold inspectors mycologists?

A. Most inspectors may have taken a short course or two, they receive training certification and are not professionally certified. A mycologist has spent many years studying the biochemistry, physiology, ecology, and genetics of fungi and most probably has a masters degree or a graduate school degree.