Environmental Safety Consultants (ESC) has been in the Indoor Air Quality field for thirty years and heard many myths concerning mold from clients, other assessors, and remediators. These mold myths have included the definition of mold, testing techniques, and remediation procedures. We will review some of the more notorious myths in this article.
Before delving into mold myths let’s begin with what mold is. It is not a plant or an animal. It is a microscopic organism that is in the fungi kingdom. Its official name is fungus (singular) or fungi (pleural). Included in that kingdom are mushrooms. Another myth is that you don’t have to worry about mildew. That is wrong because it can cause sneezing, coughing, and upper respiratory ailments (www.cdc.gov), just like mold can. From this point forward, we will use the term mold for mildew and mold.
Another myth is concluding no mold is present in the air or on surfaces because you can’t see it. Mold is microscopic until it forms layer upon layer of organisms (a colony) and becomes visible to the unaided eye. The spores in the air and the organisms on surfaces of building materials and contents are invisible until they are put under the microscope or grown out in the lab on nutrient agar plates – otherwise known as Petri dishes.
A very common myth is that as long as the “black toxic mold” is not present, I don’t have to worry. Ah, if life were so simple! Unfortunately, when you dig into the scientific literature, a lot of different types of mold (genuses or genera) can cause health problems for people. One example is Aspergillus, which can grow into a fungal ball in your lungs resulting in a debilitating disease known as aspergillosis.
Another myth is that mold is everywhere in Florida and you don’t have to worry about it if it grows in your residential or commercial building. True, mold is everywhere but when it becomes way more concentrated in your home, starts destroying your building materials, and you start having health problems which clear up when you leave the building, it is time to act. Oh, and by the way, it also does well in other climes whenever enough water is present.
The final myth is that remediation is supposed to eliminate all mold in the building. Not true. The objective is to return a mold infested building to normal mold conditions. Sterile, that is the total absence of mold is not realistic and is, certainly, not sustainable. As soon as the door is opened, the air conditioning or heating system kicks on, or mold spores are carried into the building on your shoes, the building is no longer sterile.
So there are a few of the mold myths that are out there. If you need any more information, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can assist. We have the credentials and experience to answer your questions and steer you in the right direction. We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with three Florida licensed Mold-Related Services Assessors, and a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org). We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away ([email protected]). Contact us today!