About Mold Allergies
When we refer to mold allergy, many patients question, "Just what is mold and where are specific molds found?" This informational sheet is intended to help our patients understand more about mold allergy. Molds are actually very small plants that grow both indoors as well as outdoors. Molds thrive in the presence of dampness and darkness. Molds typically occur on other plant or animal matter such as fruit, flour and leather. Air currents cause mold to circulate in the atmosphere as a dust also called spores. The two most commonly occurring outdoor molds area Alternaria and Cladosporium.
These mold spores are measurable in the spring months and peak in the fall. The most common indoor molds are: Penicillium, Aspergillus and Mucor, which are perennial or year round offenders. Indoor mild is commonly found in basements and crawl spaces as well as in furniture, bedding, and stuffed toys. Included for your information is a brief description of commonly occurring mid-western molds.
Alternaria - A common outdoor mold; however, may be found indoors on condensed window frames. May be found as a parasite on plants and plant materials. Found in dead decaying vegetables. May be responsible for the black spots on potatoes and tomatoes. Known habitats are soils, corn silage, rotten wood, composts, bird nests, and various forest plants.
Aspergillus - A common indoor mold found in damp, musty houses; on damp clothes as well as leather goods. Also found in damp hay and grain as well as soil, leaf and plant litter, decaying vegetable root, bird droppings, tobacco and stores of sweet potatoes. Commonly occurs on spoiled foods such as bacon, chicken, sausage as well as dried fruits as a bluish color and on onions as black mold. Aspergillus is a thermo tolerant mold - growing in a wide range of temperatures.
Cladosporium - This is the most frequently encountered mold in the air. Exists both indoors as well as outdoors; frequently found in unclean refrigerators, food and moist window frames. Often found in homes with poor ventilation and low lying, damp areas. Can be found on leather, rubber, cloth, and wood products as a brown mold. Also found in decaying vegetation, spoiled meat and tobacco.
Curvularia - A common plant mold. May cross react with Alternaria. Exists as a leaf mold. Commonly seen on cotton, rice, barley, wheat and corn plants.
Eppicocum - Common in uncooked fruit, decaying plants and vegetative materials. Often found on dying plants as black mold. It has been isolated from cereals, fruits, polluted fresh water, compost beds, insects and also human skin and septum. It is an important outside mold.
Fusarium - Commonly found in slime riverbeds, its widely distributed in grass and other plants. It is a common soil fungus. Often responsible for plant disease as a major parasite of rice, sugar cane, and sorghum especially on maize grains. It occurs in roots of fruits and vegetables, i.e. banana, tomato, and watermelon as well as other fruits and vegetables.
Helminthosporium - Most frequently isolated from grains, grasses, sugar cane, soil and textiles. Best known as parasite of cereals and grains. Occurs seasonally in hot weather readily distributed on dry, windy days.
Mucor - The dominating mold found in house dust is primarily an indoor mold. Common in old furniture, houses, barns, and barnyards. Can be found in soil, horse manure, plant remains, grains and vegetables. Often seen on soft fruit, fruit juice and marmalade. Appears as a grayish-white growth on the surface of meats.
Penicillium - Both an indoor/outdoor mold isolated from decaying vegetable products, in stored grains, cereals and hay and is a major ripening agent in Camembert and Roquefort cheeses. This is the bluegreen mold found on stale bread and fruits. This is a perennial offender, yet peak concentrations are found in the spring and winter months.
Pullaria - A primary invader of various leaves. The spores are deposited on the leave surfaces in the spring and begin decomposition in the fall as the leaf reaches senescence. Appears on surface layers of soil and also on wheat seeds, barley, oats, tomato and pecans. Indoors is found in the kitchen and bathroom areas and may cause damage to painted surfaces.
THE DOWN AND DIRTY ON MOLD: A QUICK CHECKLIST
Molds are microscopic fungi that reproduce by sending tiny seeds, called spores, into the air. There are hundreds of thousands of types of molds that exist indoors and outdoors. Molds like dark, damp and warm environments to grow in and can grow on ANYTHING. Molds are also known as yeast, mushrooms and mildew. Molds are affected by weather conditions such as wind, rain, or temperature. Outdoor mold spores begin to appear in early spring and reach their peak in July, August, and September.
REMEMBER...MUSTY SMELL = MOLD
Where is mold most likely to be in your home?
- laundry room
- cellars, basements, or attics
- window sills
- air conditioner
- mattresses and foam rubber pillows
- old books or stacks of newspapers or magazines
- dishwasher drain
- pets - bird droppings or litter boxes
- history of leaking plumbing, leaky roof, flood damage, water leaks, sewer backups
Where is mold most likely to be outside?
- gardens, soil and compost piles
- on leaves, grass, hay, straw and weeds
- tree bark or rotting wood
- shady areas with heavy vegetation
Mold Avoidance Tips
- Wash clothes in hot water. Therefore, try not to buy clothes that need to be washed in cold water.
- Do laundry often. Don't let dirty laundry pile up. Wash towels daily.
- bleach around windows
- avoid fruit bowl, keep fruit in the refrigerator instead
- organic fruit is more likely to mold quicker than non-organic produce
- dark spots on hard wood floors can mean mold, which can occur from exposure to moisture from a leak within the walls
- check wood bark for mold if bringing in to use for wood burning stove or fireplace
- going out after a rainstorm can increase your exposure to mold, mold spores usually peak 2 hours after the rain (during this time Stay Inside)
- Don't cut grass, if you have to wear a mask
- Don't rake leaves or if you have to wear a mask
- keep your windows closed when traveling
- empty the water in humidifiers daily and wash unit regularly
- don't hang sheets out to dry - mold can collect in them
- use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchen when cooking to absorb steam
- any suspicious areas should be cleaned and sprayed with 1/2 cup of bleach to one gallon of water
- install a high-performance electrostatic filter in your central air conditioning and heating system to trap mold spores and inhibit mold
- if you have areas that have poor ventilation consider purchasing a dehumidifier - mold likes to grow in humidity greater than 50%
- invest in a hygrometer, which is an inexpensive device used to measure the humidity and monitor indoor level
- avoid kicking or stepping on mushrooms, this can cause a release of sprores from under the caps
- outdoor molds peak in the early morning and evening hours when the temperature drops at sunset - stay inside during these times and on windy days
- keep compost piles far away from the house
- mold grows in real Christmas trees, trees are cut and packed in the presence of snow and frost, with warming in the home this provides the humidity that allows for prolific, mold growth
- consider the addition of air purifiers for multiple rooms
- wash curtains regularly, replace old plumbing and leaky drains or do a regular inspection for leaks
- if you are going to paint basements, cellars, etc. use paint with a mold inhibitor or add a mold inhibitor to standard paint for use in bathrooms
- use chemical moisture removers in closets
- never put damp clothing in closets or drawers
MOLD PREVENTION AND DETECTION EQUIPMENT
- air purifiers (HEPA filters)
- Electrostatic filters
- chemical moisture removers
- hygrometer (measures humidity levels)
All of the above can be found at local "do it yourself" shopping centers.