What are mold and mildew? Both mold and mildew are fungi that grow on moist and humid areas such as the bathroom, basements and kitchen. Both are reproduced by air-borne spores that quickly develop into a mold colony in 24 or 48 hours in areas that are continually wet.
Mold versus Mildew
Sometimes it’s hard to tell mold and mildew apart. Molds can appear black, red, green or blue but mildew is dull white or gray. Molds are usually found in food. Mildew develops in fabrics, showers and papers. Mildew are seen on damp clothes or fabrics as powdery or velvety that looks like sugar-crystal shapes with dull white or gray color. The two can be referred to interchangeably. However when discussing about the characteristics, health risks and control of mold and mildew, mold control experts refer to both as generally mold.
Spotting Mold or Mildew Growth
The three conditions for mold and mildew to grow are moisture, temperature and nutrient. When it’s hard to know where mold and mildew might be growing, be guided by the following:
- Mold and mildew can be unsightly when they begin to infest homes and spread through the walls, ceiling, furniture, carpets, curtains and found in other areas in the house with water leaking such as the bathroom and kitchen sink . Mold spores can grow fast when they fall on damp and porous materials.
- Because mold spores are microscopic they appear visible to the eyes when they have digested the nutrient source and have grown into a mold colony.
- You can also tell the presence of molds by your sense of smell. Wet carpet eliminates a musty odor that tells you of mold growing under it.
- Molds grow in humid environment that’s usually 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Areas with relative humidity of more than 60 or 70 % can be dehumidified to control mold growth. The kitchen is mostly hot for a long time; this is one area where molds usually breed fast.
- Rotting food or even food in the fridge can be a nutrient source for mold spores to propagate. Fruits and vegetables left at room temperature must be checked if they are already rotten, and must be thrown immediately to the garbage bin. Left-over foods stored in the fridge for a long time can also be a breeding place for food molds even when the temperature is cool. Dispose garbage immediately to prevent mold growth problem.
Health Risks of Mold Infestation
Molds, like the toxic black mold variety of Stachybotrys, can affect health when people are constantly exposed to mold particles for a long time. People with allergies and pulmonary disorders are easily irritated by mycotoxins. They are toxic substances produced by fungi such as molds. These mycotoxins can spur allergic reactions, diseases and even death when the toxin level is intolerable. Some reported health problems associated with mold and mildew in homes and offices include:
- Upper and lower respiratory problems such as cough, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, nose and throat irritation such as sinusitis and hay fever symptoms
- Eye irritation characterized by watery, red and burning sensation in the eye area
- Skin irritation such as contact dermatitis or rashes
- Common skin diseases like athlete’s foot, and other infections such as yeast infections
- Headache and fatigue
People with weak immune system or those classified as immune-compromised or immune-suppressed individuals are highly vulnerable to mold infection. A condition called aspergillosis of the lungs has affected immune-compromised individuals when they inhaled mold spores and these spores began growing in their lungs. Infants were reported to have died from pulmonary hemorrhage. It was found out that Stachybotrys mold spores were attached to their lungs.
Mold and mildew are part of the natural food cycle and they can never be eradicated. But because indoor molds are threats to one’s health and property, it is best to control mold when they start growing in your homes and offices.