MOLD – Overview – A particular type of fungus in the Fungi Kingdom.
Mold, or Fungi, has received much attention in the past decade or two from the various media sources. Phrases such as “black mold” and “toxic mold” have cluttered the internet and air waves with various definitions and levels of concern to the public. Environmental Analytics has put together a simple, accurate, up-to-date “punch list” of mold and what you should know and how it can affect you, giving you a grounded perspective on this thing called mold.
Mold (fungus): Molds, mildews, yeasts, mushrooms, and puffballs, a group of organisms lacking in chlorophyll (i.e. are not photosynthetic) and which are usually non-mobile, filamentous, and multicellular. Some grow in soil, others attach themselves to decaying trees and other plants whence they obtain nutrients. Some are pathogens, others stabilize sewage and digest composted waste1. Few places exist on earth that are completely “fungus free”.
Mold is a natural constituent of the environment, a major player that helps shape the very environment you live in. Without mold, many things, including you, would be significantly affected. The main responsibility of fungi existence is to recycle carbon. One of the most basic elements, carbon, is the “makeup” of virtually everything that exists today and in the past. At the most raw and basic stages of develop, whether it be animal, plant or thing, carbon is and was a significant material used. You are made from carbon, your chair is made from carbon, the trees outside are made of carbon.
Fungi helps to break down the environment, bio-degrading leaves, grass, wood, paper, cardboard, and other cellulose products that would otherwise not rot away.
Fungi is also important in the medical fields. Some of most effective antibiotics, penicillin, cephalosporin and griseofulvin, are produced by common fungi2. In general, fungi plays an important role in our eco-system.
Health Affects – While fungi serves to help the environment, it can also interact with the human population in adverse ways. For one, fungi is known to be an important agent of human disease. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has offered the following information regarding mold and associated health affects:
(Following information obtained from: http://www.epa.gov/mold/append_b.html)
Health Effects and Symptoms Associated with Mold Exposure – When moisture problems occur and mold growth results, building occupants may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure.
All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that may cause reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual’s exposure, the ages of the individuals, and their existing sensitivities or allergies.
Potential Health Effects Associated with Inhalation Exposure to Molds and Mycotoxins – Allergic Reactions (e.g., rhinitis and dermatitis or skin rash); Asthma; Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis; Other Immunologic Effects
Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. This list is not intended to be all-inclusive.
The health effects listed above are well documented in humans. Evidence for other health effects in humans is less substantial and is primarily based on case reports or occupational studies.
Specific reactions to mold growth can include the following:
- Allergic Reactions – Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions to mold are common – these reactions can be immediate or delayed. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Mold spores and fragments can produce allergic reactions in sensitive individuals regardless of whether the mold is dead or alive. Repeated or single exposure to mold or mold spores may cause previously non-sensitive individuals to become sensitive. Repeated exposure has the potential to increase sensitivity.
- Asthma – Molds can trigger asthma attacks in persons who are allergic (sensitized) to molds. The irritants produced by molds may also worsen asthma in non-allergic (non-sensitized) people.
- Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis – Hypersensitivity pneumonitis may develop following either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) exposure to molds. The disease resembles bacterial pneumonia and is uncommon.
- Irritant Effects – Mold exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and sometimes can create a burning sensation in these areas.
- Opportunistic Infections – People with weakened immune systems (i.e., immune-compromised or immune-suppressed individuals) may be more vulnerable to infections by molds (as well as more vulnerable than healthy persons to mold toxins). Aspergillus fumigatus, for example, has been known to infect the lungs of immune-compromised individuals. These individuals inhale the mold spores which then start growing in their lungs. Trichoderma has also been known to infect immune-compromised children. Healthy individuals are usually not vulnerable to opportunistic infections from airborne mold exposure. However, molds can cause common skin diseases, such as athlete’s foot, as well as other infections such as yeast infections.
FOR MORE INFORMATION RELATING TO HEALTH AFFECTS VISIT: http://www.epa.gov/mold/append_b.html
Ten things you should know about mold (reducing amplification and exposure)
(Following information obtained from: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldresources.html)
The EPA has come up with ten things you should know about mold to help minimize exposure and mold amplification:
- Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
- There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
- If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
- Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
- Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
- Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
- Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
- Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
- In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
- Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.
For more information regarding mold and what you can do to help prevent mold-problems in your home or office, call Environmental Analytics at 520.290.6653.
1-Referenced from: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/fungus
2-Referenced from: “Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control.” ACGIH, Kemper Woods Center. 1999.
BACTERIA – Overview – Bacteria is abundant in air, water, and soil: in and on animals; on plant surfaces; and on man-made surfaces both indoors and outdoors. Bacteria may become airborne from any of these natural reservoirs1.
Bacteria were the only form of life on earth for 2 billion years. They were first observed by Antony van Leeuwenhoek in the 17th cent.; bacteriology as an applied science began to develop in the late 19th cent. as a result of research in medicine and in fermentation processes, especially by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch 2.
Bacteria are remarkably adaptable to diverse environmental conditions: they are found in the bodies of all living organisms and on all parts of the earth-in land terrains and ocean depths, in arctic ice and glaciers, in hot springs, and even in the stratosphere. Our understanding of bacteria and their metabolic processes has been expanded by the discovery of species that can live only deep below the earth’s surface and by species that thrive without sunlight in the high temperature and pressure near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. There are more bacteria, as separate individuals, than any other type of organism; there can be as many as 2.5 billion bacteria in one gram of fertile soil2.
Characteristics – Bacteria are grouped in a number of different ways. Most bacteria are of one of three typical shapes-rod-shaped (bacillus), round (coccus, e.g., streptococcus), and spiral (spirillum). An additional group, vibrios, appear as incomplete spirals. The cytoplasm and plasma membrane of most bacterial cells are surrounded by a cell wall; further classification of bacteria is based on cell wall characteristics .They can also be characterized by their patterns of growth, such as the chains formed by streptococci. Many bacteria, chiefly the bacillus and spirillum forms, are motile, swimming about by whiplike movements of flagella; other bacteria have rigid rodlike protuberances called pili that serve as tethers2.
Some bacteria (those known as aerobic forms) can function metabolically only in the presence of free or atmospheric oxygen; others (anaerobic bacteria) cannot grow in the presence of free oxygen but obtain oxygen from compounds. Facultative anaerobes can grow with or without free oxygen; obligate anaerobes are poisoned by oxygen2.
Nutrition – Most bacteria are heterotrophic, living off other organisms. Most of these are saprobes, bacteria that live off dead organic matter. The bacteria that cause disease are heterotrophic parasites. There are also many non-disease-causing bacterial parasites, many of which are helpful to their hosts. These include the “normal flora” of the human body.
Autotrophic bacteria manufacture their own food by the processes of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis (see autotroph). The photosynthetic bacteria include the green and purple bacteria and the cyanobacteria. Many of the thermophilic archaebacteria are chemosynthetic autotrophs2.
Beneficial Bacteria – Harmless and beneficial bacteria far outnumber harmful varieties. Because they are capable of producing so many enzymes necessary for the building up and breaking down of organic compounds, bacteria are employed extensively by humans-for soil enrichment with leguminous crops for preservation by pickling, for fermentation (as in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages, vinegar, and certain cheeses), for decomposition of organic wastes (in septic tanks, in some sewage disposal plants, and in agriculture for soil enrichment) and toxic wastes, and for curing tobacco, retting flax, and many other specialized processes. Bacteria frequently make good objects for genetic study: large populations grown in a short period of time facilitate detection of mutations, or rare variations 2.
Pathogenic Bacteria – Bacterial parasites that cause disease are called pathogens. Among bacterial plant diseases are leaf spot, fire blight, and wilts; animal diseases caused by bacteria include tuberculosis, cholera, syphilis, typhoid fever, and tetanus. Some bacteria attack the tissues directly; others produce poisonous substances called toxins. Natural defense against harmful bacteria is provided by antibodies. Certain bacterial diseases, e.g., tetanus, can be prevented by injection of antitoxin or of serum containing antibodies against specific bacterial antigens; immunity to some can be induced by vaccination; and certain specific bacterial parasites are killed by antibiotics.
New strains of more virulent bacterial pathogens, many of them resistant to antibiotics, have emerged in recent years. Many believe this to be due to the overuse of antibiotics, both in prescriptions for minor, self-limiting ailments and as growth enhancers in livestock; such overuse increases the likelihood of bacterial mutations. For example, a variant of the normally harmless Escherichia coli has caused serious illness and death in victims of food poisoning. See also drug resistance 2.
1-Referenced from: “Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control.” ACGIH, Kemper Woods Center. 1999.
2-Referenced from: “Bacteria.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 15 Sep. 2007. Reference.com http://www.reference.com/browse/columbia/bacteria.
For more information regarding bacteria and what you can do to help prevent bacteria-related problems in your home or office, call Environmental Analytics at 520.290.6653.