Cosmetic Black Mold on building framing - Daniel Friedman 04-11-01

Can Mold Make You Sick?
Fear of Mold - Mycophobia - Can Lead to Unnecessary Expense
     

  • FEAR of MOLD - MYCOPHOBIA - CONTENTS: public worry about "toxic black mold" and mold related illness: Can Mold Make You Sick? Comparing mold-related illness, or pathogenic mold exposure with mold related allergies and mold as an asthma trigger. Mycophobia - Can Lead to Unnecessary Expense. BBMS - Basketball Mold Syndrome: sudden attention to pre-existing clues in buildings. The normal pattern of rise and fall of public fear for most environmental hazards, real or imagined. Mold Allergies and Mold Exposure Impact on People with Mold Allergy or Asthma: common, can be serious
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about mold related illness, fear of mold, and serious versus harmless mold conditions in buildings.
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Fear of indoor mold & mold contamination: this article discusses mycophobia - fear of mold and its effects on individual health, stress, and expenses. We live in a sea of mold, and other stuff in the air we breathe, on cushions we sit on, clothes we wear, pools we swim-in, and so on. Most mold is not hurting anyone, and some of it makes us well when we're sick (Penicillium notatum, for example).

Nevertheless, a combination of mold allergies and asthma sensitivities of some individuals mean that the exposure of some individuals to mold in buildings can be quite serious. More details about mold related illness, building related illness, and what to do about mold in buildings can be read in the articles listed below.

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What is Mycophobia and What Causes Fear of Mold? When is Mold Fear Justified?

A healthy person walking through a room of moldy air is not likely to die or even get very sick from mold exposure. On the other hand, nearly 30 years of field and lab investigations of buildings with environmental illness and occupant health complaints has provided a wealth of less rigorous empirical data matching occupant complaints with indoor mold and allergens, particularly where there is chronic exposure to problematic mold.

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to mold related illness just as some do to allergies and many other health issues. Short term very high exposure to toxic mold (one client killed her dogs by tearing down moldy drywall), or for people who are particularly sensitive or vulnerable, protracted toxic or allergenic mold exposure, even at what we consider rather low levels, can be a serious problem. It's probably an overstatement by some experts who assert that "... there are no proven links between mold and illness."

Comparing the Appearance of Cosmetic Mold versus Potentially Harmful Mold

  • Cosmetic Black Mold on building framing - Daniel Friedman 04-11-01 Black mold on this building floor framing had so frightened the building owner that he had scheduled a $685,000. building demolition and re-framing project - an expense which was completely unnecessary.

    First, if this had been a problem mold it could have been cleaned from these framing surfaces.

    Second, our test showed that the scary-looking black mold on this framing was a member of the Ceratocystis/Ophistoma group of blue-stain fungi which often is found on framing lumber. This is only a cosmetic mold, which is not harmful to humans nor to the lumber.


  • Mold on basement laundry room wall - Daniel Friedman 04-11-01
    Black mold in the laundry room
    may look like this extensive case. In cases of large areas of visible mold, unless the mold proves to be only cosmetic mold, professional cleaning would be needed.





  • Mold on basement laundry room wall - Daniel Friedman 04-11-01 Black mold in this laundry room also required demolition. But although the visible mold was Stachybotrys chartarum and Cladosporium sphaerospermum and Ulocladium on these walls, the airborne and dust mold levels were dominated by Aspergillus sp. which was not so easy to see by visual inspection.

    The Aspergillus reservoir in this building was in the fiberglass insulation in several areas.


While large areas of problem mold indeed need proper cleanup, fear of mold (mycophobia) and in our opinion
the ENVIRO-SCARE - PUBLIC FEAR CYCLES which in some cases (such as the moldy framing shown at left) risks leading to price gouging of consumers.

Mold Allergies and Mold Exposure Impact on People with Mold Allergy or Asthma: common, can be serious

Kopf and Fillhart reported that the focus of indoor mold contamination investigation strategies, a procedure that usually focuses on water-intrusion-related molds in buildings and perceived health risks to occupants should consider re-focusing their attention to include mold as a cause of [or trigger for or contributor to] allergies. Both water intrusion-related mold species and [many] other mold species may be allergenic. [1]

In fact the authors agree that building occupant complaints of allergic reactions to buildings and the experience of asthma attacks in buildings are the instigators for mold investigations in many cases. 3 to 10 percent of people suffer from mold allergies [2] or from mold-related asthma attacks [4]. Interesting in Kopf/Fillhart's report is that they point out that

Reactions to mold, including water intrusion species considered to be the most dangerous, are limited to rhinitis or asthma in most individuals who are allergic.[3] ... Allergic individuals may respond to airborne spores of water intrusion species in a manner that is indistinguishable from other molds.

The authors continue to point out that individual health risks from mold exposure cannot be stated precisely from airborne mold levels, and they add that in some circumstances certain molds can produce high levels of mycotoxins. That is consistent with our own field and lab experience. The same fungus, growing on two different substrates, can behave quite differently.

The authors also note, and we agree emphatically, that [for these reasons] a building can have a water-intrusion mold problem even though its occupants are asymptomatic.

In our own experience as a field and laboratory investigator of indoor air quality & mold related health complaints there is no question that we have encountered

  • occasional individuals who were highly sensitive to very low levels of airborne Aspergillus sp. in homes, at less than 500 spores/M3 of air
  • occasional individual whose mold-exposure symptoms included skin irritation, hives-like response, particularly in homes where Stachybotrys chartarum was disturbed by demolition and sent airborne at high levels - a condition that is not normal for this sticky, large spore
  • individuals in whom a very severe asthma attack was triggered by mold exposure - this symptom has been observed to increase in severity and in sensitivity in individuals who are either chronically exposed to airborne mold of a variety of species at moderate but higher than outdoor levels, or who suffer one or more individual exposures to very high concentrations of indoor mold

More significantly, airborne levels of mold spores produced the same fungus, Aspergillus sp., for example, growing in the same building on the same surface, vary enormously from time to time as a function of

  • changes in the indoor environment such as in temperature and moisture level
  • mechanical disturbance such as during demolition or cleaning efforts, or by the operation of a building HVAC system, fans, or even local dehumidifiers or heaters.

Making a series of airborne mold level measurements in a college library basement where we observed a very large reservoir of mold growing on books that had been exposed to high moisture and some wet conditions, it was Aspergillus sp., not Stachybotrys chartarum (both were present) that became airborne at very high levels after a mold remediator placed multiple commercial dehumidifiers into the space. It was quite apparent that the Aspergillus colony responded to the drop in humidity by releasing its spores.

Because of these variations, and because of variations in spore trap use and procedures among individuals, we argue at AIRBORNE MOLD SPORE COUNT ACCURACY that reliance on air tests of spore levels, used alone to characterize mold exposure risk in a building is so unreliable as to be nonsensical in the case of apparently-negative mold test results.

What to Do About Mold and Other Indoor Environment Worries

  • Action:The Mold Action Guide - will help you discover if you have a costly mold problem or not.
  • BASKETBALL MOLD SYNDROME - BBMS - sudden attention to old clues in buildings makes them seem brand new to some observers
  • Mold Information Center: What to Do About Mold in Buildings, When and How to Inspect for Mold, Clean Up Mold, or Avoid Mold Problems
  • Enviroscare: Electric Power Lines, Electromagnetic Fields, Cancer Risk, & "Enviro-Scare"
  • FEAR-O-METER - how to translate levels of concern about building damage or hazard observations into action levels
  • Fiberglass building insulation and HVAC duct work insulation hazards
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Mold -- check this FAQ list to see if you can find a quick answer to your mold concern
  • Gas Sampling Plan for Residential Buildings lists a number of toxic indoor gases which we test for, depending on the building complaint and building conditions
  • Harmful mold:An Online Mold Atlas of Indoor Clinical Mold - Medical Health Effects of Specific Molds found in environmental or pathological samples
  • Harmful mold: clinical reference books for mold related illness
  • Harmful mold: Mold Classes & Classes of Mold-Related Illness - some simple categories
  • Illness,, Mold Related: Symptoms List both medical diagnoses and individual complaints
  • Investigators, professional mold: When do I need to hire a professional?
  • Looking for Mold: Mold Risk Levels in Buildings: Based on Visual Inspection.
  • Other environmental risks: Asbestos, carbon monoxide, electromagnetic fields, environmental illness, fiberglass, MCS - multiple chemical sensitivity, toxic gases, etc
  • Ozone Warnings - Use of Ozone as a "mold" remedy is ineffective and may be dangerous.
  • Pet control - if you can't say goodbye to your bird, cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster, tropical fish, then limit the areas they occupy and limit the airflow from that area to sleeping or other areas of the building, use allergenic bedding, eliminate wall-to-wall carpeting, improve housecleaning including use of a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner. For more details see our article Dog, Cat, and Other Animal Dander - Information for Asthmatics and Indoor Air Quality
  • Sewage and Septic backup contamination in buildings: inspection, testing, remediation, & references to expert sources
  • Bibliography of Extensive Mold and IAQ Technical References
  • Identifying Filamentous Fungi, A Clinical Laboratory Handbook, Guy St-Germain, Richard Summerbell, Star Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-89863-177-7
  • Fundamentals of Diagnostic Mycology, F. Fisher, N.Cook, W.B. Saunders, 1998, ISBN 0-7216-5006-6
  • Atlas of Clinical Fungi, 2nd Ed., G.S. de Hoog, J. Guarro, J. Gene & M.J. Figueras, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2000 ISBN 90-70351-43-9.

 

Continue reading at MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see MOLD RELATED ILLNESS SYMPTOMS

Also see the FEAR-O-METER a promotion theory to convert risk of hidden defects & hazards into action thresholds, for a discussion of how an accumulation of inspection evidence leads to a rational decision to perform invasive or desctructive inspection measures.

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FEAR of MOLD - MYCOPHOBIA at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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