Types of Mold: Common Types of Mold That Cause Damage and Pose Health Risks in Your Home or Business
Mold is a general term that covers a wide variety of airborne fungus that occurs naturally all around us. Most types of mold aid in the decomposition of organic material like leaves, wood, and fruits and vegetables in the presence of moisture. Many building materials contain similar organic substances. For this reason, mold is likely to grow on carpeting, drywall, wood, fabric, upholstery, paper, cardboard, and other cellulose-based materials within your home. If those items remain wet for even just a few hours, it’s possible that mold can move in and thrive.
The Color of Mold
While there are thousands of species of mold, most of us try to define them by color. We often say I have black mold, green mold, or white mold. However, the color of the mold very rarely helps identify the type of mold.
The color of mold also doesn’t indicate if it’s harmful to your health. Some molds are more likely to appear as a single color or in a specific color family, like variations of black, green, or brown. However, it’s impossible to identify a type of mold by color alone.
In fact, most species of mold appear in many different colors ranging from white to black. Some of the most common mold colors include black, green, grey, blue, brown, red, orange, pink, and white.
Is Mold Toxic
“Toxic mold” and “toxic black mold” often strike fear and create panic, especially if you have mold in your home. Some molds produce mycotoxins. These so-called “toxic molds”. Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites. Certain molds produce them at various times in their life cycle. We still do not have a complete scientific understanding of mycotoxins, but they may help molds decompose organic matter.
There are several mycotoxins that affect humans and pets, including aflatoxin, citrinin, fumonisins, and ochratoxin. Symptoms of mycotoxin exposure vary by the specific mycotoxins involved. The age, health, gender, and length of exposure also impact the severity of the symptoms. Other factors like diet, vitamin deficiency, alcohol abuse, infections, and diseases may compound the effects of mycotoxin exposure.
Despite these mycotoxins, mold is not toxic in the same way as exposure to radiation, some pesticides, or other poisons. Doctors do not completely understand all of the health risks of mycotoxins. Still, they do know they are unlikely to cause sudden or severe symptoms in healthy individuals. If you have mold in your home, you should take steps to kill it and prevent it from returning. However, there is very little risk of spontaneous illness or sudden death.
How Mold Damages Your Property
Mold spores actually exist all around us, but they thrive in the presence of cellulose-based materials and moisture. Whether it’s a pile of damp leaves in a forest or section of wet drywall in your basement, mold from the air will land on those materials and begin to break down those substances. Leaves are significantly less complex than the gypsum material in drywall, but the end result is the same.
If not addressed, mold will completely decompose the material. This process leaves a dusty, dirt-like material behind. In nature, that mineral-rich substance mixes in with actual dirt and helps new plants grow.
In your home or business, it will slowly consume your walls, carpeting, or ceiling, leaving a mess behind. For this reason, it’s important to repair the source of moisture and clean mold as soon as possible. Mattresses and mattress dust are likely to contain a variety of mold species. Mold can grow quickly if the mattress remains wet. For this reason, it’s important to dry a wet mattress quickly.
Common Types of Mold Found in Your Home and Business
Certain molds are more likely to cause damage or pose a health risk than others. Since there are more than 100,000 species of mold, this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these are the most common types of mold you will find in your home or business.
Absidia commonly grows on carpeting, mattresses, potted plant soil, and bird droppings. Some species pose the risk of infection, especially to those with weak immune systems or intravenous drug users.
Acremonium will grow on fiberglass insulation, windowsills, carpeting, mattresses, drywall, and wallpaper. It grows in especially wet conditions, where cellulose-base materials remain constantly wet. It poses little risk to healthy individuals, but those with immune deficiencies may experience pulmonary infections and fungal infections of the nails or cornea.
Alternaria is a type of mold know for its large spores. It often grows on carpeting and other textiles, dust, plant soil, window frames, and in showers. It can cause an allergic reaction if it enters the mouth, nose, or upper respiratory tract. Symptoms vary from mild to severe depending on the individual.
A common component of dust, Aspergillus is common in warmer climates. This specific type of mold prefers wetter conditions with high levels of humidity. This includes compost piles, fall leaves, wet building materials, and areas with unresolved water damage. It can produce severe allergy symptoms or even disease in both humans and animals.
Aureobasidium is common in wet buildings, especially on wet walls and painted surfaces. It is also found behind wallpaper, on window frames, and in carpet and mattress dust. It may appear as pink, brown, or black. Due to Aureobasidium’s ability to cause infections of the nails, skin, and eyes, it should never be touched with bare skin.
Chaetomium is a common type of mold found in homes and buildings with water damage. It has a cotton-like texture and a musty odor. It often begins as a whiteish grey color, then gradually turns brown and later black. Chaetomium may cause nail and skin infections and is more dangerous to individuals with compromised immune systems.
Often called red bread mold, Chrysonilia is usually a component of carpet and mattress dust. While it often appears red or pinkish, it may also be brown, grey, or black. It can cause health risks to individuals after major surgery, as well as to intravenous drug users and those with corneal perforations or peritoneal or venous catheters.
Another common type of mold is Cladosporium. It commonly appears a dusty, powdery substance that appears from olive-green to brown and black. It is often found in HVAC systems and airways, as well as in carpeting, fabrics, wood, and other porous materials. Unlike many other molds, it can grow in cold temperatures. Cladosporium may cause nail fungus, asthma aggravation, as well as pulmonary issues and skin rashes or other irritations.
More common in subtropical and tropical regions, Curvularia is often found in floor and mattress dust, wallpaper, and painted wood. It can cause infections in humans, especially a fungal infection of the eye.
A common soil fungus, Emericella is typically found on wooden surfaces as well as in carpet and mattress dust. If inhaled, it can cause respiratory infections in individuals with weakened immune systems.
Epicoccum is a type of mold that often grows on canvas, wood, and occasionally stored foods. It is also found in carpet and mattress dust. If inhaled, it may cause respiratory issues for those with allergies, asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and weakened immune systems.
There are several strains of Eurotium that are commonly found as components to carpet and mattress dust as well as on damp drywall and other building materials. It may pose a risk of respiratory infections in individuals with weakened immune systems if inhaled.
Often found in very wet conditions, Fusarium may enter your home on the surface of fruits and vegetables likes tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, and pears. It often appears pink, white, or red and is common in compost piles rich in fruit and vegetable matter. Like Cladosporium, it can grow in colder temperatures. The most common symptoms of Fusarium exposure are allergic reactions, but fungal infections of the skin have been reported.
Geomyces is another common mold often found in both soil and the air. It is usually found in both carpet and mattress dust, damp walls and building materials, and on paper. While the potential health risks of exposure aren’t completely understood, Geomyces may cause superficial skin or nail infections.
Another common food spoilage mold, Geotrichum grows on bread, meat, and fruit as well as in sewage and contaminated water. The most common symptom of exposure is an allergic reaction. Individuals with immune deficiencies may experience more severe symptoms. Bronchial, skin, and nail infections are possible in some instances. While rare, there have been cases of pulmonary infections.
Common to plant debris and soil, Gliocladium usually grows on wet fabrics and carpeting within the home. Typically it is brown, grey, or black, but it may appear a variety of other colors as well. Like most types of mold, it causes mild to severe allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Symptoms are often the most severe in those prone to allergies.
Typically found growing on wet fabrics, paper, and wood, the health effects of exposure to Gliomastix are not well documented.
Memmoniella is another common type of mold, usually found in canvas, woolen fabrics, cotton, and hardboard. Similar to Stachybotrys, it produces similarly slimy heads but forms thread-link chains.
Commonly found in wet drywall and other types of gypsum board, it can pose a significant health risk to humans and animals. Symptoms include severe allergies, with the young, elderly, and those with chronic respiratory or immune issues prone to even more acute issues.
A common household mold, Mucor grows on soil, animal waste, plant surfaces, and in digestive systems. A fast-growing mold, Mucor species typically appear white, beige, or grey.
While most species of Mucor will not grow at body temperatures, a few strains may cause infections in the eyes, respiratory systems, skin, and, in extremely rare cases, the brain. Those with extensive burns, diabetes, and immune deficiencies, as well as intravenous drug users, are most likely to develop infections from Mucor exposure.
Myrothecium regularly grows on damp newspapers, books, and other papers as well as most non-synthetic fabrics. Like Gliocladium, it’s believed to cause allergic reactions like most types of mold. Those with allergies or respiratory issues may experience more severe symptoms.
Oidiodendron is one of the types of mold commonly found on wood and materials produced from wood pulp. Health risks associated with exposure to this mold are usually mild to severe allergic reactions.
Paecilomyces often grows on damp walls and plasterwork. It also a component of dust and can be found in both carpeting and HVAC systems. Paecilomyces is a known insect pathogen, so insects may help spread it throughout your home. Although rarely associated with illness in humans, it does grow on contact lenses. This can cause allergic reactions or infections of the eye or mucous membranes.
Penicillium is one of the most famous types of mold, having helped produce the antibiotic penicillin. A common food-spoilage mold, it also grows on leather, carpeting, drywall, mattresses, wallpaper, and upholstery.
Despite the relationship to penicillin, it can cause allergic reactions and other symptoms in some individuals. Some species may cause more severe symptoms in immunocompromised individuals.
Usually found on extremely wet or humid wood, like the wooden benches and boards used in many saunas. Phialophora can leave blue stains on untreated wood. This is not enough data to draw conclusions about its health risks. However, it causes allergic reactions like most molds.
Although Phoma causes plant diseases, it rarely poses a risk to humans. Individuals with weakened immune systems may experience allergy-like symptoms or, in rare cases, infections. Although found in dust, Phoma is more common on wet surfaces like walls, wood, and window frames. It also grows on paint, wallpaper, and in caulking.
Scopulariopsis is another type of mold found on wet building materials like drywall and wood. Some strains will also grow on fabrics and paper products. It may produce a garlic-like odor and appears blue, green, brown, grey, or black. Aside from allergic reactions, it may cause skin or nail infections.
In nature, Sistotrema often grows on wood. In buildings, it is most common on damp wood around windows and doors. Little is know about the potential health risk of Sistotrema. However, it may cause mild to severe allergic reactions in individuals with allergies, respiratory issues, or weakened immune systems like most molds.
Commonly called the deadliest and most dangerous type of mold, Stachybotrys is better known as black mold. While Stachybotrys does pose a health risk, they are often exaggerated.
Despite being linked to the death of infants in the early 1990s, scientists have been unable to definitively confirm black mold was the root cause of these deaths. Still, sensational news reports and opportunistic marketing has perpetuated these rumors. These reports and market often take advantage of the fact that many species of mold appear black and cause adverse health effects.
Stachybotrys commonly grows in soil and on cellulose-rich materials like grains, plant debris, hay, straw, wood pulp, paper, and cotton. In buildings, it will grow on walls, carpeting, wood, and paneling that remains wet for an extended period of time.
Known for its wool-like texture, Trichoderma is often white with green patches and is common in wet homes and buildings. Trichoderma is very destructive, causing significant rot to wallpaper, carpet, and other fabrics. Although linked to fungal infections of the heart and liver, the biggest health risk is persistent allergic reactions. Individuals with weakened immune systems are most at risk for symptoms.
Ulocladium is a type of mold that prefers extremely wet areas such as buildings with severe water damage. It is common in areas with high levels of humidity or condensation, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. It is usually black or dark brown, but it may also appear in other colors.
Individuals with immune disorders or allergies may experience severe allergic reactions, hay fever or asthma-like symptoms, or difficulty breathing. In rare cases, respiratory or skin infections have been reported. Due it’s color and symptoms, Ulocladium can be confused with Stachybotrys, also known as black mold.
Wallemia is food spoilage mold. Most common in agricultural environments, it often grows on textiles in wet homes and buildings. Allergic reactions remain the most common health risk. It may also cause farmer’s lung disease and skin and nail infections.
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