Mold spores are tiny structures produced by molds for reproduction purposes. They are so small that we can hardly see some of them even when magnified 400 times. One cubic meter of outdoor air may contain as many as 1,000,000 spores. The volume of air we inhale at rest is estimated at 10 litres per minute. Therefore, in an hour we inhale close to 600,000 spores. The air in some working environments including moldy buildings may contain up to 1,000,000,000 spores per cubic meter of air.
In indoor environments molds grow on moist surfaces such as the drywall, wallpaper, carpet, baseboards, and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVACs). As these molds grow, a stage is reached when they produce spores. The spores become airborne after drying out or if disturbed.
Why airborne spores be dangerous to our health.
About 20% of the population is allergic to mold spores. Apart from being allergenic, spores of some mold species such as Stachybotrys contain toxic compounds called mycotoxins. Symptoms associated with mould spores may include allergy, headache and fatigue, running nose, sneezing, coughing, pneumonia and Asthma among other non-specific symptoms. Young children, the elderly and people undergoing medical treatment are particularly susceptible to mold spores.
How can we control indoor mold spores?
It is extremely difficult to get rid of spores completely. We can, however, reduce their numbers by controlling mold growth in our houses or offices. Mold growth is associated with moisture problem as a result of flooding, leaks in roofs or plumbing and condensation in case of poor ventilation or inadequate insulation. The key to controlling mold growth is keeping our houses or offices dry by maintaining low relative humidity (below 70%) thus eliminating or slowing the growth of most mold species. Any water leakage should be repaired immediately and the water dried out within 48 hours. Constant monitoring for mold growth in the kitchen, bathrooms, window frames, carpets and baseboards is recommended. The earlier the mold is discovered the cheaper and easier it is to get rid of the problem.
What should you do if you notice mold growing in your house or office?
Do not panic! Seek professional advice. Not all molds are dangerous to health, but no mold should be allowed to grow in our dwellings. Also the health effects of indoor molds depend on the amount of mold one has been exposed to, length of time of exposure, the types of molds present and individual’s resistance. Therefore, presence of mold does not necessarily mean the occupants have been affected.
Which are the most dangerous molds?
People have come to believe that black molds are the most dangerous.
The truth is, color does not determine whether a mold is of health concern or not. To know whether a mold is dangerous or not requires the mold to be identified by a qualified mycologist.