Mold Basics

Nature has supplied Earth with thousands of types of fungi in order to break down (or decompose) organic material to its basic carbon form. This contributes to the carbon cycle and since carbon is a main component of biological compounds, mold activity is essential to Earth’s ability to sustain life. Mold does its job well, but unfortunately it continues to work even when we don’t want it too. This can mean big and expensive problems when it affects our homes and our health.

Here’s how mold works: ambient microbes called spores float around in the air until they make contact with a wet surface which they then attach too. Then, the spores begin releasing enzymes which decompose the material. All the while, they are bulking up their decomposing power by reproducing new spores. This process is known as colonization and looks like a fuzzy fibrous growth when it becomes large enough.

But the conditions have to be right in order for mold to grow and it can grow almost anywhere! Mold thrives in dark, warm, and wet places and like all living things, needs food to survive. Our homes are the perfect breeding grounds for mold: the area behind walls, under carpet, in attics, and in crawl spaces provide the perfect dark and warm conditions. Materials such as wood, padding under carpet, and paper backing on drywall are abundant sources of food. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, “…many fungi grow readily on any surface that becomes wet or moistened.” In fact, WHO also reports that dust and other microscopic components in water alone, provide enough nutrients for mold to grow. In other words, ANYTHING that is wet could potentially grow mold.

Mold growing on personal items

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