Molds are fungi – simple, microscopic organisms that exist virtually everywhere. In order to grow, mold needs only an organic source and moisture. It grows on food, leaves, wood, paper and dirt, discoloring these substances and more with layers of fungus. Mold can appear cottony, velvety, grainy or leathery, in colors white, pink, yellow, green, brown, gray or black. Some molds cause disease or food spoilage, while others contribute to biodegradation or in the production of various foods, beverages, antibiotics and enzymes.
While molds grow on dead organic matter everywhere in nature, its presence is only visible to the naked eye when mold colonies of it are produced. Such a colony consists of an interconnected network of hyphae called a mycelium.
Other than its obvious presence on fruits, vegetables and leftovers, mold may be hard to detect and cause issues for those allergic to it. Mold may be present in the form of discolored patches, cottony or speckled growth on walls or furniture. You may also smell and earthy or musty odor. Causes of mold that may lead to mold growth include flooding, holes on roofing, leaks in plumbing, water damage from sinks or sewers, a damp or humid basement, and many other sources. And because mold digests whatever it grows on, items such as carpets, paintings or furniture can be consumed and ruined. A mold patch settled in the foundations of a building can gradually weaken them to the point when walls start cracking and crumbling apart.
Exposure to mold spores by those sensitive to it can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation, to name just a few. People with more severe allergies to molds may develop a fever and suffer from shortness of breath. Those with serious illnesses such as obstructive lung disease may develop mold infections in their lungs. Molds can trigger asthma episodes as well.
Page last modified: 10/24/14
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