Molds are forms of fungi found all year round both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors, molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. Another common term for mold is mildew. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions, although it can grow during cold weather. There are thousands of species of mold and they can be any color. Many times, mold can be detected by a musty odor. Most fungi, including molds, produce microscopic cells called "spores" that spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) with the right conditions. All of us are exposed to fungal spores daily in the air we breathe.
Molds can be found almost everywhere. They can grow on just about any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. Mold can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods and insulation to just name a few. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on materials, mold growth can certainly occur, especially if the moisture problem remains undetected and/or unaddressed. It's impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; however, the key to controlling mold is by controlling the moisture levels. Since mold requires water to grow, preventing moisture problems in buildings and homes will help limit the growth of mold.
Mold reproduces by making spores, which are too small for the human eye to see in most cases (microscopic). Mold spores can float through the air, and when they land on something damp, they most likely will begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive thus, gradually destroying the things they grow on.
Molds can also produce toxic substances called mycotoxins, which can attach to the surface of mold spores and can also be found within mold spores. The EPA suggests that more than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds, and there are still many more that remain to be identified. Exposure pathways for mycotoxins can include inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. Some mycotoxins are well known to affect humans and have been shown to be responsible for human health effects, for many mycotoxins, little information is available.
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