Are you having mold or mildew in your home?
Many people will panic when the word “mold” is mentioned but are OK if “mildew” is present. Little do people know that there is no difference between mold and mildew. Online you may find statements like “Mildew is distinguished from its closely related counterpart, mold, largely by its color: molds appear in shades of black, blue, red, and green, whereas mildew is white.” This statement is misleading because some molds are also white.
The authoritative Ainsworth & Bisby’s Dictionary of the Fungi has the following definitions for mold and mildew.
- Mold (also spelt as mould):
- A microfungus having a well-marked mycelium or spore mass, especially an economically important saprobe.
- A plant disease in which the pathogen is seen as a growth on the surface of the host.
- the staining, and frequently the breaking up, of cloth and fibres, paint, etc., by fungi and bacteria.
- a fungus causing 1 or 2.
From these definitions it is clear that what we see in our homes is mold. Secondly both mold and mildew are fungi and the only difference between mildew and mold is that the former is found growing on plants as a pathogen while the latter is found growing on building materials and other dead organic materials as a saprobe. In fact some fungi are able to grow on both living hosts (plants) and also on dead organic material.
Why Do Mold (Mildew) Grow in Your Home?
Mold or mildew if you like develop from minute structures (“seeds”) called spores. These spores are everywhere including in our homes. You will find them in dust on carpet, window frames, furniture, walls, ceiling, etc. These spores may not be in large amounts to cause any health problem. The problem comes if your home has water damage due to:
- sewage back-up from flooding in the area,
- plumbing or roof leaks,
- damp basement or crawlspace,
- overflows from sinks or bathtub,
- high humidity from steam cooking, dryer vents, humidifiers, etc.
When the spores are dry in the dust they are dormant but once they get wet mold develop within 24-48 hours. The mold continue to grow unless steps are taken to eliminate the source of moisture, and effectively deal with the mold problem. It is when mold grows in your house due to moisture that you or your family are at risk of mold exposure.
What to Do if You have Mold (Mildew) in Your Home
If you suspect you have mold in your home, do not panic. Contact a qualified company that can assess the extent of mold contamination and recommend the most appropriate way to remove it and to fix the moisture problem. Do not attempt to remove the mold yourself if you don’t know what you are dealing with or if you don’t have the right tools to deal with the mold.
This article is written by Jackson Kung’U. For more of his articles, we recommend that you follow him on google+ and Facebook.
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Dr. Jackson Kung’u is a Microbiologist who has specialized in the field of mycology (the study of moulds and yeasts). He is a member of the Mycological Society of America. He graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, with a Masters degree in Fungal Technology and a PhD in Microbiology. He has published several research papers in international scientific journals. Jackson has analyzed thousands of mould samples from across Canada. He also regularly teaches a course on how to recognize mould, perform effective sampling and interpret laboratory results. Jackson provides how-to advice on mould and bacteria issues.
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