TYPES OF MOLD
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE COMMONLY ENCOUNTERED FUNGAL GENERA AND POSSIBLE CAUSES AND SOURCES OF ELEVATED LEVELS OF CERTAIN MOLD GENERA:

Alternaria

Specimens of Alternaria are often found growing on carpets, textiles and horizontal surfaces such as window frames. It is commonly found in soil, seeds and plants. It is known to be a common allergen. It appears as a velvety tuft with long soft hairs and is often confused with Ulocladium as its color ranges from dark olive green to brown. Alternaria is a dry spore and is readily found in air samples as well as on tape lift samples. Alternaria is commonly found in water damaged buildings, and a significant increase in its numbers compared to outdoor levels can be a sign of growth.

Ascospores

Ascospores refers to a category of spore types rather than a mold genus. There are many different types of Ascospores and they are found virtually everywhere. The spores of Penicillium and Aspergillus fall within this category, however they are normally identified separately on a report. Many types of Ascospores have wet spores, which are dispersed by rain or other moisture. Outdoor levels of Ascospores often get very high after a rain event as many of the molds in this groups discharge spores when they get wet. High levels indoors is not usually a problem if outdoor levels are also high. There can sometimes be a delay in how indoor levels of spores correspond to changes in outdoor levels, especially if the house does not get a lot of ventilation with outdoor air. Indoor levels of Ascospores may sometimes be higher than outdoor levels if it had rained in the few days prior to sampling, but was dry on the day of sampling.

Aspergillus

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Basidiospores

Basidiospores is the name of a category of mushroom spores and not a genus of mold. They are very common outdoors, and like Ascospores, outdoor levels increase dramatically during periods of rain, sometimes greater than 30,000 spores/m3. Many species are plant pathogens and they can grow on decaying plant matter indoors and outdoors. One type of Basidiospore is the agent of dry rot and high levels of Basidiospores in wall cavity samples may be a sign of dry rot inside the wall. Like the Ascospores, levels of Basidiospores may be higher indoors than outdoors if there have been recent changes in outdoor weather conditions.

Chaetomium

This fungus is an allergenic mold genus. Although it is not well documented it is known to cause hay fever and other common allergy symptoms and is sometimes associated with nail infections. It thrives on cellulose containing materials such as paper and plant compost. It is quite commonly found on wet sheetrock paper. It grows very quickly and may be cottony in appearance. It will range in color from white to gray, to olive green and olive brown, to black. It has small brown oblong shaped spores that are easily spread by wind, insects and water splash.

Cladosporium

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Fusarium

This mold is found in soil, and on many plants. It requires very wet conditions to grow and is often found in humidifiers. It is known to produce trichothecene toxins, which effect the circulatory, alimentary, skin and nervous systems. On grains, it produces vomitoxin, which can effect you through ingestion and inhalation. Exposure to Fusarium can lead to hemorrhagic syndrome (symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dermatitis, and extensive internal bleeding). Fusarium is allergenic and is often associated with eye, skin and nail infections, and readily infects burn victims. Colonies of Fusarium appear in shades of pink, orange and purple, tan, yellow and red. It is a wet spore so it does not generally appear in air samples. Fusarium also has a high moisture requirement for growth, similar to Stachybotrys, and it is not often found growing on surfaces that experience only periodic moisture.

Penicillium


This mold is commonly found in air samples as well as in soil, food, grains, paint, compost piles, wallpaper and interior fiberglass duct insulation. It is often found in water damaged carpets. It can produce mycotoxins, which are allergenic and infect the skin. This soft mold is most commonly found in shades of blue, green and white, and may be velvety, woolly or cottony. Worldwide it is one of the most commonly found fungal genera and is accompanied by a heavy musty odor. Identification to the species level can be difficult and the spores are very similar to Aspergillus spores. Like Aspergillus, Penicillium is often associated with water damaged carpeting. Penicillium also has dry spores, which are affected by rain and outdoor humidity. See Aspergillus above.

Stachybotrys

Stachybotrys is found in building materials with high cellulose content. It is found indoors and grows well in damp straw, wicker and other wood or paper products. It is not known to compete well with other molds, but if there is a high level and constant availability to water for an extended period of time it may become the dominant mold. It grows very well on sheet rock that has sustained significant water damage, and is often found inside wall cavities that have sustained water intrusion. Stachybotrys appears distinctively from other molds and is a dark gray to black color, sometimes with green, and is shiny when wet. Stachybotrys is not normally found in the air outside, although it can grow on a variety of outdoor substrates. This mold has very sticky spores, which do not often become airborne unless they are disturbed. Even when the spores are airborne, they are usually present at levels much lower than the other molds commonly found inside. The presence of any airborne Stachybotrys inside a house should warrant further investigation if a source is not obvious. This mold has a high moisture requirement for growth, so it is usually found when significant and/or sustained water damage has occurred.

Ulocladium

This mold is found on gypsum board, tapestries, wood and other organic materials. It is a potential allergen and produces symptoms such as hay fever and asthma. It is a dry spore and is detected by air samples as well as tape samples. Ulocladium has an appearance similar to Alternaria but tends to appear more brownish whereas Alternaria more often appears as a dark olive green color. Colonies grow rapidly and have a texture similar to velvet. Ulocladium is commonly found in water damaged buildings, and a significant increase in its numbers compared to outdoor levels can be a sign of growth.

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