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Mold: Overview

Purdue Extension > Extension Disaster Education Network > Mold: Overview

Mold: Overview

Mold on bathroom tile

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What is Mold?

Mold is a part of our environment and it can be found everywhere, inside and out. The term "mold" describes thousands of species of microscopic fungi which grow on wet organic matter. Molds grow on foods in your refrigerator, on shower curtains, and on damp surfaces in basements. Molds may look like furry growth, black stains, or specks of white, green, brown, orange or black. Outdoors, molds play a part in breaking down dead organic matter, such as leaf piles in the fall.

Mold needs moisture to grow. They reproduce by means of tiny spores. These spores are invisible to the naked eye, but they float through the indoor and outdoor air. They will begin to grown when they land on surfaces that are wet. Mold spores can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested in our food. The spores grow and digest whatever they land on, eventually destroying the surface.

Where does mold grow?

Molds will grow on any organic material where there is moisture. They can grow on almost anything when there has been water damage, or dampness, or high humidity. Mold grows between the temperatures of 32° and 100° Fahrenheit, although they like the temperature between 77° and 86° best.

Of all the different kinds of mold in our environment, none will grow without water or moisture. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold pores from indoor environments. The key is to control moisture.

What is toxic mold?

When people are talking about toxic mold, they are talking about Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra), pronounced stack-ee bought-riss.

It is a type of mold that is blackish or greenish black in appearance. Not all mold that is black is this type. The black mold found on bathroom tiles is not Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys may occur when there has been excessive long-term water damage. Health effects of exposure to this mold are similar to exposure of other molds but may include inability to concentrate and fatigue.

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