What is toxic mold? Strictly speaking there is no toxic mold. The correct term is “Toxigenic Mold”. Toxigenic molds refer to those molds that produce byproducts toxic to humans and animals. These byproducts (secondary metabolites) are referred to as mycotoxins. Not every mold is toxigenic. It is good to know toxigenic molds do not produce mycotoxins all the time. However, since it is difficult to tell when mycotoxins are produced (unless a test is performed) food or feed contaminated with mold should never be consumed.
Toxic mold can be found in any type of building, and can reduce property values dramatically. Mycotoxins are carried on the spores of toxic mold. Mycotoxins aren’t actually alive like mold spores, they are chemical byproducts produced by some molds during growth. The term “Toxic mold” is misleading because the mold itself is not “toxic” but produces toxic compounds (mycotoxins). The correct term, as noted above, should be “toxigenic mold”. Mycotoxins will not always be produced when these types of mold are present. Molds are sometimes referred to as mildews.
Toxic mold has also caused problems for homeowners and building managers who must deal with moisture issues. Toxic mold can cause serious health problems for sensitized people who are exposed to high concentrations of it. Others can also cause skin diseases like yeast infections and athlete’s foot.
Molds are microscopic organisms found virtually everywhere, making our exposure to molds unavoidable, whether indoors or outdoors, at home or at work. Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture.
Molds are an important part of the natural environment, helping decompose organic matter such as fallen leaves.
Molds may produce an identifiable smell and hence the presense of smell is an indication of mold growth even if we cannot see it.
“Toxic mold” is also incorrectly used to refer to Stachybotrys or black mold (another misleading term). Black mold is commonly used incorrectly as a name for the most harmful mold species, which happen to be black in appearance. However, even molds of a different color can be toxin producers. Stachybotrys or “black mold” prefers cellulose containing wet materials, such as gypsum board and fiberboard. Drywall and carpet damaged by flooding or broken water pipes can become colonized by toxic mold, and pose enough of a health risk. The contaminated material should be carefully removed and thrown away.