You might say that mold gets a bad rap. Take a look at mold spores under a microscope and they look like something from a bad sci-fi movie. Yes, whether up close and personal, or from a distance on a home surface, molds are nasty to look at and cause destruction and illness. But, molds do have a kinder, gentler side that benefits humans and the environment in many ways.
Benefits of Mold
From life-saving drugs to food, mold is helpful to people and the environment. Naturally, it’s easy to forget the good things that mold does when you are fighting a mold problem in your home or business. Some of the beneficial uses for mold include:
- antibiotics such as Penicillin (and those ending in ‘mycin’)
- soy sauce
- organic and lactic acids
Mold also plays an important role in nature’s ecosystem by helping to break down organic materials in the outdoors. Have you ever raked autumn leaves that have laid on the ground for a length of time? You’ve probably smelled a distinct musty odor and may have even seen the mold there to break down the leaf structure. By breaking down decaying organic matter (such as dead plants and animals), mold contributes to fertilizing soil so that new life can grow. But of course, mold outside is good, and mold indoors is mostly undesirable.
Habits of Mold
The way mold spreads is through microscopic spores, which are little packets of genetic information needed to create new mold. Active mold releases these spores into the air where they travel to other locations with the airflow or on some type of physical carrier. Once they arrive at the new destination, if the environment conditions are right, the mold will grow, spread, and release additional spores.The cycle repeats over and over as long as moisture, nutrients, and proper temperature are available.
When mold spores are released, both in nature and indoors, they can trigger allergic reactions in those that are sensitive to the allergen. Some reactions are mild, and others can be life-threatening. Exposure can also lead to other health problems and issues with the immune system. Molds can also release mycotoxins, which are potentially toxic substances. The mold variety Stachybotrys is particularly known for releasing these dangerous products.