What is Mold?

What is Mold?



There are many different types of mold.   Molds are a type of fungi.  Fungi are neither plant nor animal but, since 1969, have their own category.  The fungi category includes such organisms as delicious edible mushrooms, the makers of the “miracle drug” penicillin and the yeast that makes our bread rise and our fine wines ferment.

Biologically, all fungi have defined cell walls, lack chlorophyll and reproduce by means of spores.

Approximately 100,000 species of fungi have been described and it is estimated that there are at least that many waiting to be discovered.  The vast majority of fungi feed on dead or decaying organic matter.  They are one of the principle agents responsible for the natural recycling of dead plant and animal life.

The most common fungi are ubiquitous within our environment and we are constantly exposed to them.  Molds as a fungi have the potential to produce health problems such as:


  • Allergens – substances that can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing and scratchy eyes
  • Irritants – substances that can cause rashes and/or other irritations of the skin or bodily membranes of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs
  • Potentially toxic substances known as mycotoxins – can cause respiratory problems

Specialty companies like Downriver Restoration located in southeastern Michigan, is made up of a team of specialists educated and experienced in mold detection, prevention and removal.

Mold has been receiving high profile press coverage as of late.  There are a variety of inflammatory press reports concerning lawsuits over air quality in homes and public buildings; parental concerns regarding school classroom environments; home insurers refusing to cover mold damage; and widely distributed news reports about so-called “toxic mold.”  Mold can be managed effectively in most cases.

There are four critical requirements for mold growth.  The removal of any one of these items will prohibit mold growth.

  • Available mold spores
  • Available mold food
  • Appropriate temperatures
  • Considerable moisture

Mold Spores

Ranging in size from 3 to 40 microns (human hair is 100-150 microns), mold spores are literally everywhere.  It has been determined that there is no reasonable, reliable and cost-effective means of eliminating them from environments that humans inhabit.  Trying to control mold growth through the elimination of mold spores are not feasible.

Mold Food

If all three other requirements are present, almost any substance that contains carbon atoms (i.e. organic substance) will provide sufficient nutrients to support mold growth.  Even the oil from your skin that is left when you touch surfaces such as stainless steel, or the soap residue left from a good cleaning will provide sufficient nutrients to support the growth of some molds.

Furthermore, many of the most common materials found in homes like wood, paper and organic fibers are among the most preferred of mold nutrients.  Thus, eliminating mold food from the environment is a virtually impossible task.

Appropriate Temperatures

Most molds grow very well at the same temperatures that humans prefer, warm temperatures.  In addition, even temperatures close to freezing are not cold enough to prevent mold growth.  We know this by experiencing food left in the refrigerator for long periods of time.  And, temperatures that are much warmer, like those of the tropics, will grow abundant quantities of mold.  Thus, it is not feasible to control mold growth in our home environment through the control of temperature.

Considerable Moisture

Most molds require the presence of considerable moisture for growth.  The word “considerable” is key here.  The mycologists, fungi scientists, refer to “water activity” when describing the required conditions for mold growth.  The different species of mold have different water activity requirements.  A material’s “water activity” is equivalent to the relative humidity of the air that would be in equilibrium with the material at that material moisture content.

The vast majority of mold species require “water activity” levels that are equivalent to material equilibrium moisture content corresponding to relative humidities of at least 70%.  In fact, the majority of serious, large mold outbreaks inside buildings occur where porous, cellulose-type materials have literally been kept wet by liquid water or sustained condensation.

Thus, upon further study of mold and its origin, you will see that the consensus regarding effective mold control strategies consists of the combination of reducing the availability of moisture and killing and removing active mold growth colonies.  Downriver Restoration located in Wayne County’s downriver communities, in southeastern Michigan, is ready to advise you about moisture in your home, business, public buildings etc…  Contact downriverrestoration.com/mold/;  downriver’s  #1 flood and cleanup specialists.