Some molds conserve lives; others eliminate. Some contribute to the flavor of cheeses and red wines; others make food harmful. Some grow on logs; others infest bathrooms and books. Molds are everywhere-spores may even be going through your nostrils as you read this sentence.
IF YOU doubt that mold is all around us, just leave a piece of bread lying around, even in the fridge. Soon it will establish a fuzzy coat-mold!
What Is Mold?
Molds come from the Fungi kingdom, which boasts over 100,000 types, including mildews, mushrooms, plant rusts, and yeasts. Just about 100 fungus are known to cause illness in humans and animals. Lots of others play an important function in the food chain-decomposing dead organic matter and thereby recycling essential elements in a type that plants can utilize. Still, others operate in symbiotic relationships with plants, helping them to soak up nutrients from the soil. And some are parasites.
Mold begins life as a tiny spore brought by air currents. If the spore arrives at a suitable food source that has, among other things, the right temperature level and moisture level, the spore will germinate, forming thread-like cells called hyphae. When hyphae form a colony, the fluffy, twisted mass is called a mycelium, which is the visible mold. Mold might likewise resemble dirt or a stain, such as when it forms on the grout in between bathroom tiles.
Mold is a master at recreation. In the typical bread mold, Rhizopus stolonifer, the tiny black dots are the spore bodies or sporangia. Just one dot includes upwards of 50,000 spores, each of which can produce numerous countless new spores in a matter of days! And offered the right conditions, mold will grow just as well on a book, a boot, or wallpaper as on a log in a forest.
How do molds “eat”? Unlike animals and people, who consume first and after that absorb their food through digestion, molds frequently reverse the procedure. When natural particles are too big or complex for molds to consume, they radiate digestive enzymes that break down the particles into more easy systems, which they then soak up. Also, given that molds can not move around to look for food, they need to reside in their food.
The Friendly Face of Mold
In 1928 researcher Alexander Fleming observed by accident the germicidal power of green mold. Later determined as Penicillium notatum, the mold showed to be deadly to germs but harmless to humans and animals. This discovery led to the advancement of penicillin, called “the single biggest lifesaver of contemporary medication.” For their work, Fleming and fellow scientists Howard Florey and Ernst Chain were awarded the Nobel Prize for medication in 1945. Since then, mold has provided several other medicinal substances, including drugs for treating embolism, migraine headaches, and Parkinson’s disease.
Mold has also been a true blessing to the palate. Take cheese, for example. Did you know that Brie, Camembert, Danish blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton owe their unique flavors to certain types of mold Penicillium? Similarly, salami, soy sauce, and beer owe much to mold.
When Mold Becomes a Foe
The hazardous qualities of certain molds likewise have a long history. In the 6th century B.C.E., the Assyrians utilized the mold Claviceps purpurea to poison the wells of their enemies-an ancient kind of biological warfare. In the Middle Ages, this same mold, which in some cases forms on rye, offered many individuals epileptic fits, painful burning feelings, gangrene, and hallucinations. Now called ergotism, the illness was dubbed St. Anthony’s fire since lots of victims, wishing for an amazing remedy, made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Anthony in France.
The strongest carcinogenic (cancer triggering) compound known is aflatoxin-a contaminant produced by molds. In one Asian nation, 20,000 deaths a year are attributed to aflatoxin. This lethal compound has been utilized in contemporary biological weapons.
In daily life, however, the symptoms of exposure to typical molds are more an inconvenience than a major health danger. “Most molds, even if you can smell them, are not damaging,” says the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. Individuals who usually have an adverse response include those with lung conditions, such as asthma; individuals with allergies, chemical sensitivities, or a weakened immune system; and farm workers who may be exposed to huge quantities of mold. Infants and the elderly might likewise be more vulnerable to the impacts of exposure to mold.
According to the California Department of Health Services in the United States, mold can cause the following signs: ‘Respiratory problems, such as wheezing, problem breathing, and shortness of breath; nasal and sinus congestion; eye inflammation (burning, watery, or reddened eyes); dry, hacking cough; nose or throat irritation; skin rashes or irritation.’
The most efficient way of fixing or a minimum of minimizing mold problems is to keep whatever inside clean and dry and to keep the humidity low. If wetness does build up somewhere, dry the location without delay and make the required changes or repair work so that water can not build up again. For example, keep the roof and rain gutters tidy and in good repair. And make sure that the ground slopes far from the structure so that water will not collect around the foundation. If you have air-conditioning, keep the drip pans clean and the drain lines unblocked.
“Moisture control is the key to mold control,” says one authority. Easy procedures may spare you and your family from an encounter with the hostile face of mold. In some ways, mold is like fire. It can do damage, but it can likewise be exceptionally beneficial. Much depends on how we utilize and manage it. We still have much to discover mold.