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Mold, Aspergillus & Penicillium: Questions & Answers

Mold, Aspergillus & Penicillium: Questions & Answers

 

What Are Molds?

Molds are forms of fungi found year-round both indoors and outdoors. It is found in soil, on plants, and in decaying organic matter. It is also found in household dust and building materials. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions, although it can grow during cold weather. Most fungi, including molds, produce microscopic cells called “spores” that spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) with the right conditions. All of us are exposed to fungal spores daily in the air we breathe. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth. (from http://air.ky.gov/Pages/Mold.aspx )

How do molds affect people?

Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Mold exposure has been linked to upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.

Normally, when people inhale spores, their immune system recognizes the spores as foreign, they are destroyed and no infection arises. Occasionally, in an individual with a weakened immune system or who has a pre-existing medical condition, the aspergillus spores can grow inside a lung or a wound.

What type of mold growth does UoL have in Miller Hall?Our laboratory reports indicate that the mold spores that have been found in Miller Hall are Aspergillus and Penicillium in appearance pending further identification by culture and other test methods that will allow confirmation of the genus and species.

How can people decrease mold exposure?

Mold growth can be controlled or reduced by controlling decreasing humidity levels and improving ventilation in damp areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. A dilute bleach solution can be used to clean hard surfaces.   Materials that cannot be cleaned such as wall board, ceiling tiles, etc. should be removed and discarded. 

What is Aspergillus?

Aspergillus is a fungus which occurs everywhere in the world. It produces microscopically small spores that are extremely light and float easily in the air, and by this mechanism it is spread and propagated.

What are the health risks of Aspergillus?

Normally, when Aspergillus spores are inhaled by people, their immune system recognizes the spores as foreign, they are destroyed and no infection arises. Occasionally, in an individual with a weakened immune system or who has a pre-existing medical condition the aspergillus spores can grow inside a lung or a wound.

This type of infection caused by Aspergillus is termed Aspergillosis. Aspergillosis describes a number of diseases involving both infection by and growth of this fungus, as well as allergic responses against aspergillus. Aspergillosis infections can affect any area of the body, but by far the most common are the lungs and sinuses.

Is this issue related to the Aspergillus Meningitis cases recently in the news?

No. The Aspergillus Meningitis outbreak is related to contaminated injectable steroid medications. Simply being around a mold doesn’t cause people to catch Aspergillius Meningitis.

What is Penicillium Mold?

Penicillium is one of the most commonly found molds. It is common in soil, food, cellulose and grains. Often found growing indoors on water damaged building materials (chipboard/OSB, plywood, wallpaper, glue, carpet, wall paper) as well as on food items (dried foods, cheeses, fruits, herbs, spices, cereals). Peniciillium mold is used to make Roquefort and camembert cheese, salami-sausages, the antibiotic penicillin and even an antifungal drug called griseofulvin.

What are the health risks of Penicillium?

Penicillium rarely causes illness in otherwise healthy individuals. Penicillium can be a potential allergen and some people may experience hay fever, asthma or allergic lung inflammation although these are rare.

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