Mold gets a bad rap of late, but good mold does exist. Penicillium is the typical “blue” mold found on food. Bread that sat too long in the pantry typically develops penicillium. In fact, as the name implies, the very tasty blue cheese is derived from this particular strain of mold. In this day and age, cheese makers now add a commercially reproduced and freeze-dried culture, but originally, penicillium was procured from dark, damp caves and adding to the cheese. The distinctly blue Roqueforts were then stored and aged inside the same caves. Blue cheese is not alone in the good mold department. Many cheeses have an element of mold to them and, to some food connoisseurs, a piece of cheese is not edible until it has a nice coating of mold on it.
And, let’s not forget the world’s first and best antibiotic: penicillin. Alexander Fleming is credited with discovering that penicillium killed colonies of bacteria in 1929. He learned that it killed many disease-causing bacteria and realized the potential, if it could be mass-produced. That didn’t happen until World War II, when there was an urgency to do so to help the injured troops. By 1948, Andre Moyer was granted a patent to mass-produce penicillin in order to battle a number of diseases.
If there is good mold, there must be bad mold as well, right? So much more needs to be understood about mold but with all the different strains, that may never happen. There are experts who advise that some mold is fine – harmless, while other molds, particular the infamous black mold, is bad. They advise testing to see which kind of mold you are encountering. On the other hand, the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention does not feel that is necessary to test to determine what type of mold you have. They do not see the need to differentiate. In fact, the CDC says all mold should be removed, regardless of the genus.
Aspergillus, Alternaria and Cladosporium are the most common indoor molds. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine released a report that confirmed what many had already suspected: indoor exposure to mold can cause coughing, wheezing and upper respiratory problems in healthy people. Certain populations are particularly vulnerable, including infants, the elderly and those with an already compromised immune system. Aspergillosis is particularly invasive and can be seen on CT scans of the lungs. In acute cases, it spreads via the vascular system and destroys tissue.
Stachybotrys atra. Yes, that’s the one. Black Mold. It’s not as common as the others but it is out there. The greenish-black mold is drawn to high cellulose materials and excessive dampness and humidity, much like the conditions seen in a water-damaged home. Construction materials that have been damaged in a flood or water leak are prime breeding grounds for black mold. The real issue with Stachybotrys atra is that it produces myocotoxins. These are toxic to human cells and have been known to effect the vascular, digestive, respiratory, reproductive, immune, urinary and nervous systems.