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Mold Misconceptions

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There 6 common misconceptions about mold.

Misconception #1: “Black Mold”

The mold that most people are referring to when they use the term “BLACK MOLD” is a mold called Stachybotrys, pronounced STACK-EE-BOT-TRIS, which is either black or dark gray. But the truth is, there are thousands and thousands of different molds and many of them are black. Some molds will change colors and texture at different stages of their growth. Some molds can be gray one day, black the next day, and green the day after that.

Misconception #2: “This isn’t mold. It’s just mildew.” Or “This mold isn’t the toxic mold”

Mold and mildew are the same thing. Mildew is often the term used for mold growth on clothing or fabric. Clothing and fabric can have a high organic content making them great food sources for mold. The term toxic mold has most often been applied to the Stachybotrys mold and can be misleading. While the Stachybotrys mold has the potential to be hazardous, there are many other species of mold like Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, and Alternaria that are very common and can be just as unhealthy if present at high enough levels. Any mold growth on a surface with an organic content (ie. paper, cloth, wood, sheet rock, etc) has the potential to be Stachybotrys or one of these molds known to have potential negative health effects. There are even more types of molds that have the potential to cause health problems in sensitive individuals if present at high enough levels. Any significant amount of visible mold will likely cause elevated levels of mold spores in the air. Just because the mold is not Stachybotrys, it does not mean that the mold is not a problem and that it cannot be harmful. Immediate steps should be taken to eliminate any mold growth indoors, regardless of the type, and care should be taken in completing the mold abatement.

There is always some mold present everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. Hazards presented by molds that produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There are reports that toxigenic molds found inside homes can cause unique or rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition; as well as upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people. Mycotoxins, although unseen by the naked eye, are most often inhaled but can enter the body through the skin, mucous and eyes. Once inside the human body, mold has all the requirements it needs to colonize and spread.

Misconception #3: “Allergy Shots Protect Against Mold”

A common misconception among allergists who are untrained in mold-related toxicity levels in humans, (which is technically not their area of expertise unless they have trained specifically in environmental medicine with their background in immunology), is to do general allergen testing. Most tests usually result in a 2+ or less.

Because not all allergists and doctors are trained in this field, they may try to “guess” at a diagnosis. Some physicians response is to order allergy shots. However, allergy shots are virtually worthless (and could possibly be harmful) to a person who has been heavily exposed to mycotoxins since they are already in a state of toxicity. If anything, this could exacerbate the problem.

Fungi, or microorganisms related to them, may cause other health problems similar to allergic diseases. Some kinds of Aspergillus may cause several different illnesses, including both infections and allergy. These fungi may lodge in the airways or a distant part of the lung and grow until they form a compact sphere known as a “fungal mass.” In people with lung damage or serious underlying illnesses, Aspergillus may grasp the opportunity to invade the lungs or the whole body.

In some individuals, exposure to these fungi can also lead to asthma or to a lung disease resembling severe inflammatory asthma called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. This latter condition, which occurs only in a minority of people with asthma, is characterized by wheezing, low-grade fever, and coughing up of brown-flecked masses or mucus plugs. Skin testing, blood tests, X-rays, and examination of the sputum for fungi can help establish the diagnosis. Corticosteroid drugs are usually effective in treating this reaction; however, immunotherapy (allergy shots) is not a reliable “one-shot-fix-all” treatment.

Misconception #4: If the mold is not Stachybotrys, it is safe to clean it myself.

When doing any kind of mold abatement, it is necessary to take steps to limit exposure, no matter what type of mold it is. This includes wearing gloves, coveralls, and respiratory protection. Mold levels can increase up to 10 to 100,000 times background levels during mold clean up resulting in acute exposure. For large areas of mold it is recommended that the cleanup be completed by individuals properly trained in the handling of hazardous materials. It is also important to ensure that all impacted materials are properly treated or removed so the mold does not return.

Misconception #5: “I want to make sure that my house is free of mold”

No house is completely free of mold. Molds are very common outside, so some mold spores will always be present in the air indoors as well. We are exposed to the outdoor or background levels of molds every time we go outside, and in most cases will not experience any adverse reactions, with the exception of hay fever or allergy like symptoms in some sensitive individuals when outdoor levels are high. Mold growth inside a building is not normal, though. If mold is growing on a surface inside a home, it will create indoor levels of spores that are higher that what the body is normally used to, which can overwhelm our natural defenses to mold spores and cause adverse reactions. When a home is tested for mold, it is checked to make sure that the levels of molds indoors is comparative to the background levels, and that mold is not actively growing inside.

Misconception #6: “I cleaned the mold with bleach, so I have fixed the problem

Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain – these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced.


Life is too short to not live it well. If you suspect you have a mold problem in your home or workplace, address it early. Call an Doodlebuggers representative to discuss services available to you to help accurately assess mold problems and resolve them.

This website was developed primarily to provide general information about mold and services offered by DOODLEBUGGERS SERVICE NETWORK with respect to mold inspections, mold testing, and other indoor environmental testing. This site is not intended to be a resource for medical advice or information concerning health matters. The information being disseminated in this site is believed by DOODLEBUGGERS SERVICE NETWORK to be the most recent and most reliable information available at the time. Neither DOODLEBUGGERS SERVICE NETWORK nor its principles or employees warrants all of the information contained herein to be 100% factual. For proper medical advice you should always consult a physician or other qualified expert.

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