Mold gets a bad rap, but is it entirely deserved? We are told to avoid mold at all costs, that its spores will infest out brains and start an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers situation." However, mold has existed in nature for almost as long as most life forms, and for the most part, the mold of the past is the same today.

Mold is a generic term that can encompass fungi and yeast. However, mold is also extremely complex, and the science behind this simple organism is impressive and fascinating. You may have encountered mold in your home, and your first instinct might have been to identify it with a mold test kit. While we are not going to stop you from protecting your home and removing the fuzzy invader, we will explain mold in nature, industry and death.

Mold in Nature

Mold is nature's recycling system. It mostly attaches to and grows on dead and decaying organic materials. As it feeds on its host, it speeds up the decomposition process and returns nutrients to the soil. After forest fires, mold is usually the first life to return to the burn scar, and it prepares the area for new plant life.

Molds are either saprophytic or parasitic. A saprophyte is a plant or animal that lives on dead organic matter, whereas parasitic mold attaches to a living host. Mold spreads primarily through fertilized spores. When a spore attaches to a host, it germinates and takes root, much like any other plant. The roots spread deep in its food source, which is why we throw away moldy food rather than cutting away the surface mold. Mold grows as a colony, spreading and reproducing until the food source is entirely consumed. Finally, the mold releases its spores to find a new food source.

Mold in Industry

Although you may associate mold with the green fuzz on your bread, mold has become an integral part of modern life. Healthy mold is a common ingredient in certain foods. The thin white layer surrounding hard salamis is a safe mold that helps to naturally preserve the meat's flavor. Also, blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Brie and Camembert are crafted with specific and controlled molds.

Most people already know that penicillin is used as a long-term medical solution, but it is becoming less effective as a defense against bacterial infections. However, some types of penicillin help battle cancer. Also, researchers are using some molds as cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors and antifungal agents.

Finally, research shows that certain fungi, a microbial cousin to mold, can break down industrial pollution and waste.

Mold in Murder

For as useful as mold can be, there is a reason most home-improvement stores sell mold test kits. You may have heard about some toxic molds, such as Black Mold. Mold affects people in different ways, so if you think you are sensitive to it, we recommend that you use a mold detection kit.

Many people are allergic to mold, and mold spores can trigger allergic reactions and lead to respiratory disease. Also, mold can lead to fungal and yeast infections. Prolonged exposure to mold can increase your risk for disease, so it is important to use a mold detector and try to eliminate the problem quickly.

Some molds produce mycotoxin, which is a poisonous to humans. If mold gets in food, you have no way to know how deep the roots have settled, and if the roots have released mycotoxin, eating that food can lead to illness and infection. Also, if you breathe or ingest mycotoxin, the poison can infect your brain and cause neurological problems or death. However, it is important to note that penicillin molds are beneficial to humans because of their mycotoxin production.

Even if you do not have an allergy to mold, mold in your home can cause property damage. Homes are made of dead materials, so mold can attach itself and begin to break down the wooden support beams in your home. While mold is helpful in nature and great for industry, it is not a welcome house guest.

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