Liberal Arts Blog — Mold, Mildew, Fungus — Differences, Causes, Solutions — Is There a Metaphor Here?

Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — Mold, Mildew, Fungus — Differences, Causes, Solutions — Is There a Metaphor Here?

Mold and mildew are kinds of fungus. Mildew is white. Mold can be be black, blue, red, or green. The key conditions for mold growth are a.) an organic material — wood, food, you; b.) relative humidity between 63 and 93%, c.) and “reasonable warmth” — optimal being between 77 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. While mold is ubiquitous, it is “normally found indoors at levels which do not affect most healthy individuals.” However, flooding and leaks raise risk levels and may require professional remediation. Shoes, like homes, can get warm and moist, providing fertile ground for mold growth (say “athlete’s foot”). There is a metaphor here. Think the perfect conditions for the growth of bad things — like envy and hate. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

HYPHAE (“collectively known as mycelium”)

1. “A hypha consists of one or more cells surrounded by a tubular cell wall. In most fungi, hyphae are divided into cells by internal cross-walls called “septa” (singular septum).”

2. “Septa are usually perforated by pores large enough for ribosomes, mitochondria, and sometimes nuclei to flow between cells.”

3.The major structural polymer in fungal cell walls is typically chitin, in contrast to plants and oomycetes that have cellulosic cell walls.”

NB: “Some fungi have aseptate hyphae, meaning their hyphae are not partitioned by septa.”

MYCOTOXINS — mysterious origins, potentially disastrous consequences

1. “Where conditions are right, fungi proliferate into colonies and mycotoxin levels become high. The reason for the production of mycotoxins is not yet known; they are not necessary for the growth or development of the fungi. Because mycotoxins weaken the receiving host, they may improve the environment for further fungal proliferation.”

2. “The production of toxins depends on the surrounding intrinsic and extrinsic environments and these substantces vary greatly in their toxicity, depending on the organism infected and its susceptibility, metabolism, and defense mechanisms.”

3. “Examples of mycotoxins causing human and animal illness include: aflatoxin, citrinin… and ergot alkaloids such as ergotamine.”

NB: Personal note: for 20 years I was prescribed ergotamine (Cafergot) for my migraine headaches, until the headaches started getting worse at which point a new neurologist informed me that the pills were causing my headaches at which point I stopped and started taking Excedrin tension headache instead (acetaminophen and caffeine).


1.“The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently recommends that relative humidity be maintained below 60%, ideally between 30% to 50%, to inhibit mold growth.”

2. “Considering that fungal growth requires cellulose, plant fiber, as a food source, using building materials that do not contain cellulose is an effective method of preventing fungal growth. “

3. “Eliminating the moisture source is the first step at fungal remediation.”

NB: “Removal of affected materials may also be necessary for remediation, if materials are easily replaceable and not not part of the load-bearing structure. Professional drying of concealed wall cavities and enclosed spaces such as cabinet toe kick spaces may be required. Post-remediation verification of moisture content and fungal growth is required for successful remediation. Many contractors perform post-remediation verification themselves, but property owners may benefit from independent verification.”


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