Mold is a fungal growth that forms and spreads on all kinds of damp or decaying organic matter. There are many different mold species that come in many different colors. Molds are sometimes referred to as mildew. They are found both indoors and outdoors in all climates, during all seasons of the year. Outdoors, molds survive by using plants and decaying organic matter such as fallen leaves as a source of nutrition. Indoors, molds need moisture to grow as well as a carbon source from building materials or building contents.
Excess moisture is usually the cause of indoor mold growth. Molds reproduce by releasing tiny spores that float through the air until landing in other locations. When they settle on wet or moist surfaces, the spores can form new mold colonies. Moderate temperatures and available nutrient sources make most office buildings ideal for mold growth.
Molds need moisture and a food source. Good food sources for molds are cloth, wood, wallboard and insulation, but molds can grow on almost anything. Water or moisture is the factor that limits mold growth. When there is a wet surface or material that is not dried or discarded promptly (for example, water discharged from a burst pipe), molds can grow within 24 to 48 hours in the area.
Molds produce spores, which are invisible and small enough to travel through the air and into your lungs. You can also be exposed to molds by skin contact. The most common health problem from molds is allergy symptoms, including, Runny nose, scratchy throat, itchy eyes, sneezing, and in more severe cases, wheezing and coughing. Wheezing is a serious symptom that may mean asthma, and should be evaluated by a doctor.
Although some molds can produce toxins under certain conditions, research so far has not shown what levels can clearly cause serious health effects from indoor air exposure. If you think you have symptoms related to exposure to molds, you should see a doctor.