The biology and microsocopy of building molds: Medical and molecular aspects
Publication Name: Invited chapter in Health, environment and Efficacy Issues in the Development of commercial Wood Protection Systems
Fungi are ubiquitous and essential to the process of organic matter recycling. Molds are microfungi, often associated with damp substrates, and characterized by thread like growth and microscopic spores produced on or in microscopic fruiting structures (1). Molds can grow on building materials, but unlike the growth of some macrofungi (notably the basidiomycetes), mold growth does not generally result in wood weakening or decay (2). Mold growth does result in a decrease in the aesthetic appeal of wood products and often indicates significant moisture and water issues within a structure. More importantly, mold growth within buildings may, under certain circumstances, pose potential risks to human health. It is this last possibility that has resulted in numerous lawsuits and legislation concerning indoor air quality in recent years. In 2003, 27 state legislatures considered more than 60 items of indoor air quality legislation with 18 passed into law (3). In 2004 there were approximately 10,000 mold related lawsuits pending. Policy and litigation however, are often not science-based, so it is appropriate to consider what we know about molds in the indoor environment. The purpose of this brief review is to introduce information on the biology and physiology of mold fungi, examine the production of fungal allergens and toxins, and consider factors that may impact mold colonization of buildings. A brief overview of possible health implications and of methods used to detect and identify mold fungi is also included.