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 Meet the Molds - Aspergillus and Penicillium

Often when mold is discovered indoors the first questions people ask are “what kind of mold is it?” and “Is it toxic?” Their thinking is that there are only a few species of mold that are toxic, if you have one your are in big trouble and if you don’t there’s nothing to worry about. People are referring to Stachybotrys when they say “toxic, black mold”. Stachybotrys is commonly found in mold infested buildings. It is not the only toxic mold. Experts have estimated that there are about 70,000-200,000 different species of mold, all of them allergenic and capable of producing toxins.

  Other “toxic” Species of Molds  
  While there are certain molds that may be more risky to ones health than others, all molds are potentially allergenic and capable of producing toxins. Therefore the presence of any species of mold indoors in higher amounts than outdoors suggest there may be a hidden mold problem indoors and is cause for concern.  
  Aspergillus and Penicillium  
  Aspergillus and Penicillium are two of the most common molds found when there is a mold problem. Aspergillus is usually green or black. Penicillium is usually bluish-green. Both of these molds may be other colors. The spores of these are smaller and lighter than other molds and tend to stay air borne for long periods of time. They are not easily filtered by most air filters and are capable of penetrating deep into the lungs.  
  The species Aspergillus flavus produce aflatoxins, one of the most potent and carcinogenic toxins known to man. Aflatoxin is used in biological weapons. The use as a weapon may be more of a scare tactic than a viable weapon since the lag time for cancer can be several years.  
  Penicillium is commonly found on spoiled foods such as bread and fruit. If you have a piece of moldy fruit in your home it most likely has some Penicillium on it. Aspergillus and Penicillium are often found in outdoor air from natural sources. The mere presence of these molds in the air indoors does not mean the air is toxic. It is when these molds grow indoors in large quantities producing toxins to fight other molds that the home owner gets caught in the middle and may have their health impacted. In the right environment, molds serve useful purposes. A species of Aspergillius, A. Nieger, for example, is used to make citric acid, the agent that gives soda pop its fizz.  
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