Archive for April, 2009

Can Mold On Food Be Dangerous?

Friday, April 10th, 2009

People often joke about the  moldy bologna in the back of the refrigerator. How about those fuzzier than normal peaches? Blue patches on the top layer of an old sour cream container? Not only are these molds unsightly and annoying because they have spoiled good food, but they can also be potentially harmful to you.

The most common health concern with mold is allergies. Most people are familiar with the runny noses, sneezing, watery  eyes, etc. associated with mold, pollen, and dust mite allergies. But have you heard of mycotoxins? These are chemicals produced by some molds under the right conditions.  Mycotoxins are generally associated with grain and nut crops. Wet hay bales are also a good source of toxins produced by mold. But did you know that mycotoxins can be found in grape juice, on apples and celery, and on other fruits and vegetables?

Molds on food come in a rainbow of colors from white to black and most colors in between. Sometimes, moldy foods must be thrown away. These include soft, fleshy fruits such as peaches, tomatoes, and cucumbers, sliced lunch meats, sour cream, and others that the mold cannot be cut away from. Molds have long, web-like structures that penetrate below the surface of softer foods. Patches of mold can be successfully cut away or removed from harder foods, for example apples, uncut hard salami, and hard cheeses.

Speaking of cheese, did you know that molds are intstrumental in manufacturing some cheeses? A mold called Penicillium roqueforti is used to make roquefort and gorganzola cheese. That white layer surrounding a wedge of brie cheese is also mold. These molds are safe to eat as long as you don’t have an existing sensitivity to mold.

So how do you prevent mold from growing on food in the refrigerator? Short turn around time. Mold spores are everywhere and all they need is a food source and sufficient moisture to grow so even though the refrigerator is cold, molds can begin devouring the prize tomatoes grown in your garden relatively quickly. The shorter amount of time foods spend in the refrigerator, the better chances they have of not becoming moldy. Several steps can help. Make sure the fridge is clean; spilled foods and liquids that remain on the bottom shelf are mold breeding grounds. Discarding food with visible mold can minimize the spread of mold to other foods. Clean moldy refrigerator gaskets. Cover foods. Transfer foods out of their original containers into storage containers with covers. Cut out visible mold that develops on hard cheeses that will remain in the fridge. Overall, eating foods in a time frame that doesn’t allow mold to take over is your best defense. 

And finally, eating a small amount of mold on food before you realize it is moldy is generally not enough to cause serious harm. We eat mold every day without knowing it so don’t panic if you see a fuzzy green spot on the peach you just began eating.  Throw it out and take another one, but be sure to inspect it before taking the first juicy bite!

Deborah Gordon, Gordon Mycology Laboratory, Inc. 2009

Snow Mold

Friday, April 10th, 2009

‘Tis the Season – Snow Mold comes to New England

The end of winter is here.  We are excited about longer days, blooming flowers, and shout a long awaited hello to the warm sunshine. 

Unfortunately, this is the time of year snow mold rears its ugly head in our dormant lawns.  The UMass Extension and Rhode Island Cooperative Extension explain the symptoms of, and how to conquer, this menace so we can get our lawns ready for wigglin’ toes and puppy dog noses.

You’ll see the first insidious sign as small circular patches on the lawn in sizes of 3 – 12 inches in diameter.  Sometimes, if the mold takes hold, patches blend together to cover large sections of the lawn.  These molds are active in the colder, wetter times of the year, surviving and even thriving beneath the snow.  Visually, “…web-like mycelium of pink snow mold (Microdochium nivale) may initially look white and mature to a faint pink to salmon color.  Gray snow mold (Typhula spp.) is white to gray in color.” 

As temperatures rise, the snow melts, and the sun beats down on awakening lawns, New Englanders rejoice.  However, with spring weather patterns, snow molds become increasingly unhappy.  Most of the time, the normal emergence of warmer, sunnier weather is enough to kill snow molds.  Yard clean up, among other steps, is your best bet for snow mold deterrence and lush lawns. 

What to do next if you have snow mold?  Determine the type of mold, either pink or gray, that has infected your lawn.  The gray mold doesn’t do extensive damage, and typically the grass recovers quickly.   Pink snow mold gets to the heart of the grass crowns and roots causing, sometimes, irreparable damage.  Often times, both types of snow molds can be found in our lawns.  An essential step for snow mold prevention is taking away its comfortable home — rake up dead leaves and clean debris from lawns.  A good choice of seed for replanting in areas that need to be cleaned out is Kentucky bluegrass, which is less susceptible to snow mold infection.  

Visit the following site for more details, photos, and prevention/eradication tips.

http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/snowmolds.html

Happy Spring to you and your families. 

D. A. Boss, Gordon Mycology Laboratory, Inc. 2009

Mold Inspection Journal: 4-1-09

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Case Study 09036: Successful Attic Mold Remediation

Facts/History/Observations:

An initial inspection by GML revealed that the mold Cladosporium was actively growing on plywood roof sheathing and on both gable ends in the attic.  A professional mold remediation company was hired to clean all surfaces in attic under environmental controls and using standard mold remediation procedures.  After the work was completed, we re-inspected the attic to determine if remediation was successful. 

Attic insulation was removed, leaving the topside of the second floor ceiling Sheetrock exposed. Among several other important steps, the plywood sheathing was dry-ice blasted (similar to sand blasting except dry ice pellets were used as the abrasive agent).  Visual evidence of mold was no longer present.

Successfully Remediated Plywood Roof Sheathing

Successfully Remediated Roof Sheathing

Inspection Strategy:

  • Visual inspection of attic
  • Surface swab sampling from several representative areas of the previously moldy plywood sheathing

Lab Results:

  • Lab results describe a negligible amount of mold spores
  • The current level of mold on wood materials in the attic is normal
  • Remediation was completely successful

Recommendations:

  • Maintain a dry and well ventilated attic
  • Re-install insulation