Bit About Mold

Mold spores exist in the air all around us. With every breath we take we are likely inhaling at least one mold spore no matter where we live. These spores are the seeds of mold colonies and are released into the wind to settle in another area and start a new colony. Molds provide an important function when they break down plant matter, returning nutrients back to the soil just like when a pile of wet leaves are raked up and after a few days start to rot. Mold spores that settle into a moist, dark environment with a food source such as cellulose (wood, straw, cardboard) will start to grow into colonies in as little time as 24 hours.

The study on the health effects of molds came from observing animals bedded on moldy straw. Molds have two health issues: the first is allergies to the spores that we inhale, the most common symptoms being runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and an aggravation of asthma. The second is that mold colonies also release gases as they grow that can be potent mycotoxins, fungal metabolites that have been identified as toxic agents. Individuals with chronic exposure to the mycotoxins produced by Stachybotris chartarum fungus reported cold and flu symptoms, sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, intermittent local hair loss, and generalized malaise.

The straw that is baled in a field and stacked to form walls for houses contains a high amount of mold spores that have settled out of the air and from the soil that the grains were grown in. All they need is a moisture level high enough to grow. A tarp lifted up from a pile of stored straw may reveal bales discolored with a black mold, likely Stachybotris chartarum, considered to be the most toxic to humans. The tarp may or may not have stopped rain getting in, but it trapped the moisture coming up from the ground. If the moisture levels in straw bales is above 20 percent then the mold spores present will start to grow. ^

gallons of water to pass through a wall! It is critical to keep the moisture content below 20 percent in the walls.

Moisture concerns are hotly discussed among bale builders. Most of the testing done to date confirms what conventional builders already know: cracks, openings, and penetrations into the wall pose much greater risks for moisture damage than does vapor migration through walls finishes

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