What is Green Mold?
Some mistakenly believe that any and all green molds are penicillin. Penicillin, however, is not a mold. Penicillin is an antibiotic derived from the mold known as penicillium chrysogenum. Many times over, a common statement is made in regards to foods that have mold growth: “Ah, it’s just penicillin. It won’t hurt you.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, contact with penicillium chryosogenum–like any mold–can cause serious health issues. For instance, penicillium molds often cause chronic sinus infections and inflammation within the lungs.
The truth is, there are several types of green mold–thousands, actually–and none of them are friendly. So, what exactly makes green mold, green?
What Makes Green Mold Green?
Unfortunately, there are more guesses as to why mold is green–or any other color–than there is observable evidence regarding precisely how it is green. Molds that produce green hues are classified under Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium. Their green coloring is determined by a variety of factors, some enigmatic. Many times, it is the material on which the mold feeds that determines its color. Other times, it is the climate and region. Areas, such as the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming), are more notably associated with green mold than other parts of the United States. It is difficult to determine why, but humidity and temperature may play a role, as well as the general populace of predatory species that specifically feed on the molds.
Why is Green Mold Green?
Contrary to popular belief, mold has several enemies–and not just its victims. There are plenty of microbial species that feed on mold. Many scientists believe this is the reason behind the mold’s coloring. In the Amazon, for example, molds generally display orange hues and its been discovered that this not only protects them from UV damage but also from certain mold-eating amoebas found in the soil. The infamous black mold, for example, is not necessarily more toxic than other molds, it’s simply more hardy. The hardier the mold, the more difficult it is to kill it in both the habitat it originated in and the host’s body it has infiltrated. The more melanin a mold produces–which determines its hue–the stronger and more resilient it is, which is why those exposed to black mold tend to suffer longer and more severely than those exposed to types that display other colors.
What’s more, the coloring of a mold does not determine its type or classification. Thousands of molds can produce a wide array of colors, but may be more easily recognized or referred to by specific colors simply because they more commonly produce those specific colors within the habitats of humans. In recent history, scientists once classified molds based on their colors, only to discover that the same mold is capable of producing two or more different colors. This discovery revolutionized the methods of classification within mycology (the study of fungi).
Regardless of color, all molds have the potential to be toxic and compromise the health of both animals and people. Whether a mold is white, gray, black, brown, or green, contact should be avoided.
Can You Get Sick From Green Mold?
The simple answer is yes. As stated above, all mold can be problematic and cause health issues. Green mold is no exception.
If conditions are right and the mold is permitted enough time to proliferate and reach full maturity, it will produce its secondary metabolite and reproductive structures. The color and smell of mold is a good indication that it has reached maturity and is–or about to be–producing its reproductive mold spores that will soon infiltrate the open air. Should those spores be taken in by the lungs or come in contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth, the irritated tissues of the body will immediately notify the host’s immune system.
The first defense against a mold spore invasion resembles a typical allergic reaction: sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, runny nose, etc. If the spores are particularly toxic, the body will use inflammation and detox symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting) as a means to overcome and expel it. In the case of repeat exposure, the immune system may exaggerate its defense and cause more issues in the body than the mold itself would. Once mold has infiltrated the body and developed a growing colony within the host, the host’s natural microbial defenses (gut flora) become imbalanced and the immune system relies too heavily on increased inflammation, which only complicates and debilitates every function within the body. In fact, the damage most commonly observed in mold sickness or mold infection is not directly caused by the mold itself, but by the body’s desperate reaction to the mold.
So, can you get sick from green mold? Definitely. But, is green mold toxic?
Is Green Mold Toxic?
Molds are generally labeled as “toxic” if they produce mycotoxins–toxic chemicals. Like mold odor, mycotoxins are secondary metabolites that indicate two things: what the mold has feasted on and what stage of development it has reached.
All molds and their reproductive spores affect health, depending on exposure levels and the original condition of a host’s immune system, but the molds that produce mycotoxins in their mold spores are particularly dangerous because of the mycotoxins’ ability to cause not only immediate and chronic health complications from a single exposure but, more importantly, irreversible neurological damage. The brain, spinal cord, and nerves of the body can all be permanently affected by the infiltration of toxic mold. The symptoms vary by degree and presentation, depending on the person and level of severity. Altered levels of consciousness, confusion, irritability, loss of sensation, paralysis, poor coordination, moodiness, muscle weakness, and seizures are just a few of the symptoms associated with neurological damage caused by mold. Sadly, most people exposed to toxic mold are continually misdiagnosed and receive ineffective or further-damaging medical treatments. The lack of public awareness and medical education in terms of mold toxicity is just another reason why so many are vulnerable to mold sickness and suffer long-term from its effects.
Many people wrongly assume that black mold is the most toxic of the molds or, worse yet, that it is the only toxic mold. What may come as a surprise to many is that the most common household molds come from the Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys chartarum families, which all come in shades of green. While black mold may be a more sturdy mold, green molds can be just as toxic and cause just as much health damage.
So, is green mold toxic? Yes, it most certainly can be.
Green Mold Removal
The reason mold is so abundant in the homes of humans is because they thrive under the same conditions. The same temperature ranges that humans find comfortable are just as suitable for mold. These days, most homes are not built sustainably. The natural surroundings and seasons of the area are not taken into account during planning and construction. Instead of utilizing the sun, homes are lit artificially and many spaces within a house are left permanently dark. Instead of using natural materials that can withstand seasonal changes, permit fresh air flow, and dry adequately, homes are heavily insulated with synthetic materials, which cause permanent damp areas and a stagnancy of the air. This contributes to the issue of green mold on walls, along with green mold on wood and other common mold issues.
Mold thrives in environments that are damp, dark, and relatively warm. When decomposing organic material (wood, synthetic paints/glues, dirt, skin cells, insects, etc.) is available as food–even better! Most homes–most buildings, actually–supply all of that and more. Green mold removal and prevention is important to the health of home and body.
How to Clean Green Mold
Therefore, when asking how to get rid of green mold, the first step is to make its new home unbearable. Open the curtains. Open the windows, too. Let bright sunlight and fresh air move freely about the rooms. Bring in a dehumidifier or two, depending on the floor count, to manage the humidity. Keep the thermostat between 62 and 67 degrees. Shampoo the carpets using special anti-fungal detergents or make your own. Keep the home clean and dry, especially the bathrooms, laundry room, and kitchen. Practice mold prevention in the home and avoid new or recurring problems.
If a mold infection is already present in the body, the same concept applies. Make the body an unsafe and unwelcome environment for mold. Eat whole foods; avoid carbohydrates, cheese, edible fungi, gluten, meat (even fish), processed foods, and sugars. Take in probiotics; avoid antibiotics. Exercise to the point of sweating (this detoxes and strengthens the body all throughout, especially the immune system). Consider visiting a sauna at least once a week. Allow direct sunlight to touch your skin (preferably forearms) for about 15 minutes each day between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Take in deep breaths of fresh, outdoor air multiple times a day. Drink clean, flouride- and chlorine-free water. (Spring water is best.) Shower daily, using natural soaps that will not damage the beneficial microorganisms within or without the body. Wear only clean, dry clothes and switch out underclothing frequently if they become damp or moist by sweat or other bodily fluids. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
If the mold infection is persistent, invest in essential oils, supplements, and herbs that are naturally anti-fungal and be even more strict with an anti-fungal diet. Limiting the intake of fruits to green apples and grapefruit may be necessary, as well. Various forms of fasting can also starve mold out of the body, but detoxing too quickly from mold can oftentimes make people severely ill so great planning and care must be taken if fasting is the chosen route. Lastly, find an informed and supportive medical professional who understands mold sickness and is willing to monitor your progress, suggest natural (non-pharmaceutical) remedies, and help you make informed decisions.
Green mold can be a scary opponent, but removing green mold and dealing with the underlying issue is the most important step to take for your health and home. Green mildews and molds are everywhere, but there are many resources available to keep them from being an unwelcome guest in the home. Have you ever had green mold or mildew in your home or workplace? Did the green mold grow on your walls or bathroom, or did you find it on furniture or wood? Please share your experience in the comments below!
About the Author: Amanda Demsky is the mother and personal chef of two boys, the domestic technician of a three-bedroom desert home, and occasionally, a freelance writer and editor. Feel free to follow her on Twitter fullquiver777.