Mold: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Part 2

3 Petri dishes of mold12.03.2014

Written by: Selective Micro Technologies

Part 2 of our mold series aims to debunk several myths about mold and present several ways in which mold has been used for positive outcomes. Mold has a bad reputation, but not all types of mold are necessarily bad. For instance, a certain mold is responsible for what has been one of the biggest medical discoveries in the 20th century. Do you know what it is? For the answer, we will explore some common myths about mold, some of which we’ll debunk. Below are three common myths regarding mold:

Mold Myth #1: Mold and mildew are the same thing.

Mold and mildew are each a type of fungus, and both can be known to produce an earthly, musty smell. They can look different from one another. An article on HealthResearchfunding.org says, “The primary difference between mold and mildew is their colors. Mold can be black or greenish. Reddish and bluish mold is less common but not rare. Mildew is usually white or grayish. Another noticeable difference between mold and mildew is in its texture. Mold would be thick and sticky. Mildew would be lighter and powdery.” If you have mildew, it can actually lead to different kinds of more invasive molds growing if you do not get the mildew removed appropriately.  

Mold Myth #2: If you have not seen mold, there is no mold present.

This is not true for several reasons. First, mold spores are everywhere. They are microscopic in size; therefore, until an entire colony grows they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Second, mold can grow anywhere that has the appropriate environment of moisture, temperature, nutrients, and oxygen it needs. That can be on the surface of bread where it can be seen, or beneath the tiles in your bathroom where it cannot be seen. Mold does not need a lot of room to be able to grow, and it’s the places that can’t be seen where mold does the most damage.

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Mold Myth #3: All mold is bad.

As a matter of fact, there are several ways in which mold is used for good. Remember the question asked at the beginning about the mold that is responsible for one of the greatest medical discoveries in the 20th century? That mold is Penicillium notatum, the original mold where the antibiotic Penicillin came from. This antibiotic has been responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of people around the world. This was discovered by a doctor in England named Alexander Fleming, which was then perfected by scientists in the United States. According to Robert Fogel, “In 1943, laboratory worker Mary Hunt brought in an ordinary supermarket cantaloupe infected with a mold that had ‘a pretty, golden look.’ This Penicillium species, Penicillium chrysogenum grew so well in a tank that it more than doubled the amount of penicillin produced.” Therefore, a common mold on a cantaloupe gave way towards saving thousands of lives. Other ways molds are used for good are during the fermentation process while making beer, improving the taste of wines, and aiding in making certain kinds of cheese.

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