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Professional Home Inspections and Mold Inspections In Chicago land Area and Northwest Indiana
Illinois License - 450.002148

Midwest Mold Inspections

• Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC is a company whose goals are dedicated to the detection and prevention of mold in your indoor environment. We provide affordable professional services for mold inspection, mold testing, and mold preventive maintenance. Our methodical and scientifically proven procedures assure you of the highest degree of reliability and accurate results. Our testing protocols are updated regularly to keep up with the most current methods set forth by experts and laboratories.

• Knowledge is power. Knowing the current condition of your property allows you to make good decisions about your property. The key is an affordable inspection and maintenance program. Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC offer affordable professional testing that can create opportunity for you the homeowner to enjoy the well being of periodic inspections or testing, much like you now perform periodic maintenance to your automobile or your furnace.
• Inspection is the most important step in identifying or ruling out a possible mold contamination problem. Determining the type and the amount of pollutants families are breathing during time spent inside their homes, can be a pro-active method of preemptively limiting the amount of harmful indoor air pollutants that are being inhaled, thereby reducing the chances of serious health problems caused by long term unannounced and unknown pollutants and other airborne contaminants within the home.
• Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC strive to serve our friends and neighbors by making indoor air quality and mold testing affordable. Our hope is that this service will enable the average homeowner to have their home tested by professionals on a periodic basis, before encountering a situation that could possibly lead to health problems or structural damage to the home itself.

What is Mold?
Molds are fungi (singular- fungus). Molds grow virtually everywhere throughout the natural and man built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. For molds to grow and reproduce, they need only a food source, such as leaves, wood, paper, dust or any organic material, and moisture. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Because molds grow by digesting the organic material, they gradually destroy whatever they grow on. Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the form of discoloration, frequently green, gray, brown, or black but also white and other colors.Most fungi reproduce by creating microscopic cells called “spores” that are generated by these organisms in great numbers. Spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions. Spores are usually composed of one to a few cells. The spores may be sexual or asexual and are variable in shape, size and color. Some spores grow in clumps that are stuck together. Others grow in long, fragile chains that are easily dispersed into the air if the fungus is disturbed. If adequate moisture is present when a spore lands on a suitable food source, it uses nutrients stored within it to start growing. The mycelium will germinate from the spore, growing radially, to form a circular growth or colony sending out small extensions called hyphae, similar to the root from a germinating seed. This is the beginning of a mold colony. Unlike people or animals, which digest food after being taken into the body, fungi secrete enzymes from the growing tips of the hyphae to digest its food before entering the organism. The resulting nutrients diffuse into the organism through the cell wall at the tip. As the hypha elongates, it splits and lengthens, eventually creating a complex network of hyphae called a mycelium. Often the mycelium is white and furry, but as many fungal colonies mature they may acquire the color of their spores, black, yellow, brown, or green. Within days a single spore can easily produce a mature colony containing millions of spores.

A less familiar fungus is the yeast. The yeast fungus is unicellular, composed of single cells that continually divide by budding or fission. Although yeasts are quite different in their appearance than mycelial fungi, their means of obtaining food is identical. Whether the fungus body is composed of mycelium or yeast, both will function for feeding and reproduction.

Not all Molds are bad.
One genus of mold, Penicillium, comprises hundreds of known species: some produce the antibiotic penicillin, and others turn milk curd into cheese. Some species of Penicillium create the blue-green growth found on long forgotten oranges at the back of a refrigerator drawer.

Where Mold Grows

Molds can grow indoors on food, cloth, dust, fruit, paper, cotton, soap, oil, paint, wood, carpets, leather, sheet rock, and insulation when moist conditions exist.

Mold cannot use inorganic materials such as concrete or rock for food, but it can consume anything organic, or carbon based, that happens to land on these surfaces.

Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply:
Suitable place to grow

In homes and buildings, many of the materials mold grows on (such as wood framing, wallpaper, fabrics, drywall, and cardboard boxes) contain cellulose, a plant substance. Cellulose is a polymer (a long-chain molecule) of glucose. The starch we eat is also a polymer of glucose. Our digestive enzymes break starch down into individual glucose molecules that taste sweet. This process starts in the mouth, so a cracker develops a sweet taste as we chew it. Humans can’t digest cellulose, because the glucose molecules are linked or bonded differently than they are in starch, but fungi can. Wood is primarily a composite of cellulose and lignin, another complex plant substance that even some fungi cannot digest.

Molds have varying requirements for growth such as moisture, food, temperature and other environmental conditions. Indoor and outdoor spaces that are wet, and have organic materials that mold can use as a food source, can and do support mold growth. Many molds reproduce by making spores, which, if they land on a moist food source, can germinate and begin producing a branching network of cells called hyphae.  Indoor spaces that are damp or wet, and have organic materials that mold can use as a food source, will support mold growth. Since Mold Spores can become airborne, even by the slightest air currents, indoor exposure by inhalation or skin contact and/or by direct skin contact off surfaces is possible.

Mold in Your Home

Molds (Fungi), are everywhere on our planet, both indoors and outdoors. Fungi are found in every ecological niche, and are necessary for the recycling of organic building blocks that allow plants and animals to live. Included in the group “fungi” are yeasts, molds and mildews, as well as large mushrooms, puffballs and bracket fungi that grow on dead trees. Fungi have to have an external organic food sources and water/moisture to be able to grow.
Mold cannot use inorganic materials such as concrete or rock for food, but it can consume anything organic, or carbon based, that lands on these surfaces. Mold can grow on dust, fruit, paper, cotton, soap, oil, paint, and wood. In buildings, many of the materials mold grows on (such as wood framing, wallpaper, fabrics, drywall, and cardboard boxes) contain cellulose, a plant substance.
An example is, when a mold spore lands on damp wood, the hyphae elongate and grow through the hollow tubes of the wood structure, breaking down the cellulose, metabolizing the sugar, and destroying, or “rotting” the wood. When the wood dries out, the mold stops growing and may even die. What is left behind consists of, among other things, mold growth (including spores and hyphae), partially digested cellulose, and the undigested lignin. When the wood gets wet the mold may start to grow again.

Mold is in my home, should I be concerned?

Yes, if indoor mold contamination is extensive, it can cause very high and persistent airborne spore exposures. Persons exposed to high spore levels can become sensitized and develop allergies to the mold or other health problems. Mold growth can damage your furnishings, such as carpets, furniture and cabinets. Clothes and shoes in damp closets can become stained and soiled. Unchecked, mold growth over a period of time can cause serious damage to the structural elements in your home.

Do you suspect mold in your home?

You may suspect that you have mold if you see discolored patches or cottony or speckled growth on walls or furniture or if you smell an earthy or musty odor. You also may suspect mold contamination if mold-allergic individuals experience some of the symptoms listed when in the house. Evidence of past or ongoing water damage should also be a trigger for a thorough inspection. A through inspection may find mold growth underneath water-damaged surfaces or behind walls, floors or ceilings.
Some common sources of indoor moisture that may lead to mold problems:
• Leaky roofs
• Damp basement or crawl space
• Plumbing leaks
• Flooding
• Overflow from sinks or sewers
• Sprinkler spray hitting the house
• Steam from shower or cooking
• Humidifiers
• Wet clothes drying indoors or clothes dryers exhausting indoors
Warping floors and discoloration of walls and ceilings can be indications of moisture problems. Condensation on windows or walls is also an important indication. You should have fuel-burning heating equipment or appliances routinely inspected by your local utility or a professional heating contractor.

How can I prevent mold problems in my home?

Inspect your home regularly for the indications and sources of indoor moisture and mold listed above. Take steps to eliminate sources of water as quickly as possible.
If a leak or flooding occurs, it is essential to act quickly:
• Stop the source of leak or flooding.
• Remove excess water with mops or wet vacuum.
• Whenever possible, move wet items to a dry and well ventilated area or outside to expedite drying.
• Move rugs and pull up areas of wet carpet as soon as possible.
• Open closet and cabinet doors and move furniture away from walls to increase circulation.
• Run portable fans to increase air circulation.
• Do NOT use the homes central blower if flooding has occurred in it or in any of the ducts.
• Do NOT use fans if mold may have already started to grow usually more than 48 hrs. since flooding.
• Run dehumidifiers and window air conditioners to lower humidity.
• Do NOT turn up the heat or use heaters in confined areas, as higher temperatures increase the rate of mold growth.
• If water has soaked inside the walls, it may be necessary to open wall cavities, remove baseboards, and/or pry open wall paneling.


Fungi (singular- fungus) are a group of organisms with nuclei and rigid cell walls, but without chlorophyll. They may be unicellular or in multicellular filaments. The filaments are called hyphae. A fungus may produce a system of branching filaments, called the mycelium. The filamentous fungi are sometimes called molds. Unicellular fungi are often called yeasts. Some fungi may produce both yeast and mycelial mold phases. Mildew, in layperson’s terms, describes the staining, and likely the degradation of the materials, caused by fungi or molds. Mildew is also used by plant pathologists to identify plant diseases, such as “powdery mildew,” caused by fungi.

What defines a fungus has changed a number of times since the 1950s. Currently, many mycologists define fungi as organisms that are nucleated, achlorophyllous, typically they reproduce sexually and asexually by spores, and whose somatic structure is composed of filamentous branched or yeast, which are surrounded by cells walls composed of chitin

Fungi are included with some of the earth’s most important organisms, both in terms of their ecological and economic roles because of their role in continuing the cycle of nutrients through ecosystems by breaking down dead organic material. In addition, most vascular plants could not grow without the symbiotic fungi, or mycorrhizae, that inhabit their roots and supply essential nutrients. Other fungi provide numerous drugs (such as penicillin and other antibiotics), foods like mushrooms, truffles and morels, and the yeasts provide bubbles for, champagne, beer and bread.

Fungi also cause a number of plant and animal diseases: in humans, fungi cause ringworm, athlete’s foot, and several more serious diseases. Additionally, fungal diseases are very difficult to treat because fungi are more chemically and genetically similar to animals than other organisms. Plant diseases caused by fungi include rusts, smuts, and leaf, root, and stem rots, and can cause severe damage to crops. However, a number of fungi are important “model organisms” for studying problems in genetics and molecular biology in particular the yeasts.

Classifications of Fungi

Fungi are usually classified in four divisions:

Chytridiomycota (chytrids)
Zygomycota (bread molds)
Ascomycota (yeasts and sac fungi)
Basidiomycota (club fungi)

Placement into a division is based on the way in which the fungus reproduces sexually. The shape and internal structure of the sporangia, which produce the spores, are the most useful character for identifying these various major groups.

There are also two conventional groups, which are not recognized as formal taxonomic groups these are:

Deuteromycota (fungi imperfecti)
The Deuteromycota includes all fungi, which have lost the ability to reproduce sexually. As a result, it is not known for certain into which group they should be placed, and thus the Deuteromycota becomes a convenient place to dump them until someone gets around to working out their biology.

Unlike other fungi, the lichens are not a single organism, but rather a symbiotic association between a fungus and an alga. The fungal member of the lichen is usually an ascomycete or basidiomycete, and the alga is usually a cyanobacterium or a chlorophyte (green alga). Often the fungal partner is unable to grow without the algal symbiont, making it difficult to classify these organisms. Here they will be treated as a separate group, but it should be realized that they are neither single organisms, nor a monophyletic group.

Some organisms carry the name of mold or fungus, but are not classified in the Kingdom Fungi. These include the slime molds and water molds (Oomycota). Slime molds are now known to be a mixture of three or four unrelated groups, and the oomycetes are now classified in the Chromista, with the diatoms and brown algae.

Mold and Humidity

Molds need moisture to Grow!

Moisture is visible as liquid water but invisible as water vapor in air. Relative humidity is a measure of how much water vapor is in the air compared with the maximum amount of moisture the air can contain at a given temperature (how close air is to being saturated). Air at 80 percent relative humidity can still contain more moisture. Air at 100 percent relative humidity looks just the same but can hold no more water vapor. Relative humidity is an important concept to understand in the battle against indoor air quality problems, because microscopic life flourishes at higher relative humidity

Actions that will help to reduce Humidity:·

• Vent appliances thzat produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters to the outside where possible. (Combustion appliances such as stoves and kerosene heaters produce water vapor and will increase the humidity unless vented to the outside.)
• Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering.
• Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or dishwashing, etc.

Mold & Health

Molds do have the potential to cause health problems. Although, molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic reaction symptoms commonly reported include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny noses, eye irritation, congestion, also aggravation of asthma, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and skin rash (dermatitis). They can be immediate or delayed. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold.

A variety of symptoms have been credited to the toxic effects of diverse molds. The medical symptoms may be caused by toxic gases produced by the molds or by reactions to the mold particles themselves. Many allergies are also attributable to mold spores and fungi.

Some severe symptoms may include severe headaches, reports of profusely bloody runny noses, coughing up of blood, fibrous growth in the lungs and in one reported instance, cognitive dysfunction and loss of memory.

In Texas, a mold expert investigating a case of water damage and mold damage underestimated the danger involved. The expert found himself throwing up for hours after spending just 30 minutes in the house. He has since suffered a severe hearing loss in one ear from his short exposure to the mold.

In the Cleveland area in 1993 and 1994, a doctor attributed 37 cases of pulmonary hemorrhage and hemosiderosis in which twelve infants died caused by Stachybotrys.

The CDC does recognize that moldy homes are unhealthy for human occupancy. Other reports claim to confirm the linkage of Stachybotrys to instances of infant deaths in other locations.

Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. For more detailed information consult a health professional. You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.

The conclusion we reach from all of these dramatic cases is that molds cannot be ignored and are potentially very dangerous. All molds growing within your indoor living environment should be removed.

Inspection Procedures

Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC basic mold inspection consists of a visual examination as well as readings taken of relative humidity, temperature and moisture content of suspect areas within the entire structure. If evidence of mold is found we will evaluate existing mold damage in the building. During our inspection we search for and identify moisture intrusion areas, investigate conditions that may be causing mold to grow and when necessary can inspect areas not visible (inside walls, etc.) for hidden mold growth that may exist.

Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC inspectors are trained and certified to perform a professional mold inspection that meets the highest standards of practice that have been established by The Indoor Environmental Association of Illinois. We recommend that you be present at the time of the inspection our inspectors will explain and let you also observe any areas where mold is discovered.

Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC gives written reports,* and if mold is discovered or if a high indoor air spore count is encountered, can in many cases give you recommendations toward corrective actions based on thorough and extensive evaluation of your specific situation.

The detailed reports obtained from the laboratory can in some cases assist your healthcare professional in identifying the cause of many allergy or medical problems that might be related to mold or mold spore infestation.

Additionally, the mold inspection and reports help by providing valuable information that can help you make an informed pre-purchase decision concerning any investment you are considering.

*During an inspection if any samples are deemed necessary, the samples collected will promptly be sent to a microbiology laboratory for analysis. Normal turn around time for laboratory results is 2 to 3 days.

Testing or Sampling for Mold

As a homeowner or occupant there are things you can do prior to calling in professional help. In many cases inspecting for mold initially involves common sense. Check for musky odors, look for discolored areas on wall, baseboards, ceilings, cabinets, etc., etc., etc., In some cases you may find no physical evidence of mold growth but still suspect mold spores due to having or suffering conditions such as allergies, respiratory irritation, skin rashes, etc.. In those instances you might want some testing done, i.e. an air sample test for mold spores taken to indicate the level of indoor airborne mold spores or perhaps a carpet test for allergins. For the testing or sampling for mold, you should seek the help of professionals who have specific experience in mold sampling protocols and the appropriate equipment.

Is sampling for mold needed?

In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Unless there is a specific agent is in question; an example among others might be perhaps certain allergens in which your physician might have some interest. Additionally, surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately remediated. Professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results should conduct sampling for mold. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a buildings compliance with federal mold standards. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.

See-Midwest Mold Inspection Procedures

Getting Rid of Mold


Keeping in mind that:

If mold growth areas are touched, scrubbed, dried out or otherwise disturbed, mold spores may become airborne and became part of the breathable air.  This may cause ingestion or inhalation of potentially toxic mold spores which could lead to a variety of serious health effects.
That both viable and non-viable (alive or dead) mold can be dangerous to your health.
It is impossible to get rid of all mold spores indoors, some mold spores will invariably be found floating through the air and in house dust.
Mold spores will not grow if a moisture source is not present.
Indoors, mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture sources indoors.
When there is mold growth found in your home, it must cleaned up and whatever is causing the moisture problem must be repaired.
If, you only clean up the mold, and you don’t fix the moisture problem, the mold problem will come back.

First, Assess the Size of Mold Contamination

There is a significant difference in the approach to be used for a small mold problem with a total area affected is less than 10 ft2, or a large contamination problem more than 100 ft2.
In a small area case <10ft2, the clean up could be handled by the homeowner if desired, using personal protective equipment, and using EXTREME Caution.
However, in cases larger areas, it is highly advisable that an experienced, professional contractor be used.
For in-between sized cases, the type of containment and personal protection equipment to be used will become a matter of experience and good judgment.
Clean up should begin only after the moisture source is fixed and excess water has been removed. Wear gloves when handling moldy materials.
1. Identify and eliminate the source of moisture (this is Key).
2. Identify and assess the magnitude and area of mold contamination.
3. Clean and dry moldy areas, isolate the affected areas, (using all appropriate safety gear).
4. Carefully bag and dispose of all material that may have moldy residues, such as rags, paper and debris.

During the cleaning process, you may be exposed to mold, mold spores, strong disinfectants, and detergents. Spore counts may be 10 to 1000 times higher than background levels when mold-contaminated materials are disturbed.
Take steps to protect you and your family’s health during clean up. When handling or cleaning moldy materials, it is important to use a respirator to protect yourself from inhaling airborne spores. When attempting to clean less porous items (i.e., solid items such as floors, cabinets, solid furniture), the first step is to remove as much mold as possible. A cleaning detergent is effective for this purpose. Remember, disinfecting agents can be toxic for humans, not just molds. They should be used only when necessary and should be handled with caution and only after cleaning with detergents.
Wear gloves, mask and eye protection when doing this cleanup. Use non-ammonia soap or detergent, or a commercial cleaner, in hot water, and scrub the entire area that is affected by the mold. Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad on cement-block walls or other uneven surfaces. Rinse cleaned items with water and dry thoroughly. A wet/dry vacuum cleaner is helpful for removing water and cleaning items.
After thoroughly cleaning and rinsing contaminated materials, a solution of 10% household bleach (for example, 1½ cup household bleach per gallon of water) can be used as a disinfectant.
Keep the disinfectant on the treated material for the prescribed time before rinsing or drying; typically 10 minutes is recommended for a bleach solution.
*Using bleach straight from the bottle is actually LESS effective than diluted bleach.
*Bleach fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and damage clothing and shoes. Make sure working areas are well ventilated.
*Never mix bleach with ammonia; toxic fumes may be produced.
You should discard moldy items that are porous and from which it will be difficult to remove mold completely: paper, rags, wallboard, rotten wood, carpet, drapes, and upholstered furniture. Contaminated carpet is often difficult to thoroughly clean, especially when the backing and/or padding can become moldy.
Bag and discard moldy items; if properly enclosed, items can be disposed with household trash.
Solid materials, glass, plastic, and metal can generally be kept after they are thoroughly cleaned.
Dry affected areas for 2 or 3 days.
Spores are more easily released when moldy materials dry out, hence it is advisable to remove moldy items as soon as possible.
If there was flooding, sheetrock should be removed to a level above the high-water mark. Visually inspect the wall interior and remove any mold-contaminated materials.

Can Ozone Cleaners Get Rid of Indoor Mold

Sometimes air cleaners are promoted to remove indoor mold or associated odors, and some of these are designed to produce ozone. Ozone is a strong oxidizing agent that is used as a disinfectant in water and sometimes to eliminate odors. However, ozone is a known lung irritant. Ozone generators have been shown to sometimes produce indoor levels above the safe limit. Furthermore, it has been shown that ozone is not effective in controlling molds and other microbial contamination, even at concentrations far above safe health levels. Also, ozone may damage materials in the home, for example, cause rubber items to become brittle. For these reasons, the California Department of Health Services strongly recommends that you NOT use an ozone air cleaner in any occupied space. Refer to the CDHS IAQ Info Sheet: Health Hazards of Ozone-generating Air Cleaning Devices(January 1998), available on the CDHS-IAQS web site. epa.publication link or another is CDHS Press release

Can air ducts become contaminated?

Yes. Air duct systems can become contaminated with mold. Duct systems may be constructed of bare sheet metal, sheet metal with fibrous glass insulation on the exterior, or sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner, or they may be made entirely of fibrous glass. Bare sheet metal systems and sheet metal with exterior fibrous glass insulation can be cleaned and disinfected. If water damaged, ductwork made of sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner or made entirely of fibrous glass will often need to be removed and discarded. Ductwork in difficult-to-reach locations may have to be abandoned. If you have other questions, contact an air duct cleaning professional or licensed contractor.
Stachybotrys chartarum (Black Mold)

Black Mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is a greenish black fungus that grows on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as on wood or paper that have gotten very wet for more than a few days. If wood, paper,wallboard or fiberboard gets wet and is not cleaned up and dried, this fungus may grow and spread. The fungus is black and slimy when wet. It does NOT grow on uncontaminated plastic, vinyl, concrete products, or ceramic tiles. It is NOT found in the green mold on bread or the black mold on the shower tiles.

Stachybotrys chartarum is a fungus that has been found to cause animal and human mycotoxicosis. Some common symptoms in humans can be a rash, especially in areas of the body subject to perspiration, dermatitis, pain and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, conjunctivitis, a burning sensation of the eyes and nasal passages, cough, tightness of the chest, bloody rhinitis, fever, headache, and fatigue.

Over the past 18 years in North America, evidence has accumulated associating this fungus with serious problems in homes and buildings and one of the causes of what has become known as the “sick building syndrome.” This fungus has resulted in multimillion-dollar litigations and has caused serious problems for homeowners and building managers who must deal with the issues and remediation.ehp online, Indoor Environment Notebook

Prior to 1986, there were publications about Stachybotrys chartarum, but none that indicated Stachybotrys chartarum as a potential problem in homes or buildings. Things begin to change in 1986, when there was a reported outbreak of trichothecene toxicosis in a Chicago home. The family had complained over a 5-year period of headaches, flue-like symptoms, recurring colds, diarrhea, fatigue, dermatitis, and general malaise. Upon investigation, spores of Stachybotrys chartarum were revealed in air samplings taken from their home. The fungus was found growing on wood fiber ceiling material, and on some moist organic debris in an uninsulated cold air duct. The home had a chronic moisture problem that encouraged mold growth. Samples from the air duct debris and the contaminated materials were found toxic to animals tested and several macrocyclic trichothecenes were identified in the extracts. When the mold problem was corrected, these symptoms associated with trichothecene toxicosis disappeared.

In 1993-1994, in Cleveland, Ohio there was an unusual outbreak of pulmonary hemorrhage and hemosiderosis in infants. This is rarely observed in infants that initiated an intensive study into the cause of the problem. Researchers found that all the homes of these infants had high levels of Stachybotrys chartarum as well as high total fungi growing in the homes of the sick infants. Furthermore, isolates of Stachybotrys chartarum from the homes were shown to produce trichothecenes. The homes had previously sustained water damage that resulted in the mold contamination. style=”mso-spacerun: yes”

However, there is considerable controversy about the role of Stachybotrys chartarum in pulmonary hemorrhage in the Cleveland incident.  Some members of the scientific-medical community believe there is insufficient evidence to prove a solid causal relationship between Stachybotrys chartarum and these health problems.

Mycotoxin poisoning by Stachybotrys chartarum fungi is referred to as stachybotryotoxicosis.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the toxicity of toxins from Stachybotrys chartarum on animals and animal and human cells.

In addition, the fungus produces nine phenylspirodrimanes (spirolactones and spirolactams) and cyclosporin, which are potent immunosuppressive agents. It has been suggested that the combination of trichothecenes and these immunosuppressive agents may be responsible for the high toxicity of this fungus.

The possibility exists that there are multiple modes of action for Stachybotrys chartarum to affect human health. Mycotoxicosis is clearly important but the immunosuppressant compounds may also have a role, although it is not clearly understood.

Although there are many unanswered questions about the effects of Stachybotrys chartarum on human health, the accumulation of data over the past 65 years tells us that one should not handle materials contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum without proper safety procedures and indicates that indoor environments contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum are not healthy for anyone, especially children, and could result in serious illness.

Stachybotrys chartarum Indoors
Wet conditions are required to initiate and maintain growth of Stachybotrys chartarum. The fungus is most commonly found in homes or buildings that have sustained water damage from broken pipes, roof, wall or floor leaks, sewer back-ups, etc.  It is commonly on the paper covering of gypsum wall board, but can be found on wallpaper, cellulose based ceiling tiles, paper products, carpets with natural fibers, paper covering on insulated pipes, in insulation material, on wood and wood paneling, and on general organic debris. The paper covering on fiberglass insulation is another area for growth. Spores of Stachybotrys chartarum are in the soil and during flooding can be introduced by floodwaters or the dust and dirt entering with the water incursion. Also, at the time of construction, building materials can have a coating of dust or dirt that contains Stachybotrys chartarum. The fungus can be hidden in the ceiling, walls or floors with no or little visible evidence within the interior of the room. The spores however, can contaminate the interior of the room through holes and cracks in the building materials or by being transported by the air handling system. Condensation due to poor design or faulty heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can promote the growth of fungus. The common name “Black Mold” derives because the fungi usually produce large amounts of conidiophores and conidia giving the substrate a black appearance that can be slightly shiny when fresh and powdery when dry. After flooding, Stachybotrys chartarum has been observed growing profusely on the paper covering of wallboard within a week after floodwater was drained from the building.

Detection and Remediation
Detection of Stachybotrys chartarum is usually by visual inspection and/or air and surface sampling. Because this fungus is not readily airborne compared to other fungi, air sampling in a contaminated indoor environment may show low levels of spores in the air. Inspection of potential sites of contamination, especially in covered and protected places, is a necessity to determine where the fungus occurs and the level of contamination.

If areas contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum are discovered, do not attempt to solve the problem without following recommended safety procedures for working with toxic molds, especially if heavily contaminated. Seek advice from professionals to avoid a potentially serious problem.

While removing materials you can disturb the contaminated areas creating dust that can increase exposure to the fungus and its metabolites. An approved respirator, gloves, and eye and skin protection should be used to handle Stachybotrys or any other Molds. Contaminated materials can be disposed of in plastic bags to reduce handling of infested materials. Disinfecting contaminated materials with mold growth may kill the fungus on the surface, but mycelium within the substrate will often survive and grow again. Also, mycotoxins may accumulate in contaminated material. You should remove all contaminated materials from the premises as soon as possible.

Home and building owners who suspect mold problems can acquire the services of consultants such Midwest Mold Inspectors to test for and identify molds, plus obtain advice on remediation.

Home Flooding
After a flooding has occurred, begin immediate aggressive action to correct moisture problems to prevent indoor contamination by Stachybotrys and other molds!

Additional Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Update on Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis among Infants-Cleveland, Ohio, 1993-1996. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 46, No. 2., January 17, 1997. (Internet http://www.cdc.gov

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Acute Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis among Infants- Cleveland, January 1993-November 1994. Morbidity and Mortality Report, Vol. 43, No. 48, December 9, 1994. (Internet http://www.cdc.gov)

Montana, E., Etzel, R., Allan, T., Horgan, T., and Dearborn, D., Environmental Risk Factors Associated with Pediatric Idiopathic Pulmonary Hemorrhage and Hemosiderosis in a Cleveland Community. Pediatrics, Vol. 99, No. 1, January, 1997.

Fact sheets and other indoor air quality related publications including “Biological Pollutants in Your Home” and “Flood Cleanup: Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems” are available from:
Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse,
P.O. Box 37133
Washington, D.C. 20013-7133
(800) 438-4318 or (202) 484-1307

Also visit the web site of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Indoor Environments Division http://www.epa.gov/iaq

Aspergillus & Common Diseases

What is it?
Aspergillus is a group of molds (fungi), which can be found everywhere worldwide, especially in the autumn and winter in the Northern hemisphere. Only a few of these molds can cause illness in humans and animals. Most people are naturally immune and do not develop disease caused by Aspergillus. However, when disease does occur, it can take several forms.

The types of diseases caused by Aspergillus are varied, ranging from an “allergy” type illness to life-threatening generalized infections. Diseases caused by Aspergillus are called aspergillosis The severity of aspergillosis is determined by various factors but one of the most important is the state of the immune system of the person.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA)
This is a condition that produces an allergy to the spores of the Aspergillus molds. It is quite common in asthmatics; up to 20% of asthmatics might get this at some time during their lives. ABPA is also common in cystic fibrosis patients, as they reach adolescence and adulthood. The symptoms are similar to those of asthma: intermittent episodes of feeling unwell, coughing and wheezing. Some patients cough up brown-colored plugs of mucus. The diagnosis can be made by X-ray or by sputum, skin and blood tests. In the long term ABPA can lead to permanent lung damage (fibrosis) if untreated. more info

This is a very different disease also caused by the Aspergillus mold. The fungus grows within a cavity of the lung, which was previously damaged during an illness such as tuberculosis or sarcoidosis. Any lung disease that causes cavities can leave a person open to developing an aspergilloma. The spores penetrate the cavity and germinate, forming a fungal ball within the cavity. The fungus secretes toxic and allergic products that may make the person feel ill. more info

Aspergillus sinusitis
Aspergillus disease can happen in the sinuses leading to Aspergillus sinusitis. This happens in a similar way to aspergilloma. In those with normal immune systems, stuffiness of the nose, chronic headache or discomfort in the face is common.more info

Invasive aspergillosis
Many people with damaged or impaired immune system die from invasive aspergillosis. Their chances of living are improved the earlier the diagnosis is made but unfortunately there is no good diagnostic test. Often treatment has to be started when the condition is only suspected. This condition is usually clinically diagnosed in a person with low defenses such as bone marrow transplant, low white cells after cancer treatment, AIDS or major burns. There is also a rare inherited condition that gives people low immunity (chronic granulomatous disease) that puts affected people at moderate risk.

Repairing Your Flooded Home. Excellent resource by the American Red Cross and FEMA, with details on technical & logistical issues.
Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments. Widely referenced guidelines developed by the New York City Department of Health.
Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Valuable, new guidance by U.S. EPA, also applicable to residences.
Additional Information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Update on Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis among Infants-Cleveland, Ohio, 1993-1996. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 46, No. 2., January 17, 1997. (Internet http://www.cdc.gov

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Acute Pulmonary Hemorrhage/Hemosiderosis among Infants- Cleveland, January 1993-November 1994. Morbidity and Mortality Report, Vol. 43, No. 48, December 9, 1994. (Internet http://www.cdc.gov)

Montana, E., Etzel, R., Allan, T., Horgan, T., and Dearborn, D., Environmental Risk Factors Associated with Pediatric Idiopathic Pulmonary Hemorrhage and Hemosiderosis in a Cleveland Community. Pediatrics, Vol. 99, No. 1, January, 1997.

Fact sheets and other indoor air quality related publications including “Biological Pollutants in Your Home” and “Flood Cleanup: Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems” are available from:
Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse,
P.O. Box 37133
Washington, D.C. 20013-7133
(800) 438-4318 or (202) 484-1307

Also visit the web site of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Indoor Environments Division http://www.epa.gov/iaq

U.S. EPA IAQ INFO, 800-438-4318,
9 am to 5 pm, Eastern Time, www.epa.gov/iaq/

Q: Why do I need my air tested?
A: By doing an indoor and outdoor air test we will be able to determine if you have elevated levels of indoor air pollutants, including mold & mildew.

Q: Are indoor air pollutants dangerous?
A: The presence of certain mold and mold spores have been known to cause mild to severe health effects in humans (especially in infants & seniors) and can deteriorate the building materials in the dwelling resulting in structural damage.

Q: What are the effects of mold &, mildew?
A: Health effects can include but are not limited to: asthma, allergy symptoms, watery eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, sinus congestion, blurry vision, sore throat, dry cough, aches and pains, skin irritation, bleeding of the lungs, headaches, memory loss and fever.

Q: Will everyone in my home be affected in the same way?
A: As humans vary greatly in their chemical make up, so does an individuals reaction to mold exposure. For some people, a small number of mold spores can cause ill effects. In others it may take a much longer time.

Q: How often should I get tested?
The Environmental Institute recommends testing your home at least twice a year. The tests performed are only an indication of the actual conditions at the time the sampling has occurred. As conditions change over time, this is only an indication of the mold type tested for at the time of service.

Q: I have mold. Now what?
You should “remediated (repair cause, remove mold, clean, & repair damage) ” The Midwest Mold Testing Specialist can guide you through this process or you may wish to seek additional advise of a certified industrial hygienist or an independent mold remediation specialist for further consultation.

Q: What are your qualifications?
All of our representatives have gone through a comprehensive training program taught, approved and certified by the The Indoor Environmental Association in Illinois

Q: What about non-allergenic carpet?
Many synthetic carpeting materials will not support mold growth itself, but mold can grow quite well on the dust, which settles within the carpet between and around the fibers.

Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC is a Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana mold inspection company. We are dedicated to providing affordable mold inspection, which we hope will lead to better health through prevention and resolution of mold related, causes of illness, allergies and property damages. We present this site to be informative and to give you some insight about Mold and the conditions that Mold if left unchecked can cause. We welcome your comments or suggestions concerning this site and any of the content that you find needing improvement or correction.

Please note, we are certified mold inspectors. We are not Physicians or Attorneys, for advice or council on matters related to or concerning these professions contact your doctor or lawyer, also additional information can be found at the CDC or EPA.

Midwest Mold Inspection Company, LLC inspectors have been certified by The Indoor Environmental Association in Illinois, curriculum taught by Dr. John D. Shane Ph.D., of the McCrone Research Institute. Dr. Shane has over 20 years experience identifying fungal spores pollen grains and house dust particulates and has taught hundreds of people how to identify them. He regularly instructs laboratory personnel from around the country proper sampling techniques and how to interpret their sampling results, as well as properly use the indoor air quality workers most important analytical tool, the microscope and is committed to teaching excellence. Dr. Shane is not affiliated with Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC in any way beyond having taught the courses for the Inspectors Certifications.

This site is for general information purposes ONLY

 The content of this site is general information only. All statements and information contained within this site is NOT to be used as legal or medical advice, or for any type of diagnosis of any health or medical condition. For anyone seeking such professional services, contact an attorney for legal assistance and your health care provider, physician or allergist for health concerns or medical advice.

Interesting Articles by Dr. Harriet Burge

How much proof is needed to determine that mold is causing a problem? The answer depends on innumerable factors, not the least of which is the definition of the word “proof”. Proof, to a scientist, means that sufficient evidence has been gathered to demonstrate, using statistics, that there is less than a given probability (usually 5%, but sometimes 1% or even a 0.1%) that the problem is caused by a mold. Thus, any statement of “scientific proof” has a defined probability that it could be wrong. Generally scientists are only willing to be wrong 5%, or less, of the time. On the other hand, a jury may consider proof to mean a “preponderance of the evidence”, which means that there is at least a 50% chance that the proof is wrong and the problem is not caused by mold. To a physician, any chance that a mold-related problem exists is worth consideration because of their obligation to the patient to be cautious. For this reason, physicians often propose low probability diagnoses and then seek to exclude them. In the case of a potentially life-threatening problem, a physician may even act on an improbable diagnosis if the action is relatively benign.

Obviously, it is much harder to meet the scientific definition of proof than it is to meet the “preponderance of evidence” standard, so what we consider “proven” may be different than what will win in court.

Scientists are convinced that there is a connection between mold and infections and allergies for certain populations of people. However, it can be difficult to establish that mold is actually the causative agent of these symptoms for the specific individual(s) being helped by an environmental investigator. Although environmental investigators must think somewhat like physicians, none are trained to diagnose connections between mold problems and human disease. The environmental investigator needs to remain focused on the environment. The fact that the scientific community agrees that mold can cause health problems is a solid basis for finding and eliminating indoor sources of mold from which aerosolization and human exposure is likely to occur.

In the case of the connection between “toxic” mold and human respiratory illness, scientists are not convinced that sufficient proof (to the 95% level) exists to make this connection. Juries, on the other hand, have been convinced to the 50% level (i.e., more likely than not) that individuals’ health have been affected by inhalation of toxic mold spores. Many physicians are not convinced of the connection, but accept it, then seek to exclude the diagnosis.

How should an environmental investigator proceed, given these circumstances?
First and foremost, no environmental investigator can be expected to collect sufficient data to conclude, with 95% probability, that mold growth is causing a problem. (Note that they can conclude with 100% probability that mold growth is occurring if they see it!). Scientists have the luxury of not having to consider individuals and their day-to-day problems and, therefore, do not have to strike a balance between ideal and practical solutions.

Additionally, no competent investigator is going to be satisfied with being wrong 50% of the time. Juries do the best they can (often with no specific knowledge of the problem at hand) and are generally not affected, in the long run, by their decisions. Attorneys are paid and advance their careers by winning cases, whether or not they are defending the “truth”. An environmental investigator, on the other hand, is expected to have specific knowledge of the problem and their business will certainly suffer if they are wrong.

I believe that environmental investigators are like physicians. They are trying to diagnose problems in buildings and they should examine all reasonable hypotheses. Of course, this approach requires education and training. An amateur cannot go into a building and make intelligent guesses. Making recommendations for remediation that take into consideration future problems that might occur if the recommendations are not followed, or the impact of the recommendations on the home or building owner or occupants, requires considerable knowledge and experience.

Because formal training programs are not available for mold investigators, acquiring the needed education can be difficult. I consider knowledge in the following areas essential for a good mold investigator:

1. Building science: How buildings are put together, how they operate, and how water travels through them.

2. Mycology: What fungi are, where they grow, how they spread, what are background levels and, very generally, what kinds of health effects might they cause (this last is only for perspective).

3. Sampling: What constitutes a reasonable sample of an environment (i.e., how much sample is needed); what kind of sample (and sample analysis) is most useful; how are samples handled; what kinds of information can be derived from samples; how is data interpreted.

4. Remediation: What kinds of remediation work best for preventing mold growth; how is mold effectively stopped and removed; how will remediations affect the environment; what are the implications if remediation recommendations are not followed.

Education in all of these areas can be obtained through extensive reading, attendance at short courses (or University-based curricula) and by working with experienced people (i.e., apprenticeships). Although basic knowledge in all of these areas is essential, nothing substitutes for experience and common sense.

The data and other information contained in this article are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC. hereby disclaims any liability for any and all direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special or consequential damages arising out of the use or interpretation of the data or other information contained in, or any actions taken or omitted in reliance upon, this Article.

We are often asked if building contents should be discarded as part of mold remediation. The short answer is “NO”. A slightly longer answer is “Not normally” and we are now back into the commonly found gray area of mold remediation.

The goal of mold remediation is to remove active fungal growth and its products from a contaminated space. In most cases this can be done without actually removing the contents of the space. Unfortunately, some investigators are recommending that ALL building contents be removed and discarded.This often results in enormous economic losses that are usually unnecessary. Here are a few guidelines to aid in deciding whether or not something needs to be discarded.

1. Water must be removed, and the problem that allowed the water to be present must be corrected. Otherwise, no amount of mold remediation will solve the problem.

2. Non-porous materials can always be cleaned, even if surface mold growth is present. In these cases, the mold is growing on dust, oil, soap film, or other nutrients attached to the surface of the material. Soap, water, and a little elbow grease will readily remove this kind of contamination. This is common practice when mold grows on shower tiles or in the refrigerator. This principle extends to television sets, metal or plastic furniture, ceramic or vinyl flooring, composition and granite counter tops, etc.

3. Wood can be cleaned unless the fungal growth is rotting the wood. This only occurs when wood has been wet for a long period of time. The blue, green and black powdery molds often seen on wood surfaces are not rotting the wood. As with non-porous materials, the fungi are growing on dust, wax, oils or other nutrients on the wood surface and can be removed with soap and water.

4. Removable soft materials can always be cleaned if the only contamination is from spores released from growth occurring elsewhere. Mattresses can be thoroughly vacuumed and covered in allergen-proof encasings. Upholstered furniture can be professionally cleaned. Drapery can be dry cleaned or washed. Rugs can be professionally cleaned, which involves immersion in soapy water followed by thorough rinsing and rapid drying. Clothing can be washed or dry-cleaned. If the soft material has been wetted and fungi are actually growing on the fibers, then decisions will have to be made about how valuable the object actually is. It is usually worth trying to clean all but the most grossly contaminated materials.

5. Fixed soft materials that have not become wet, and are contaminated only with spores can be cleaned in place either by occupants or professionals. Thorough vacuuming of furniture and installed carpeting is often sufficient. If mold growth within the space has been extensive, professional cleaners can more effectively remove residual spores using high powered suction with rapid drying. If fixed soft materials have become wet and mold has grown within the fibers, then they probably will have to be discarded. This may include gypsum board, wallpaper, and upholstered furniture. Again, good professional cleaning may be sufficient and is certainly worth trying, especially if a material is extremely valuable. Note that people with severe allergies are usually advised not to have upholstered furniture, carpeting or rugs, or draperies that require dry cleaning; and they should always use mattress and pillow encasings.

These cleaning approaches should also remove most of the odors caused by active fungal growth. Residual odors may be caused by undiscovered growth, bacterial growth, or other factors and correctly identifying the source is not always easy. Airing outdoors is the traditional approach to removing residual odors from mattresses, rugs, and clothing. The ultraviolet light and ozone (as well as other chemicals present outdoors) effectively destroy the chemicals that cause these odors. Ozone and ultraviolet use indoors is more problematic. Ozone is routinely used by fire restoration specialists to remove combustion odors. These remediations are always done in unoccupied spaces, and require high ozone concentrations. Obviously, if odors cannot be removed, the object may have to be discarded.

These suggestions are supported by the USEPA in moldguide.pdf and moldremediation.pdf, both available on the EPA website (www.epa.gov). They are also supported by the New York City Guidelines for Mold Remediation .

The data and other information contained in this article are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC. hereby disclaims any liability for any and all direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special or consequential damages arising out of the use or interpretation of the data or other information contained in, or any actions taken or omitted in reliance upon, this Article.

By: Tharanga Abeysekera and Dr. Harriet Burge

Bacteria (prokaryotes) are microscopic organisms that differ from animal cells (eukaryotes) because they have no organized nucleus and no membrane systems in the cells. They do have DNA, as all living cells do however, the DNA exists in the cytoplasm and not in a membrane bound nucleus as seen in the animal cells. Nearly all bacteria are free-living and can be cultured in the laboratory. A few require living cells for reproduction or are difficult to grow on standard laboratory media.

Bacterial populations can be cultured from air samples (culture plates, impingers, etc), from surface samples (swabs, contact plates, etc), and from bulk samples (water samples, pieces of solid material, dust, etc).

In situations where populations of unknown bacteria are being studied, especially indoor environmental bacteria, analysis is necessarily based on culture. Although many bacteria can be identified by PCR-based techniques (which compare unknown DNA fragments to known DNA probes), most of these are human pathogens that are unlikely to be present in environmental samples. If one is tracking a specific human pathogen in the environment, PCR is probably the best approach.

Identification of bacteria by cultural analysis is based on morphology (e.g., spherical, rod-shaped, etc), by staining reactions (e.g., Gram-positive or negative, acid fast), and by the pattern of results from a series of physiological tests.

Bacteria are of importance to humanity because they process dead organic material in the environment; they cause infections and, less commonly, allergic reactions; they contaminate food, sometimes producing some extremely potent toxins; and, finally, are responsible for the production of some common food products (e.g., vinegar).

Bacteria are always present in all indoor environments and are often the most abundant microorganisms present. These include primarily:

Staphylococcus sp.

Micrococcus sp.

Bacillus sp.


Gram-negative non-fermenters

Most of these bacteria are shed from human skin surfaces. It is not surprising to find hundreds of thousands of bacteria per gram of dust in carpets. As long as the bacterial types are a mixture of those listed above, there is generally no cause for concern. Among the Staphylococcus species that are commonly found indoors is Staphylococcus aureus, which is an important pathogen in hospital environments. Should we be concerned if Staphylococcus aureus is found on air or surface samples in other indoor spaces? Probably not unless it is the predominating colony on the plate (e.g., covering 80% or more of the plate).

Bacteria may also enter with outdoor air or floodwater, and may also grow in indoor environmental reservoirs. Common indoor reservoirs are water systems (including drinking water), humidifiers, fish tanks, very wet organic material, and spoiled food. Understanding the populations of bacteria likely to develop in each of these reservoirs is crucial to interpreting sampling data.

Formal guidelines for interpreting bacterial populations in sampling data have not been established. We consider that a mix of skin-surface bacteria in indoor air, surface, bulk and dust samples is normal, even if levels are relatively high. High levels of these organisms are generally indicative of human activity during sampling. It is very important to remember that people doing sampling also shed these bacteria and this bacterial cloud (which is not intrinsic to the environment being studied) will appear as part of the data.

If there has been a sewage spill or flood, then Gram-negative enteric bacteria are to be expected. These are shed from the digestive systems of people and animals. Food should not be contaminated with these organisms, and such environments should be thoroughly cleaned. This is one area where a disinfectant is appropriate, especially if children are present. The enteric organisms are generally not hazardous once dead. Samples can be collected and analyzed specifically for these enteric bacteria. If collecting air samples on culture media (for example, to track whether or not these bacteria are traveling into occupied spaces from an identified reservoir) MacConkey’s agar should be used. For bulk or swab samples, the analyst will also use this agar, on which indicator enteric bacteria can be counted directly. Note that PCR methods will indicate the presence of these organisms whether they are dead or alive.

Humidifiers are an important source for bacterial exposure that may lead to allergic type disease. Humidifier water and scale scrapings should always be sampled where chest tightness, cough, and fever are associated with a particular indoor environment. One group of bacteria that is often associated with these symptoms is the thermophilic actinomycetes. These organisms require temperatures in excess of 50°C for growth, and are not detected when plates are incubated at the usual 37°C. The presence of thermophilic actinomycetes in air or in any reservoir in occupied environments is of concern.

Is it necessary to have an outside comparison for bacterial air sampling? Many people do collect these samples, however, it is not uncommon to find inside counts higher than those outdoors. Unless some outdoor activity is occurring that is likely to produce concentrated bacterial aerosols (e.g., farming activities), outdoor air samples rarely contribute to the interpretation of indoor air samples. Since bacteria can be found in all environments, to help assist in the interpretation of data, it is best to also collect a sample from a “non-impacted” area. This is especially true for surface and bulk samples.

The data and other information contained in this article are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC. hereby disclaims any liability for any and all direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special or consequential damages arising out of the use or interpretation of the data or other information contained in, or any actions taken or omitted in reliance upon, this Article.

We are often asked what types of mycotoxins are produced by fungi and what types of health effects they cause. Fungi produce hundreds of mycotoxins, and yes, some of these toxins are produced by some common indoor fungi. A very short list of some familiar fungi and their mycotoxins is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Abbreviated list of some familiar fungi and their mycotoxins. (Click on image for full view)


However, a few comments about the importance, or lack thereof, of these mycotoxins in indoor air-related illness are needed.

1. Toxigenic means that the fungus is capable of producing toxins. It doesn’t mean that they always do, or that the presence of a specific fungus can be taken to mean that the toxins are being produced. Even though a fungal species is known to have strains that produce mycotoxins, not all strains have this capability, and even those with the capability do not make the toxins under all conditions. Unfortunately, little data is available in these areas for fungi other than Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, and a few others.

2. If you want to know whether or not toxins are present, you must sample for the toxin itself. There are an increasing number of toxin assays available. My caution about using these services is to be sure that any sample collection and analysis is hypothesis driven, and that you know how you are going to interpret the data once you have it.

3. Mycotoxins are not volatile, and inhalation exposure is probably primarily related to airborne spores.

4. Health effects for most of the mycotoxins are known only from either agricultural environments, or from laboratory experiments, and virtually all of the data involves ingestion of the mycotoxins.

5. Extrapolating from the amount of toxin necessary to cause health effects by ingestion, and, given that the toxin content of individual spores is quite low, inhalation exposure in non-agricultural environments (i.e. in normal homes and offices) to enough spores of even the most toxic strains to reach a dose likely to produce human health effects is unlikely and probably very rare.

6. Concentrating on the so-called toxigenic fungi in indoor environmental investigations is only appropriate if you are only concerned about specific symptoms that you are convinced could only be due to the mycotoxins (I personally don’t know what those symptoms would be). To ignore the other fungi is to ignore potentially hazardous conditions that could lead to serious respiratory diseases (I know none of you would do that!).

One final reminder: Most field investigators should not be investigating health effects, but rather the conditions that lead to fungal growth and the means for correcting those conditions. Focusing on health effects (which is implicit when concentrating on mycotoxins) when you don’t have the credentials to back up your opinions may eventually get you into very hot water!

The data and other information contained in this article are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Midwest Mold Inspections, LLC. hereby disclaims any liability for any and all direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special or consequential damages arising out of the use or interpretation of the data or other information contained in, or any actions taken or omitted in reliance upon, this Article.

Common Mold Types

Acremo1 acremonium25

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris, hay, food debris.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Humidifier Lung

Pathogen: Mycetoma, keratitis, onchymycosis

Acremonium sp. (Cephalosporium sp.). – Reported to be allergenic. Isolates have been reported to produce a toxin from the trichothecene group, which is toxic if ingested. It has been associated with households where occupant complaints were nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It has also been reported to cause mycetomas, infections of the cornea and nails. Morphological characteristics are the production of conidiophores and slender phialides, mostly simple; conidia are hyaline, 1-celled, which are collected in a slime drop. This fungus can be parasitic to plants or saprophytic and some species cause vascular wilts in trees.

alternaria alternaria2

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis,

Pathogen: Nasal lesions, subcutaneous lesions, nail infections, suppressed immune system.

Alternaria sp. This fungus is a large universally occurring genus. Several form-species are found as saprophytes on dead and dying plant parts. Conidia of this fungus are easily carried by the wind. Commonly found in house dust, carpets, textiles, and on horizontal surfaces in building interiors and is one of the main fungal causes of allergy. Outdoors, it may be isolated from samples of soil, seeds and plants, and is frequently reported in air. The large spore size suggests that the spores from this fungus will deposit in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract causing nasal septum infections. It has also been associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis. It is a common cause of extrinsic asthma. Acute symptoms include edema and bronchiospasms; chronic cases may develop pulmonary emphysema. Baker’s asthma is associated with inhalation of Alternaria conidia present in flour. Farmer’s lung type of allergy has also been reported recently. Other diseases caused by Alternaria include mycotic keratitis, skin infections, and osteomyelitis. Also, the species Alternaria alternata is capable of producing tenuazonic acid and other toxic metabolites that may be associated with disease in humans or animals. Several species of Alternaria are pathogenic to plants. Morphological characteristics include abundant production of conidia that are large (18-83 x 7-18 microns) and multicellular with both transverse and longitudinal septa; conidiophores are dark, mostly simple.

Where Found Everywhere in nature / wet building materials

Allergen: Highly variable – not well studied

Pathogen: Vast majority do not cause disease

A large category of spores (produced in a sac-like structure) that are found everywhere in nature and include more than 3000 genera. Most Ascospores of health or Indoor Air Quality importance are identified separately by their genus (e.g. Chaetomium) when possible on a Indoor Air Quality report, and the Ascospore category is used primarily on these reports for a large group of less important spore types often found in quantity on outdoor air samples. On tape samples, Ascospore is sometimes also used as a general morphological identification (i.e. the ascus or sac structure is present) for certain samples in those cases when the spores do not appear to represent any of the Indoor Air Quality significant genera.


Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris, compost piles.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Aspergillosis, fungus ball, farmer’s lung disease

Pathogen: Respiratory, invasive, cutaneous, ear and cornial disease.

Recognized by its distinct conidiophores terminated by a swollen vesicle bearing flask-shaped phialides. The phialides may be borne directly on the vesicle or on intervening metulae. Some species may form masses of thick-walled cells called “hülle cells”. The spores come in several colors, depending upon the species, and are produced in long chains from the ends of the phialides. Commonly isolated from soil, plant debris, and house dust; sometimes pathogenic to man.

Asperg2 Asperg3

Grows on moldy corn and peanuts; warm soil, foods and dairy products are other sources of growth. This fungus can also be found in water damaged carpets and in building materials. It has been reported to be allergenic and its presence is associated with asthma. This fungus is also associated with aspergillosis of the lungs and/or disseminated aspergillosis and ear and eye infections. Infections of lung, heart, and bladder have been reported rarely. Some strains are capable of producing a group of mycotoxins in the aflatoxin group, which are carcinogenic and have been linked to a wide variety of human health problems. These toxins are poisonous to humans by ingestion and may also result in occupational disease via inhalation. Experiments with the aflatoxin have shown that it is mutagenic and toxic to the liver. The production of the toxin is dependent on the substrate and growth conditions. The risks associated with airborne exposure to aflatoxin in contaminated buildings, as with other mycotoxins, have not been adequately studied. Morphological characteristics of this fungus include conidiophores upright, simple, terminating in a globose or clavate swelling, bearing phialides at the apex; conidia (3 – 6 microns), 1-celled, globose, in dry basipatal chains.

Asperg4 Asperg5

This fungus is a saprophyte with worldwide distribution and commonly found in house dust. A. fumigatus occurs in outdoor and indoor air, different types of soil and on decaying plant material, compost, wood chips, feathers and bird droppings, self heated hay and crops. This fungus is an important causal agent of systemic mycosis in domestic animals and in humans (immune compromised patients). Infections are seldom acute, but the cardiovascular and urinary system as well as the brain may be attacked. Occasionally can also be found in human ear and eye. A. fumigatus has also been reported causing asthma and rhinitis (allergies). Farmer’s lung may develop after inhalation (eg. handling moldy hay). This fungus produces a large number of specific mycotoxic and tremorgenic metabolites including fumigaclavine, fetuclavine, chanoclavin, sphingofungins, fumitoxins and others. These compounds cause death of chickens, tremors in various animals, neprotoxicity, and/or have hemolytic activity. Morphological characteristics – Dense appearance with a blue-grayish color intermixed with colorless aerial hyphae; conidiophores are short and green bearing typical columnar conidial heads. Conidia are globose to subglobose, 2.5 to 3 microns in diameter, dark green, and rough wall.

Asperg6 Asperg7

This fungus is the third most common aspergilii associated with disease and is the most common environmental isolate of the Aspergillus species. It is found in and upon the greatest variety of substrates including textiles, grains, fruits and vegetables, and soil. It is commonly associated with “fungus ball”, a condition wherein fungus actively grows in the human lung, forming a ball, without invading lung tissue. Because invasive aspergillosis occurs most frequently among highly immune compromised patients, the presence of Aspergillus spores in hospital air has important implications. Aspergillus niger and A. fumigatus have been reported to cause skin diseases and are a common cause of fungal related ear infections – otomycosis. A. niger generates many types of secondary metabolites. Included in these, malformin C and some of the naptho-y-quinones, which have been proven to show toxic effects, but they still do not fall within the strict definition of mycotoxins.

Asperg8 Asperg9

This fungus can be found in template climates air and house dust. This fungus can indicate signs of moisture problems in buildings and can be found in water damaged buildings materials. This species produces the mycotoxin, sterigmatocystin, which is toxic and carcinogenic. The fungus has a characteristic musty, earthy odor, often connected with moldy houses and is the cause of eye, nose, and throat irritation.

aureob11 aureob12

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, fresh water,dead organic debris, wood, fruit.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Humidifier Fever, Sauna Lung

Pathogen: Rare reports from skin lesions, spleen abscess or lymphoma patients.

Aureobasidium sp. – Saprophytic or weakly parasitic, common in soils. Indoors A. pullulans is often found on damp materials in homes, such as painted wood. A. pullulans has been reported to cause chromoblastomycosis (in an immune compromised patient), which is a chronic cutaneous infection of the skin caused by species of dematiaceous fungi. Morphology is characterized by producing black and shiny colonies when old. This fungus produces abundant spores (conidia), 1-celled, ovoid, and 5-7 microns in size.

bas1 bas2

Where Found: Indoor building materials, gardens, forests

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma),  Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis,  Lycoperdonosis (puffbal spores)

Pathogen: May cause rare opportunistic infections.

Most spores are only a single cell, but some fungi have spores that are divided into more than one cell. The spores of this Antennaria are also considered ascospores, since they are grown in asci. Spores grown on basidia are known as basidiospores. The other most common or standard type of spore, the conidium, is discussed separately.

Bipolaris / Drechslera / Exserohilum

bipola13 bipola14

Where Found: Indoor building materials, plants, grasses

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Allergic fungal sinusitis

Pathogen: Sinusitis

Bipolaris is a plant parasite and some are pathogenic to grasses. This fungus can grow as a mold in semi-dry environments. Bipolaris has been reported to produce the mycotoxin sterig-matocystin that has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage when ingested by laboratory animals. This fungus is associated with phaeohyphomycosis, a disease consisting of a group of mycotic infections characterized by the presence of demataceous septate hyphae. Infections of the eyes and skin by black fungi could also be classified as phaeohyphomycosis). This fungus causes allergic fungal sinusitis, characterized by the presence of Bipolaris in the sinuses. In certain people with severe allergies, the large spores of this fungus can travel to the sinuses (upper respiratory tract), where they attach to the mucus and grow, producing an unrelenting allergic reaction that progressively and permanently damages the sinuses). Morphological characteristics of this genus are the production of brown conidia, several-celled, elliptical, straight or curved.

botryt15 botryt16

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris, fruit.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Pathogen: Very rare

It is parasitic on plants and soft fruits. Found in soil and vegetables, also known as “gray mold”. Botrytis is known to cause allergies and induce asthma attacks. Conidia are hyaline or gray in mass, 1-celled, ovoid, dimensions 7-14 x 5-9 microns. Black irregular sclerotia often present producing gray mold.

chaeto1 chaeto2

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, cellulose substrates, wood and straw

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma)

Pathogen: Nail infections

Chaetomium sp. is found on a variety of substrates containing cellulose including paper and plant compost. Several species have been reported to play a major role in decomposition of cellulose-made materials. These fungi are able to dissolve the cellulose fibers in cotton and paper and thus cause the materials to disintegrate. The process is especially rapid under moist conditions. During the Second World War countries lost a great deal of equipment to these species. It is reported to be allergenic. It is an ascomycete, in most species, the spores are lemon-shaped, with a single germ pore. The spore column results from the breakdown of the asci within the body of the perithecium. The perithecia of Chaetomium are superficial and barrel-shaped, and they are clothed with dark, stiff hairs. It can produce an Acremonium-like state (imperfect stage) on fungal media.

clados3 clados4

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris, textiles, window sills.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Hot tub lung

Pathogen: Generally nonpathogenic, some species have caused eye and skin infections.

Cladosporium sp. C. herbarum is the most frequently found species in outdoor air in temperate climates. It is often found indoors, usually in lesser numbers than outdoors. The dry conidia become easily airborne and are transported over long distances. This fungus is often encountered in dirty refrigerators, especially in reservoirs where condensation is collected. On moist window frames, it can easily be seen covering the whole painted area with a velvety olive-green layer. Cladosporium often discolors interior paint, paper, or textiles stored under humid conditions. Houses with poor ventilation, houses with thatched straw roofs and houses situated in low damp environments may have heavy concentrations of Cladosporium, which will be easily expressed when domestic mold is analyzed. It is commonly found on the surface of fiberglass duct liner in the interior of supply ducts. It is also found on dead plants, woody plants, food, straw, soil, paint, and textiles. The ability to sporulate heavily, ease of dispersal, and buoyant spores makes this fungus the most important fungal airway allergen; and together with Alternaria, it commonly causes asthma and hay fever in the Western hemisphere. A few species of this genus cause disease, which range from phaeohyphomycosis, a group of mycotic infections characterized by the presence of demataceous septate hyphae. Infections of the eyes and skin by black fungi (also classified as phaeohyphomycosis), and chromoblastomycosis, chronic localized infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue that follows the traumatic implantation of the etiologic agent are also caused by this fungus. Chromoblastomycosis lesions are verrucoid, ulcerated, and crusted. Skin abscesses, mycotic keratitis and pulmonary fungus

curvul5 curvul6

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, plant debris

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Allergic fungal sinusitis

Pathogen: Onchomycosis, ocular keratitis, sinusitis

Curvularia sp. – Reported to be allergenic. It may cause corneal infections, mycetoma and infections in immune compromised hosts. This fungus can be parasitic or saprophytic. Conidiophores brown, mostly simple, bearing conidia apically; dark conidia, end cells lighter, 3- to 5-celled, more or less fusiform, typically bent, with one of the central cells enlarged.

epicoc7 epicoc8

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma)

Pathogen: No cases of infection reported

Epicoccum sp. – It is commonly found as a secondary invader in plants, soil, grains, textiles and paper products where Cladosporium and Aureobasidium are present. It is mostly saprophytic, or weakly parasitic. Epicoccum is frequently isolated from air and occasionally occurs in house dust. Reported to be an allergen but not in a high frequency. Due to the ability of this fungus to grow at 37 C, it can cause infection of skin in humans. Morphological characteristics are production of dark conidia, several-celled (15-celled), globose, verrucose, 15-25 microns in diameter, and in a fruiting body (sporodochium).

fusari9 fusari10

Where Found: Very wet indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma)

Pathogen: Keratitis, endophthalmitis, onchyomycosis, mycetoma.

Fusarium sp. Commonly found in soil, plants, grains, and often times it is found in humidifiers. This fungus is the most common cause of mycotic keratitis. This mold has been isolated from skin lesions on burn patients, nail infections, ear infections, varicose ulcer, mycetoma , osteomyelitis following trauma, and disseminated infection. This fungus produces very harmful toxins, especially in storage of infected. crops. These toxins, known as trichothecene (scierpene) toxins target the circulatory, alimentary, skin, and nervous systems. Fusarium can also produce 1). Vomotoxin on grains which has been associated with outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illness in humans. 2). T-2 Toxin and related trichothecenes are some of the deadliest known toxins. If ingested in sufficient quantity, T-2 toxin can severally damage the entire digestive tract and cause rapid death due to internal hemorrhage. 3). Fumosin, commonly found in corn and corn based products, with recently outbreaks of veterinary mycotoxicosis causing “crazy horse disease”. 4). Zearalenone toxin which is similar in chemical structure to the female sex hormone estrogen and targets the reproductive organs. Morphological characteristics of this fungus include extensive cotton-like mycelium in culture, often with some tinge of pink, purple or yellow.

mucor.11 mucor.12

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris, left over food

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Pathogen: Rare infections in debilitated patients

Mucor sp. Often found in soils, dead plant material (hay), horse dung, fruits and fruit juice. It is also found in leather, meat, dairy products, animal hair, and jute. It is almost always in house dust, frequently in air samples and old dirty carpets. Wood chips and sawdust are often attacked by M. plimbeus causing “wood chips disease” and “furrier’s lung”. Accumulated dust in ventilation ducts may contain high concentrations of viable Mucor spores. Asthmatic reactions to Mucor have been described. It is a Zygomecete fungus that may be allergenic (skin and bronchial tests). It is an opportunistic pathogenic organism and it may cause mucorosis in immune compromised individuals. The sites of infections are the lung, nasal sinus, brain, eye, and skin. Infection may have multiple sites. This organism and other Zygomycetes will grow rapidly on most fungal media. Conidia (aplanospores) are globose to ellipsoidal,7-8 microns in diameter, yellowish brown and slightly rough-walled, and are produced in sporangia that are developed around a piriform columella with typical projections. Identification is based on the way sporangia are formed.

paecil13 paecil14

Where Found: Indoor building materials, leather, cigar tobacco, fruit juice, soil, dead organic debris, compost, cottonseed.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Humidifier Lung

Pathogen: Nosocomial infections

Paecilomyces sp. – Commonly found in soil and dust, less frequently in air. P. variotii can cause paecilomycosis. Linked to wood-trimmers disease and humidifier associated illnesses. Some members of this genus are reported to cause pneumonia. It has also been reported as causative agent of allergic alveolitis. It may produce arsine gas if growing on arsenic substrate, this can occur on wallpapers covered with Paris green.

paecil14 phoma

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, fruit parasite, shower curtains, under lineoleum.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Pathogen: Mycotic keratitis, rare skin infections

Species of Phoma are common in soils, dung, and both living and dead plants.
Recognized by its cellular and more or less round fruiting structures (pycnidia) containing masses of 1-celled colourless to yellow or pink spores (conidia). The conidia are borne from inconspicuous peg-like phialides lining the inner wall of the pycnidium. Species of Phoma having spines or setae on their pycnidia are sometimes confused with those of Pyrenochaeta. However, the two genera can be distinguished on the basis of their conidium-bearing structures: conidia of Phoma species are produced from simple phialides while those of Prenochaeta arise from phialides ocurring along the sides of elongated conidiophores.

Phoma is a taxonomically difficult genus and is still not fully understood. Species identification is often difficult. Much of our present knowledge has come from the work of Dr. G.H. Boerema and his colleagues in The Netherlands. Boerema (in Aa, et al., 1990) divided Phoma into five sections, separable by the following key:

Multicellular chlamydospores produced along the vegetative hyphae, often resembling conidia of Alternaria or Ulocladium.

Rhizopus Rhizopus2copy

Where Found: Forest, soils, decaying fruits and plants

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Pathogen: Principal cause of zygomycosis.

Frequently found in house dust, soil, fruits, nuts, and seeds, rhizopus often grows in fruit and vegetable garbage, or in forgotten leftover food. Exposure to large numbers of rhizopus spores has reportedly caused respiratory complications. Rhizopus can be an allergen and opportunistic pathogen for immunocompromised individuals, especially those with diabetic ketoacidosis, malnutrition, severe burns, or in some cases, the common cold.

May cause mucorosis in immune compromised individuals. The sites of infection are the lung, nasal sinus passages, brain, eyes, and skin. Infection may have multiple sites. This mold produces mycotoxins, which can be inhaled and ingested. Occupies a biological niche similar to Mucor allergen/toxin. The Zygomycetous fungus is reported to be allergenic/toxigen, as well. As with all toxigenic molds, this fungus can alter DNA and cause permanent neurological, psychological, pathological, and immunological damage.

Cases of mucormycosis from rhizopus infection. This so-called non invasive mold has disfigured many individuals, who had seemingly effective immune systems.

stachy1 stachy2

Where Found: Very wet indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Stachybotrys mycotoxicosis

Pathogen: Pulmonary hemosiderosis

Stachybotrys sp. – Considerable recent media attention has been focused on the fungi Stachybotrys chartum due to infant deaths in Cleveland from pulmonary hemosiderosis which may be associated with contamination of residences with this fungi. Stachybotrys thrives on water damaged cellulose rich materials such as sheet rock, paper, ceiling tiles, cellulose containing insulation backing and wallpaper. The presence of this fungus in buildings is significant because of the mold’s ability to produce mycotoxins, which are extremely toxic, such as Satratoxin H. Exposure to these toxins can occur through inhalation, ingestion or dermal exposure. Symptoms include dermatitis, cough, rhinitis, nose bleeds, a burning sensation in the mouth and nasal passage, cold and flu symptoms, headache, general malaise, and fever. Inhalation of conidia may also induce pathological changes (pneumomycotoxicoses).

tricho3 tricho4

Where Found: Indoor building materials, soil, dead organic debris, decaying wood, textiles.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Type III Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Pathogen: Infection of pulmonary cavity, peritonitis, and an opportunist in immunocompromised patients.

Trichoderma sp. Trichoderma is most commonly found in soil. Trichoderma is often found in litter materials (polluted streams, sewage plants and driftwood). It is found on paper, and in kitchens on many common tableware materials. T. viridae is often isolated from indoor air samples and house dust. Materials such as wood construction and mineral fiber panels can be very affected by this fungus. Trichoderma sp. is reported to be allergenic but are relatively rare. Inhalation of the conidia or teh volatile organic compounds, may cause symptoms similar to those of Stachybotrys reactions.

ulocla5 ulocla6

Where Found: Gypsum, paper, paint, wallpaper, soil, dead organic debris, textiles.

Allergen: Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma), Cross reacts with Alternaria adding to symptoms.

Pathogen: Rare subcutaneous tissue infection.

Ulocladium sp. This fungus is reported to be allergenic and considered cosmopolitan. It is commonly found as a saprophyte on plant materials and soils. Some species can be also found on dead herbaceous plants, rotten woods, paper, textiles, and other organic substrates (cellulose,)such as water-damaged building materials. Ulocladium is also found in dust and air samples. Ulocladium is known to be a common airway allergen.