Molds like penicillium play an important role in breaking down organic materials, producing life-saving antibiotics, and even making cheese! However, seeing mold growing in your home is never a good sign. Although it can be difficult to discern which type of mold may be causing the issue, it is important to know the basics to better determine the best course of action. Learn how to identify types of mold, but then make sure to contact a professional mold specialist to assess a potential infestation for the safety of your home and your health.
What is Penicillium Mold?
Penicillium is the broad term for over 300 types of molds that share similar characteristics. It was named after the Latin word, penicillus, meaning paintbrush because of its close resemblance to the bristles. It can be easily spotted by its usually vivid, blue-green or yellow color and it’s velvety texture. Some types produce penicillin, which humans have used as a potent antibiotic for years. It’s also very commonly found on many types of food. Its spores spread through the air and like cool to moderate climates. It varies from other molds in that it can still survive in areas with relatively low humidity. Luckily it has a stronger, mustier smell than most molds that is easy to identify.
Where is Penicillium found in the home?
Outside Mold Growth
Because penicillium likes some moisture, it can be found outside in places like compost piles, old leaves, wood, or rotten vegetation. It’s also commonly linked to large-scale farms where foods like grains, dried fruits or even coffee and wine are stored.
Inside Places to Look for Penicillium Mold
Homeowners may find penicillium lurking in places like:
- Wooden beams and planks
- Old books
- Outside or inside expired foods
- Ceiling tiles
- Upholstered furniture
- Insulated Ducts
Airborne Home Mold
Penicillium spreads rapidly through spores in the air. Therefore, it can easily be transported from outside to inside. Traces are commonly found in the air of residences and many public buildings. It will continue to spread and multiply as long as there is just enough moisture on the surface or in the air, especially during rainy seasons.
Health Effects of Penicillium Growth
Some types of penicillium release what are called mycotoxins. Typically thought to just occur with black mold, mycotoxins can actually be released through seemingly ‘harmless’ molds like penicillium as well. These naturally occurring toxins can be potentially dangerous for humans via inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion:
Ochratoxin A, produced by penicillium verrucosum, is usually an indoor mold that grows primarily on different types of agricultural storage items. It also is commonly found in water-damaged homes and sometimes in heating ducts. It can be extremely hazardous to human health, especially to the kidneys. It has been found to cause cancer and has been linked to neurotoxicity in adults and infants.
This mycotoxin comes from penicillium crustosum, cyclopium and commune. This neurotoxic substance is most dangerous when ingested through contaminated foods but can also cause negative effects if you breathe it in.
Allergies and Penicillium
Other species of penicillium do not typically produce serious mycotoxins, but remain an item of concern for immunocompromised individuals, those with underlying conditions, older adults and infants.
Inhaling small levels can cause discomfort and short term effects like:
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
Long-term exposure to penicillium can lead to:
- Pulmonary inflammation
- Chronic sinusitis
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (aka woodworker’s lungs)
If you experience any of these symptoms and suspect mold may be the culprit, contact your doctor and also set up an appointment with a mold specialist right away.
Tips for Prevention & Removal of Penicillium
Mold infestations can quickly turn dangerous for your home or business if not taken care of properly.
Food or Small Items
If you find penicillium growing on food items like old bread or veggies, the easiest thing to do is to carefully take it to the trash and remove it from your home. Clean the area the food was stored to help properly remove the mold. The same thing goes for small wet or water damaged items like books or rugs. Make sure to use gloves if possible and avoid breathing in the potential spores.
Large Mold Infestations
With larger items or mold growing on structural parts of your home, it is best to call a mold removal specialist to ensure you aren’t accidentally releasing more of the dangerous mycotoxins into the air. To prevent it from spreading, make sure your home is properly ventilated. Keep your windows open when it’s dry to promote air flow and run your air conditioning in high humidity climates. Because mold likes moisture, taking care of any leaky pipes or water damage right away is key to ward off potential mold outbreaks.
If you suspect mold may be causing issues in your home or with your health and don’t know where to start, ServiceMaster by Rice is here to help. We are available 24/7 to get to the bottom of a potentially dangerous infestation. We specialize in mold identification, removal and remediation services. Contact our experts today!