Why does good mold go bad?

We humans have enjoyed a long and fruitful symbiotic relationship with mold organisms. They have made us sick, made us well, preserved and enhanced our foods and diets. In short: Where would we be without them? Toting around sour milk, vinegar and malted, sprouting wheat. They help digest our food and all the wastes we create. They even participate in the “rotting” that created our coal deposits:

 Mold for Coal, then Gold

Mold is smarter than the average one celled organism, (I shouldn’t mention that while fighting a cold, the rhinovirus might be surfing the net). I was amazed and perhaps a bit doubtful when I read in Bill Bryson’s Brief History of Everything that garden mold, when its environment has been threatened, forms up into a multi-celled “mold slug” that boogies over to greener, wetter pastures. There it sends out spores to re-establish a one celled colony.

And that finally is what triggered this post: We have mold colonies all over the place, yet they exist for years just making the place smell musty. So why does good mold go bad? Why suddenly so toxic? Look at these happy little colonies:

Photo 1: Mold on nutritious, moist medium

Back to my cold. Yesterday, I saw my doctor, because I felt like I had been run over by a truck, yet had no ostensible symptoms otherwise. He gave me antibiotics, we threatened my hitch-hiking viri. After an overnight of circulating cyclosporins (mold based pharmaceuticals are a huge segment of mold in white hats), I awoke with SYMPTOMS. The colony is preparing for departure, good news to me, but they are asking me to please broadcast their seed, or whatever a virus spore is called, as they leave my premises.

Back to the mold, after the dish dries:

Photo 2: Mold after the medium dried out

So mold removal is a ticklish problem. If you have a leaking roof that has kept a sheetrock cavity moist enough to keep the local mold colonies happy, when you repair the leak, be prepared to remove the moldy colonies at the same time. Stories abound of situations that became toxic when the repairs began.

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