Some people have very strong reactions to the smells given off by molds. They can smell mold a mile away while other individuals seem to be immune to the nasty odors.
I’m one of those people who can detect mold just about anywhere with my nose. In fact, when I do not smell it, I often have an allergic reaction where I will almost immediately sneeze if I inhale a bunch of spores. This has happened so many times both willing and unwillingly that I have become somewhat of a test dummy as the CEO of my company – Mold Safe Solutions.
Hey, we all have to pay the bills and since I have a big nose and I’m also doing this for the good of humanity, I figured why not teach others about the secrets of my business so you can use your nose as I do.
In my profession as a mold inspector and remediator, the best tool we have is not some expensive gadget or air testing pump, it is our noses.
The reason being is that when you perform a mold inspection, the first thing you do is walk in the front door and you greet the customer as you are consciously breathing in the indoor air smelling for water damaged and moldy odors. If you smell that familiar odor you have experienced hundreds of times, almost 99% of the time you will end up locating active water damage and a mold infestation.
This first smell formulates a theory for the inspector who will then use various tools to validate and confirm the theory during the inspection.
To validate and confirm the mold smell, it is our job to then use our next best tool – our eyes to visually survey the property and also use the man-made tools we carry such as moisture detectors, and thermal imagers to further formulate and validate our theory and then use mold testing equipment to confirm the infestation and also to identify the genus’ of mold and degree of contamination.
How and what are we smelling?
The short answer is when molds (Fungi) consume various organic materials in our properties such as drywall, wood, and carpet, this process releases highly toxic smells and gases into the air which cause various odors and also mucous membrane irritation in sensitized individuals.
These odors are created by “volatile compounds (VOCs)” that a fungi/mold makes through primary or secondary metabolism that then becomes airborne. (Primary metabolic processes are those necessary to sustain the life of an organism.) These volatile compounds may be constantly created as the fungus consumes its food source during the primary metabolic process.
It is these VOCs which give off the smell and can also irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes and respiratory system.
A mold-contaminated building may have a significant contribution from its fungal contaminants that is added to common VOCs—building materials, paints, plastics, and cleaners which create “toxic building syndrome.” For example, Aspergillus, a mold often found growing on wallpaper will release a VOC AKA toxic gas called arsine directly from the wallpaper that contains arsenic pigments into the air which will become airborne and the occupants of the dwelling will now be breathing unbeknownst to them.
These Volatile Compounds from molds and other man-made products found in or around homes can be responsible for severe allergies and mucous membrane irritants. VOCs, in general, can result in symptoms that include allergies, asthma, headaches, migraines, lowered attention span, lack of concentration, dizziness, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and even death.
Even with the potential dangers of these smell, that facts are that among humans, there is a high degree of variation in the ability to detect these VOC’s AKA mold odors. Certain individuals can detect low levels of VOCs, while others can only detect relatively high levels.
Our ability to sense and or smell mold is primarily associated with the trigeminal nerve, which is the largest of the 12 cranial nerves. Its main function is transmitting sensory information to the skin, sinuses, and mucous membranes in the face.
The trigeminal nerve is a somatic sensory nerve, primarily sensitive to mechanical and thermal stimulation, but the branches innervating the nasal and oral cavities and the cornea also include chemosensitive fibers. Those of the nasal cavity and cornea are sensitive to airborne chemicals.
The sensory and motor nerves respond to VOC’s by trying to hold the breath, discomfort, or through sensations such as itching, burning, and skin crawling.
How many times have you sensed that something was there around you in your toxic moldy home as a skin-crawling type of feeling? You know, like billions of mold spores trying to invade your body and mind.
One last tip, if walk into any property and you smell a strong odor of mold, please do not forget to put a good mold rated facemask on ASAP so you do not breathe in too many spores and toxins.
Do you need assistance with a professional mold inspection, remediation and or consultation? Please call me, Moe anytime at 760-818-6830 for a free consultation.
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.