Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Creeping Mold

CNN - 'That mold ... It smells like death'

You get used to something living in the Deep South, especially in the swampy lands around New Orleans, and the bayous near the Mississippi Gulf. You get used to the knowledge that the land around you, that nature, is slowly and constantly creeping in on you. Sneakily seeking to devour your home, it's possessions, and maybe even your slow moving pets. Vines. Kudzu. Weeds. Mold.

But what I saw inside my mom's trailer was like a bad sci-fi movie. The whole thing was being devoured, coated on all surfaces by what looked to be many different species of creeping mold. Dark black mold, green mossy mold, light cotton-candy mold, slimy algae mold. Above, my mom's living room ceiling, which was formerly white.

My girl and my little brother both have asthma, so we kept them outside. My mom had fresh wounds from some hurricane debris that had attacked her, so I kept her outside, too. It was just me, my camera, a face mask, a steady stream of sweat in my eyes, and a wild kingdom of mold and mud. Above, the space between the kitchen cabinet and the vent over the stove, which is slowly peeling away. It looks like the mold is all that's holding it together.

Seriously. Any biologists out there? What the fuck is this stuff?


Andrea said...

This is one of the most touching bodies of work that I've seen or read in years. This should be published for a larger audience.

Anonymous said...

I am not a biologist but I did find a data base for different kinds of molds.

Other info on mold.

This is a message board about mold.

And there was this warning on some sites (I am sure you already know this, just wanted to add it in case others didn't)
Never Scrub, Handle or Otherwise Touch Mold Without Wearing Proper Equipment
When necessary a PAPER SUIT
By touching mold you release mold spores which you then breathe. Protect your health.

Anonymous said...

Seige is an amazing photographer and writer. This story is phenomenol - and I agree, needs to be published and bound.

Thank you, Clayton, for your honest and moving picture diary.

God Bless your Mom and Family.


Anonymous said...

That mold is very likely to contain species that are known to be toxic to humans. In fact, aflatoxin (the gas produced during the metabolic cycle) is the 2nd most toxic substance to humans after radioactivity. The CDC and EPA will downplay this, but the military knows the dangers.

They will tell you only "immune compromised" people can be made ill. What they won't tell you is that anyone with any kind of allergy is "immune compromised". You can accumulate this toxin in your body and may acquire a hypersensitivity whether you have ever been allergic or not.

You were wise to keep anyone with known asthma or open wounds out of that environment. The best thing is to stay out of any structure that has visible mold. A paper mask will not protect you. At minimum your eyes and ears should also be covered, latex gloves and a haz mat suit should be worn, and a double barrel respirator with .03 micron filters is needed.
I know it will be impossible to find these things right now. Please try to wrap your head around the importance of staying AWAY from visible mold.

I went through this myself 4 years ago. I KNOW the urgent desire to salvage things, to gut damage and rebuild. Walking away could very well save your life. Being stubborn might render you unable to walk anywhere. PLEASE minimize your exposure.

Early symptoms that would be easy to chalk up to other things include: severe nauseau/loss of appetite, weakness and dizziness, drops in blood pressure/ loss of consciousness, blurred vision, hallucinations, headaches, rashes, severe anxiety and depression. Please be aware that it is easy to have an anaphylactic response even if you have never had an allergic reaction to mold. It would be easy to mistake this reaction for a panic attack, the difference being anaphylasis is caused by something in the environment and can be fatal.

Another site with tons of useful info:

PS: The reason the RC wanted dehumidifiers, generator, and paint is because they know the hazards of putting evacuees into a moldy school. I'm not saying they should not have set up some kind of shelter, just that they were probably greatly pained knowing the dangers of the building could not be resolved. You can't offer refuge that will make people deathly ill.

quixote said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
quixote said...

This is an amazing and great blog. I got here via a link from Barbelith in the Switchboard (issues and activism) section.

I'm a biologist, although not an expert on mold, but I thought I'd add my two cents' worth. Mold spores or bacteria that are breathed in generate some immune response simply because they're foreign protein in the lungs. Lots of it is bad for anyone, some of it is bad for allergic people, very little is bad for asthmatics. That said, most of those molds are not disease-causing, just disgusting. And aflatoxins are not the major issue because they are produced by two Aspergillus fungi that grow in stored damp corn, peanuts, and treenuts, and are toxic upon eating. They don't come from wall molds, soil molds, or the like.

The Red Cross and Fema are a bunch of wankers, worrying more about lawsuits than lives. Jerks.

Anonymous said...

quixote, don't be an idiot. Why would aflatoxin produced by aspergillus on cattle feed be any different from aflatoxin produced by aspergillus on walls? Answer: it's NOT.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I randomly came across your blog. I'm a biochemistry major and do research on bacterias and mold. Quixote is right that there are different types. But Anonymous is right about that form of mold being highly dangerous. It's definitely not under radioactivity but it is hazardous more so then other types of mold that can grow, but you just displayed good common sense to keep everyone out of there.

Anonymous said...


Environmental health / public health person here. If you have to deal with this mold (and it could be stachybotris or anything, really) be sure to wear a protective mask, long sleeves and pants and gloves. Mold byproducts are TOXIC, as several wise folks have already informed you. If you have to do clean-up yourself, be sure to wear protective gear, if at all possible. Good luck. Be well and healthy and safe.

Anonymous said...

mold is bad

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It is something called hyphea or mycelium. From what I understand it is like roots that grow to find water. From what I see, this amount can be quite dangerous and agree with the others, don't touch it, if you do follow safety protocol. People if you have pets do not leave them in this environment it can kill them. Only certain molds are toxic aspergillus being the most common, but there are many different strains of aspergillus flavus, niger, versicolor, ustus, each emits different kinds of mycotoxin. Aflatoxin has been used in the Gulf War as bioweapons. It is what the Gulf War Syndrome Was From, and the symptoms they have are the same. The whole entire thing is Hush Hush and propaganda is everywhere that it cant hurt you , it can. I know it hurt my family and myself. The other one to look out for is Stachybotrys and it has an even worse mycotin than asp. it will make your wholel body sore and will make you forget t hings and become disoriented, its spooky stuff, just be careful and definitely do some research before attempting to clean this. Personally you are better off j ust leaving and moving some where clean, it is hard to get rid of and comes back, if you start getting headaches a lot get out, its not worth it. It can eat holes in your skin, make you lose patches of hair, grow in your lungs or sinuses and near impossible to get rid of. Good Luck and by the way nice shots. here is a source that covers it all and is reliable information.

Anonymous said...

Son, I'm not a scientist, but get that nasty ass shit outta your Mom's house my nigga! That shit is gross.

Supreme High Commander Of the Filter Free Aliance said...

I am a mold inspector/biocide applicator/ indoor air quality specialist and all I can say is get some gas and a lighter. That is not worthy of remediation. Unless you gutted it to the frame and then doused it in Microbloc MMR and the coated it with Microbloc DSP that house is not savable.