Rounding Out Mold Awareness Month with a Little History Lesson
Let's talk mold... in the Bible
October starts tomorrow, which means you’ll start seeing a whole lot of NFL players suiting up in special pink uniforms for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It happens every year, and certainly isn’t the only cause to have its own month. April is National Autism Awareness Month, No-Shave November (or “Movember”) aims to raise awareness of cancer, etc. etc.
Well, September is Mold Awareness Month. While obviously not as buzzworthy as say breast cancer awareness, mold is still a big deal! And just like many illnesses, it goes back to the beginning of time. That’s where my research began.
I knew mold was mentioned in the Bible – but really didn’t know it was talked about in such great detail! I was also surprised to see some of the foundations of mold remediation aren’t really that different today.
So, let’s take a little walk through mentions of mold in the Bible.
Let’s start with Leviticus 13:47-59:
47 “As for any fabric that is spoiled with a defiling mold—any woolen or linen clothing, 48 any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather— 49 if the affected area in the fabric, the leather, the woven or knitted material, or any leather article, is greenish or reddish, it is a defiling mold and must be shown to the priest. 50 The priest is to examine the affected area and isolate the article for seven days. 51 On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mold has spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a persistent defiling mold; the article is unclean. 52 He must burn the fabric, the woven or knitted material of wool or linen, or any leather article that has been spoiled; because the defiling mold is persistent, the article must be burned.
53 “But if, when the priest examines it, the mold has not spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather article, 54 he shall order that the spoiled article be washed. Then he is to isolate it for another seven days.55 After the article has been washed, the priest is to examine it again, and if the mold has not changed its appearance, even though it has not spread, it is unclean. Burn it, no matter which side of the fabric has been spoiled. 56 If, when the priest examines it, the mold has faded after the article has been washed, he is to tear the spoiled part out of the fabric, the leather, or the woven or knitted material. 57 But if it reappears in the fabric, in the woven or knitted material, or in the leather article, it is a spreading mold; whatever has the mold must be burned. 58 Any fabric, woven or knitted material, or any leather article that has been washed and is rid of the mold, must be washed again. Then it will be clean.”
59 These are the regulations concerning defiling molds in woolen or linen clothing, woven or knitted material, or any leather article, for pronouncing them clean or unclean.
Isn’t the detail amazing? Even in Biblical times, mold was recognized as a dangerous substance requiring very specific protocols to get rid of it. In essence, God established a public health code which was overseen by a priest or rabbi. Truthfully, they don’t sound that much different than today’s standards, do they? There are similarities here between the priest and today’s remediator and insurance adjuster – deciding what is salvageable, and what is not, plus how each item is handled. Mind you, I’m sure most remediators today don’t give mold a seven day trial period to see if it’s spread. Thank goodness for modern products and solutions that kill mold, and inventions like the washing machine.
Now, that passage above just deals with mold on clothing or textiles. What about mold in homes? God, speaking through Moses, goes as far as instructing the Israelites how to inspect a home for mold, and differentiating between full replacement or partial replacement of affected areas.
Take a look at Leviticus 14: 33-53. Here, scholars believe the term “mildew” and “mold” are interchangeable. In fact, the New International Version of the Bible uses “mold” while the New Living Translation uses “mildew.”
33 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 34 “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mildew in a house in that land, 35 the owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like mildew in my house.’ 36 The priest is to order the house to be emptied before he goes in to examine the mildew, so that nothing in the house will be pronounced unclean. After this the priest is to go in and inspect the house. 37 He is to examine the mildew on the walls, and if it has greenish or reddish depressions that appear to be deeper than the surface of the wall, 38 the priest shall go out the doorway of the house and close it up for seven days. 39 On the seventh day the priest shall return to inspect the house. If the mildew has spread on the walls, 40 he is to order that the contaminated stones be torn out and thrown into an unclean place outside the town. 41 He must have all the inside walls of the house scraped and the material that is scraped off dumped into an unclean place outside the town. 42 Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay and plaster the house.
43 “If the mildew reappears in the house after the stones have been torn out and the house scraped and plastered, 44 the priest is to go and examine it and, if the mildew has spread in the house, it is a destructive mildew; the house is unclean. 45 It must be torn down—its stones, timbers and all the plaster—and taken out of the town to an unclean place.
46 “Anyone who goes into the house while it is closed up will be unclean till evening. 47 Anyone who sleeps or eats in the house must wash his clothes.
48 “But if the priest comes to examine it and the mildew has not spread after the house has been plastered, he shall pronounce the house clean, because the mildew is gone. 49 To purify the house he is to take two birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop. 50 He shall kill one of the birds over fresh water in a clay pot. 51Then he is to take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the scarlet yarn and the live bird, dip them into the blood of the dead bird and the fresh water, and sprinkle the house seven times. 52 He shall purify the house with the bird’s blood, the fresh water, the live bird, the cedar wood, the hyssop and the scarlet yarn. 53 Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields outside the town. In this way he will make atonement for the house, and it will be clean.”
Another interesting point – the priest goes back and checks to make sure the home is clean. Today, air quality tests would be done in a similar fashion once the remediation process is done. Just because you don’t see the mold doesn’t mean the spores aren’t still contaminating the air and looking for a new place to call home.
It’s a good thing animal sacrifice isn’t a necessary component today! Yikes.
Tired of my Biblical take on mold? Check out this great blog post I came across in my research on mold and mycotoxins.