The Health Effects of Mycotoxins
No one is very comfortable with the idea of mold. It’s slimy and smells bad and just is generally distasteful. Even the word “mold” is an ugly sounding word. You wouldn’t even imagine eating a piece of cheese or slice of bread that has mold on it. And yet, when it comes to mold in their home, many people are surprisingly complacent. The smell might be annoying, but not annoying enough for many to want to spend time, money, or effort getting rid of it. This idea is potentially disastrous; despite being seemingly innocuous, mold in the home can be very dangerous. Even if you don’t come into physical contact with the mold, it can still affect you. A number of different types of mold especially forms of black mold, release airborne spores known as mycotoxins, which can enter the human body through the respiratory system and cause a number of adverse health effects.
Not everyone will have the same response to mold. Items further down this list are much more specialized, and dangerous, but the irritation factor can affect nearly everyone. Mold spores can cause all manner of irritation throughout the body, such as:
- Itchy eyes
- Sore throat
- Skin irritation
All of that is uncomfortable to deal with, but it is even worse in anyone who has allergies. In someone who already suffers from allergies, mycotoxins can trigger a great deal of symptoms, some of them potentially very dangerous. Allergic reactions from mold include:
- Sinus congestion/sinusitis
- Difficulty breathing/dyspnea
- Tightness in the chest
- Upper respiratory infections
As well as all of the potential symptoms listed in the “Irritants”section.
Health Problem Exacerbation
Mold in the home can very easily make already existing health problems much worse. Anyone who has respiratory issues is at high risk in any setting with mold. Asthma can worsen to a large extent, even to the point of being potentially life-threatening. Anyone who is sick with pneumonia or another temporary respiratory issue can also find his or her condition made much worse by mold. In addition, those who suffer from disorders of the immune system can also be more vulnerable, as even a brief exposure to mold can trigger a sickness known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a sister illness to pneumonia that is only caused by mold and is difficult to treat.
Development of Asthma
While the danger to those who already suffer from asthma is most pronounced, mold issues are so potentially damaging that they can actually cause asthma in a seemingly healthy person. Asthma is a chronic condition that you cannot get rid of, so preventing it from happening at all is vastly preferred to treatment.
Finally, though it is less likely, mold can and has killed people. Prolonged exposure to mycotoxins can cause potentially deadly illnesses, such as:
- Pulmonary hemorrhage
- Hematologic disorders
- Gastrointestinal or cardiac issues
Mold can damage a great deal of your body’s systems, causing neurotoxicity, endocrine toxicity, renal toxicity, and quite a few more. If you are pregnant, mold can even interfere in your baby’s development in the womb.
What Do I Do?
By now, it is obvious that mold in the home simply cannot be tolerated. What can you personally do to protect your family from mold? As it turns out, there are several options, depending on how bad it is.
The best way to keep mold away is simply to not allow it in in the first place. Mold spores are literally everywhere in the world; there’s no way to keep mold spores out, any more than you can keep all bacteria out of your body. However, mold needs moisture in order to grow, and dormant mold spores present no danger as long as they aren’t allowed to flourish. Therefore, keeping your home dry is crucially important. Clean up all spills immediately; make sure you don’t have any leaky pipes, or spots where rain can get in. Mold can form in even a small amount of moisture, so make sure not to leave wet clothes or towels around the place. Be proactive about any moisture in the home. If you are forced to deal with large-scale water damage, like flooding or a burst pipe, call in a professional to make sure the job is done right.
When mold has gotten bad enough, there is nothing for it but to completely remove the affected area and rebuild. Always contact a professional to deal with this sort of project, even if you’re the do it yourself type, as getting rid of the mold can be more detrimental to your health than simply living in a home with it.
Whether you simply are preventing mold from getting in, or completely gutting a floor to get it out, being attentive with mold is paramount. It’s small, silent, and sometimes only slightly smelly, so it’s easy to ignore or push until tomorrow, but dealing with mold today could save your life.
Michael writes at ThinkCrucial, a home improvement brand that helps people save money on replacement parts.