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effects of mold on humans

The Medical Effects of Toxic Molds

Abundance of Mold Varieties

There are over a million different species of mold. Mold is a fungus that becomes visible when organic matter decays, especially when humidity exceeds seventy percent. Lower humidity and lower temperature inhibits mold growth. A growth medium, e.g., drywall, building materials, various organics, natural fibers, leather, etc., may be found throughout our environment. Most of the time mold is innocuous, but it can become a hazard when spore particles become suspended in the air or attached to skin or ingested with food.

Indoor Culprits

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys Chartarum are the most common molds found indoors. A home that is unclean and moist is an invitation to these molds. Leaking pipes, failing roofing, basements with water penetration issues, plumbing leakage, etc. encourage development of visible mold. High humidity and poor ventilation permit rapid spread of mold. Carpeting that absorbs, concentrates, and retains water will develop mold.

Effects of Mold on People

Allergies and symptoms of mold contamination are considered part of the “toxic mold syndrome.” Molds have been associated with asthma and rhinitis, but they appear to cause pneumonitis in hypersensitive individuals, and are known to be associated with both primary and secondary illnesses in immunocompromised individuals. Irritants from mold metabolites may contribute to systemic problems associated with environmental contamination. A recent study of 65 subjects found an incidence of rhinitis in two thirds of them, cough in one half, headache in one third, breathing problems in a third, CNS symptoms in a quarter of them, and fatigue in another quarter. Investigators found subject nasal passages were pale, pharynges were “cobblestoned,” and noses were runny. Half of the patients had skin responses to the molds. Study authors concluded that most responses were allergic in nature as opposed to being a toxic response to mold.

Controlling the Problem

Since spores from mold permeate our environment, prevention begins with management of surfaces and mold “food sources.” Surfaces with grease or soil on them need to be cleaned. Floors and walls may be covered with sufficient organic material to encourage those mold spores to grow. Appropriate carpet cleaning can be an effective component to an in-depth cleaning plan to minimize mold growth. Effective grease cleaners must be applied with rubber gloves and nose/mouth and eye protection and rinsed appropriately.

The air quality of the environment will be affected by “old” moisture within the house and by “new” moisture penetrating the house. Generally, the home should be ventilated and dehumidified. Textiles need to be washed, dried, and stored where mildew growth is under control. Air filters and cleaners should employ filters fine enough to remove mold spores. Humidity in humid areas, e.g., bath, shower, basement, kitchen, etc. should be reduced. Air flow should be enhanced for ventilation of high humidity areas or where mold has been identified in the past. Condensation is an indication that humidity is building. Water penetrating living spaces through cracks in basement or foundation require caulking and landscaping to drain rain run-off away from a building. Window wells may need covering. More intensive control will be required when buildings are flooded.

Review of the Facts

Water is the key. Remove it or minimize the background humidity. Keep it dry. Allergies are often tied to mold. If your allergies are triggered by a certain area of your home, check out that area for moisture or any medium that may be supporting mold. Eliminate it or move it to the outside, e.g., houseplants that seem to have mold. Use your nose. That musty smell suggests that mold may be growing close by. Find it, get rid of the supporting medium, ventilate the area, and get it dry. Because mold can be airborne, use those rubber gloves and eye protection. Cover your airway with a mask capable of keeping those spores out of your respiratory tract.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance.

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6 thoughts on “The Medical Effects of Toxic Molds

  1. We have recently discovered that we have an outrageous amount of Aspergillus Penicillium mold in our 6 year old home (near a lake) – I have been sick for the past 4 years on and off and doctors cannot really find what’s wrong with me – exhaustion, sinus pain (head, face area), neck pain, joint pain, just not feeling well at all – only very heavy duty antibiotics for a longer period of time than a normal dose can alleviate some of those feelings but not completely – they are always there. I just found out yesterday that I do not have any mold allergies…does that also mean that I can’t be sick because of the mold in our home? Normal mold range is 50-700 — we have 75,000 mold spores in only one part of our home. I was totally set on the fact that mold was why I was sick – but since I’m not allergic to it, where does that leave me? Any help in the matter?

  2. Hi Laurie,
    I am not a doctor but there is no question in my mind that you are sick because of the mold. 75,000 is very high, and you don’t have to be allergic to mold for it to affect you. I have been tested also and don’t have any allergies, but developed chronic fatigue syndrome and a long list of medical problems at 29 years old from living in a home with levels in the 5,000 range. I have been away from the home for three years now and am finally feeling mostly normal after a lot of effort and healing. Check out survivingmold.com and consider buying the book. It walks you through the science and biology of how mold affects you, it is biological but not necessarily an allergy. I had 4 years of doctors telling me there was nothing wrong with me, and I had to find my own answers. Good luck.

  3. I live on the bottom floor of a 3 story apt.
    Water damage running down the outside walls, visible. I was told it would be fixed, last spring! I have pieces of dry rot etc. I could not stay in apt. Which is finally being repaired, or covered up? Why are they wearing masks? I am disabled, and very sick for 14 mos. I am going through many tests. I have a lawyer. Waiting for allergist to test for molds, but maybe not the toxic mold, I am reacting to.? Eyes blurry, nose runs, hard to breathe, stomache, fatique, headaches, very sick. My rent was lowered to $ 60.00. I told mngmnt . I was having issues months ago. They act like I am crazy!

  4. I live in michigan..in an apt..mold mushrooms growing in my bathroom..they just patch and repatch and paint over..2 mos. Ago i had shingles and im on my second bladder infection in two mos..i have copd..my home nurse thinks it may be due to mold exposure

  5. Whats are the first steps into taking a law suit against the negelance of a landlord
    Not fixing the mold,roach and rat infestation. Myself and my 5year old boy we are suffering every day bc i dont to go about it with the landlord. I scared already has done its damage on us

  6. Mai Yang, you can pay your rent to your local district court and file a complaint about your problems. Take pictures, and keep a journal of your experience on a daily basis. Keep all doctors bills together. You can file for damages in small claims court on your own (usually in the amount up to $16-18,000). Keep written records notifying your landlord and the owner of the property. If you talk to an attorney-he will want these things also and you can file for a larger settlement. Documentation will get you more money in the end. Sorry for your troubles. Hope this helps.

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