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 Mold Health Effects
 
     
  Mold can affect people through the allergens and toxins carried on the mold spores, by allergic reactions to the enzymes secreted by mold, and by the musty odors produced by mold. There is a wide range of health symptoms of mold exposure. This makes mold poisoning difficult to diagnose. Doctorsí often think itís in peopleís head and refer them to a psychiatrists or give them drugs to treat symptoms instead of telling patients to check for a mold problem that needs to be cleaned up.  
     
  Some think the danger from mold exposure is over-rated. Yet there are many people who were perfectly healthy prior to having a mold problem in their home or office. These people are not otherwise chemically sensitive. After a mold exposure they appear to react to even low levels of mold indoors. They cannot live or work in the contaminated building until the mold is removed.  
     
  Some think that all the precautions that are taken when removing mold are unnecessary. Others canít live in homes where mold was not removed properly. They become sensitive to low levels of mold that remain in the dust, dispersed through the home or office.  
     
  Allergens  
     
  All fungi (molds) are allergenic1. Dead or alive, mold can cause allergic reactions in some people3. Dead mold spores may still contain allergens and toxins. Allergens and toxins are not neutralized with bleach or other chemicals. For remediation to be effective, mold spores need to be physically removed. This means using plain soap and water and elbow grease, wearing proper protective gear and following a mold remediation protocol as necessary, covered in detail in later sections of this book.  
     
  Only about 10% of the population is allergic to mold2. This means that in an office building with twenty people, itís possible that only one or two people may complain when there is a mold problem. If all twenty complain itís either a real bad mold problem or another indoor air quality problem may be present in addition to the mold problem.  
     
  Toxins  
     
  Different species of mold compete with one each other for food such as the building materials in your house. Mold spores donít have legs. They canít get up and move if they donít like their neighbors or the view. They land wherever the wind blows them and have to make do with what theyíve got. Neighboring mold spores also canít leave and want to eat, grow and prosper. So do bacteria and other micro-organisms. Itís a jungle out there! Somethingís got to give. Thatís where toxins come into play.  
     
  Molds donít produce toxins to harm humans. Toxins are moldís way of defending itself from competing micro-organisms. The toxins produced by a certain species of mold will vary depending on the environment it finds itself in and the microorganisms it is competing with. In laboratory conditions, when a species of mold is isolated by itself in a petri dish, it may not produce toxins possibly because it doesnít need to defend itself. While it is true that certain molds are more toxic than others, all molds are capable of producing toxins, even the more benign ones that are typically only considered allergenic.  
     
  Many molds are used to make antibiotics, toxins that fight off and kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Penicillin is a toxin produced from mold. Unfortunately these also kill off your bodyís natural micro-flora and make it more susceptible to fungal invaders that are not stopped by drugs such as Penicillium. Toxic molds could be evolving, becoming more resistant to synthetic antibiotics.  
     
  Since all molds are capable of producing toxins, if mold is present indoors it is prudent to remove the mold and not to make judgment calls on how to deal with the mold based on how potentially toxic it may be. There is a great deal of controversy regarding how mold may affect the body and how much of the health affects people experience from mold exposure is due to toxins. Some experts believe that the total toxin load present with most mold problems is not significant enough to cause health problems and that the symptoms occupants experience are due to other factors such as the odors, allergens and some yet to be explained mechanisms.  
     
 

Short and Long-term Health Effects

 
     
  Short-term Health Effects  
     
  Allergic response such as cold and flu-like symptoms is the most common health symptom associated with mold spore exposure. People often ask how many mold spores it takes to make someone sick. A single pollen spore may be enough for someone allergic to pollen to have a reaction. The same is possible for mold spores.  
     
  Typically the longer someone is exposed to mold, the more likely they are to have symptoms and the more severe the symptoms may be. There are variances in personal tolerances and limited research available on which types and how much mold is required to cause harm.  
     
  There are many ways mold can get into your body. Breathing mold spores is not the only way to be effected by mold. Skin contact is a pathway with skin irritation and itching indicators. The chemicals produced by mold may penetrate the skin transferring them into the blood stream. Ingestion is a common source of exposure, especially by children and pets that donít wash their hands.  
     
  Symptoms of Mold Exposure7  
     
 
  •  Allergies and Irritation
  • Cold and Flu-like symptoms
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Burning, watery, reddened eyes
  • A rash or itching
  • Wheezing and difficulty in breathing
  • Dry, hacking cough, sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Inability to concentrate, foggy thinking
 
     
  It doesn't matter if you have green, black or purple mold in your home. If the level and types of mold indoors are different than that of the outdoors there may be a mold problem indoors that should be located and corrected.  
     
  Long-term Health Effects  
     
  Prolonged exposure to even low levels of mold can lead to sensitivity in otherwise normally healthy individuals, making it difficult for them to find a place to live or work. Chronic exposure may lead to the development of allergies or asthma in otherwise healthy people. In general, many fungi can lower the immune system8. The Mayo Clinic has identified mold as the leading cause of chronic sinus infections9. Some have memory problems associated with long-term exposure to mold. Fortunately, if people have not occupied a mold contaminated environment too long, symptoms may disappear or lessen after they move out and the mold is cleaned up.  
     
  Whoís Most at Risk?  
     
  Risk factors of mold exposure include the concentration of mold spores and odors present and the duration of exposure. Personal sensitivity and oneís immune system play a big part. If your immune system is already compromised or overloaded from other environmental pollutants you may be at a higher risk for developing symptoms from mold exposure. Small children, pregnant women and the elderly are at a higher risk than healthy adults. People with pre-existing allergies, asthma or chemical sensitivity may be more sensitive to mold.  
     
  There is some evidence to suggest that there is a synergistic effect with tobacco smoke and exposure to Stachybotrys mold. Other allergens and irritants such as mice, cockroach, cat, dog, and rat allergens, and chemicals such as formaldehyde emitted from new carpet and paint, may cause synergistic responses to mold exposure.  
     
 
 
 
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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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