Did you know that the fuzzy white patches on your basement floor or the glossy orange and green black films on your kitchen drain and walls could dramatically affect your health?
These are caused by molds that are a part of the natural environment. Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be of many different colors and will smell musty.
The terms “fungi” and “mold” are often used interchangeably, but mold is actually a type of fungi. Molds can cause many health problems. The type and severity of the health effects of mold exposure are variable as molds affect different people in different ways. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all molds have the potential to cause ill health.1
Where Are Molds Found?
Molds can be found everywhere, both outdoors and indoors. They grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions. Indoors, they can be found where humidity levels are high, in areas such as basements or showers. Outdoors, they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or another vegetation is decomposing.
The most common types of mold that are found indoors include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys Chartarum (also called black mold or toxic black mold).
Are The Risks Greater For Some People?
The following people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:2
- Infants and children.
- The elderly.
- Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies or asthma.
- People with severely weakened immune systems (for example, chemotherapy patients, people with HIV infection, organ transplant recipients).
Common Symptoms Of Mold Exposure
Mold exposure is associated with the following untoward health effects in humans.3
- Fatigue and weakness;
- Headache and light sensitivity;
- Poor memory, disorientation, or difficulty finding words;
- Concentration problems;
- Morning stiffness and joint pain;
- Unusual skin sensations, tingling, numbness;
- Shortness of breath, sinus congestion, chronic cough;
- Appetite swings;
- Body temperature fluctuation;
- Increased urinary frequency or increased thirst;
- Red eyes, blurred vision, tearing;
- Sweats, mood swings, sharp pains;
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating;
- Metallic taste in the mouth;
- Static shocks and,
- Vertigo or lightheadedness.
Health Conditions And Symptoms Of Mold Exposure
Molds live everywhere. Disturbing a mold source can disperse mold spores into the air. Inhaling these spores of molds or other fungi can cause allergic reactions or hay fever symptoms in some people. They also can reach the lungs and trigger asthma.
If you are allergic to mold, your immune system will be overly sensitive to specific mold spores and will treat them as an allergen. When you inhale the mold spores, your immune system triggers symptoms. Sometimes the reaction is immediate, but a mold allergy can also cause delayed symptoms, leading to nasal congestion or worsening asthma over time.4
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to those of other allergies and can take the form of sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion, or dry and scaling skin.5
Mental And Neurological Problems
Mycotoxins are chemical toxins present within or on the surface of the mold spore, which you may accidentally inhale, ingest, or touch. These mold toxins are extremely potent and often affect nearly every organ system in your body.
More than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds. Mycotoxins interfere with RNA synthesis and may cause DNA damage. The trichothecene mycotoxins produced by toxic black mold are neurotoxic. One of the reasons mycotoxins are so toxic is they can cross directly into your brain.6
The symptoms of mental and neurological health hazards due to prolonged mold exposure are –
- Confusion or brain fog,
- Shortened attention span,
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention,
- Slower reflexes,
- Disorientation or dizziness,
- Memory loss and memory problems,
- Impaired learning ability,
- Seizure or numbness,
- Anxiety or depression,
- Aggression and other personality changes,
- Tingling, trembling, or shaking.7
Aspergilli are some of the most common environmental molds, frequently found in decaying plant matter such as compost heaps. Infections caused by Aspergillus are called aspergillosis, which is actually a group of illnesses ranging from mild to severe lung infections, or even whole-body infections.
The most serious type of aspergillosis is invasive aspergillosis, which is when the mold invades your blood vessels and then spreads to the rest of your body.8
The symptoms of aspergillosis are – fever, productive cough, worsening asthma, coughing up blood (hemoptysis), wheezing or shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss, pulmonary hemorrhage, chest or joint pain, nosebleeds, facial swelling on one side, skin lesions.
Mold Prevention Tips
Mold growth in the indoor environment should be considered unacceptable because of its potential adverse effects on health and building performance. You can call in professional help for removal of molds. Once you have addressed the mold you should also tackle the air quality.
- Keep humidity levels as low as you can.
- Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Put an exhaust fan or open a window in the bathroom.
- Quickly repair any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so that mold does not have moisture to grow.
- Clean up and dry out your home thoroughly and quickly (within 24–48 hours) after flooding.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting.
- Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products.
- Raise the temperature in the basement or other damp areas to help lower humidity levels.
- Clean garbage pails frequently.
|↑1||Mold, EPA, The United States Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑2||Weinhold, Bob. “A spreading concern: inhalational health effects of mold.” Environmental Health Perspectives 115, no. 6 (2007): A300.|
|↑3||Europe, W. H. O. “WHO Guidelines for indoor air quality.” Selected pollutants. WHO Regional Office for Europe Regional Publications, Copenhagen (2010).|
|↑4||Mold Allergy, Asthma And Allergy Foundation Of America.|
|↑5||What Are The Symptoms Of Mold Allergy, Asthma And Allergy Foundation Of America.|
|↑6||Monnet-Tschudi, F., O. Sorg, P. Honegger, M. G. Zurich, A. C. Huggett, and B. Schilter. “Effects of the naturally occurring food mycotoxin ochratoxin A on brain cells in culture.” Neurotoxicology 18, no. 3 (1996): 831-839.|
|↑7||Islam, Zahidul, Jack R. Harkema, and James J. Pestka. “Satratoxin G from the black mold Stachybotrys chartarum evokes olfactory sensory neuron loss and inflammation in the murine nose and brain.” Environmental health perspectives (2006): 1099-1107.|
|↑8||Mold Allergy Overview, American Academy Of Allergy Asthma And Immunology.|
|↑9||How Can People Decrease Mold Exposure, Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.|
|↑10||Molds and Your Home: What You Need to Know, Department Of Health, New York State.|