As snow melts and spring rains begin to fall, homeowners will inevitably notice more water intrusion and flooding issues in their homes. When moisture issues are not addressed immediately, mold growth can quickly start to affect our health. Everyone knows that mold can cause allergies and that is often our clients’ primary concern when addressing a mold infestation; however, scientists are linking mold exposure and toxicity to more and more medical conditions every day. Everything from cancer to heart disease to Type II diabetes to autoimmune disorders such as lupus can be the result of mycotoxicity—exposure to mold-produced toxins. Mycotoxins can be so highly toxic that they are considered much more harmful to our health than pesticides and heavy metals at the same concentrations.
According to the CDC, as many as 40% of American schools and 25% of homes have mold infestations. Autoimmune disorders, cancer rates, and inflammatory diseases are on the rise contrary to increases in medical science. Essentially, we are finding that mold could be the trigger for many of these diseases to which we have only been treating the symptoms, and failing to address the cause.
Mold affects our health in several ways. Most common types of mold are known allergens. When we breathe them in, our immune system triggers a histamine response to flush the mold spores from our sinuses, eyes, and lungs. Allergies seem relatively harmless in comparison to other medical conditions until one considers the autoimmune disorders, overactive immune system disorders, and inflammatory diseases which can result from having their immune system constantly bombarded by mold and other allergens. Debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis can be onset by something so seemingly normal as a cold virus or short term mold exposure.
The second way in which mold can harm us is by the mycotoxins produced by some types of mold. The mycotoxins are primarily present on the surface of the mold spores and are absorbed into our bloodstream when the spores are breathed into the nose and lungs or even settle on the surface of your eyes. The toxins can also be present in the air in high enough amounts in extreme infestations as to cause immediate illness. These toxins will cause damage wherever they go, but the worst damage is when the toxins are passed into the bloodstream from the nose or eyes and transmitted to brain tissues. Immediate toxicity symptoms from the mycotoxins entering the brain can be behavioral changes, depression, cognitive impairment, ataxia, and convulsions followed by effects to the central nervous system such as paralysis. Stachybotrys chartarum is the species of mold most commonly referred to as “Black Mold.” Exposure to Stachybotrys mycotoxin will produce headaches at the lowest end of the spectrum with increasing severity of effects with prolonged and higher exposure eventually leading to various cancers and Stachybotryotoxicosis.
Finally, mold can actually infect our bodies as a pathogen and live within us. Aspergillus mold is quite common and can cause severe lung infections and progress to whole body infections. If treated as a bacterial infection or virus, the fungal infection will run rampant in the body with its beneficial bacterial competition having been wiped out by antibiotics. Mold pathogens are extremely successful once they have taken hold because of their ability to mask themselves from our immune systems, rapidly mutate, and even produce immune system suppressing chemicals. When facing fungal infections, secondary and tertiary bacterial infections can also occur because dangerous bacteria often times grow alongside toxic molds in the same conditions in which the mold flourishes. This symbiosis of disease makes fungal pathogens extremely dangerous.
Mold exposure is particularly dangerous to infants and children because of their limited capacity to metabolize mycotoxins and their underdeveloped immune systems. Make sure to let your doctor know if you have been exposed to mold when addressing an illness. It could save you or your child’s life.
Mold infestations should never be taken lightly. Proper equipment and procedure is required to protect yourself when working around or attempting to clean up mold. Mold remediation professionals know the risks and take all of the steps necessary to protect you, the occupant, themselves, and prevent spreading the mold to other parts of the home during the cleanup process. Indoor air quality testing professionals can also perform post remediation testing to ensure the infestation has completely been eliminated. Mold has the potential to be very dangerous, so please leave it up to the professionals.