Home Mold Health Issues

Do molds affect one's health?
Most types of mold that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals. However, too much exposure to mold may cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. The most common symptoms of overexposure are cough, congestion, runny nose, eye irritation, and aggravation of asthma. Depending on the amount of exposure and a person's individual vulnerability, more serious health effects, such as fevers and breathing problems, can occur but are unusual.4

One third to one half of all structures have damp conditions that may encourage development of pollutants such as molds and bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions, including asthma, and spread infectious diseases.6

We are all exposed to many kinds of mold both inside and outside the house. However, some people seem to be more sensitive to mold and have allergies to some types of mold. These people may suffer from cold-like symptoms. When people are experiencing these symptoms, it is difficult to know if they are the result of exposure to molds or have other causes. When breathed, some mold spores are small enough to go deeply into the lungs and cause serious illness. It is not healthy to live in a home with high levels of mold.1

Allergic reactions may be the most common health problem resulting from mold exposure. Typical symptoms reported (alone or in combination) include: respiratory problems; nasal and sinus congestion; burning eyes; blurry vision; light sensitivity; dry, hacking cough; sore throat; nose and throat irritation; shortness of breath; skin irritation; central nervous system problems; aches and pains; and possible fever.3

Should I be concerned about mold in my home?
Yes, if the contamination is extensive. When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems for people. Exposure to high spore levels can cause the development of an allergy to the mold. Mold can also cause structural damage to your home. Similarly, when wood goes through a period of wetting, then drying, it can eventually warp and cause walls to crack or become structurally weak.3

How much mold can make me sick?
It depends. For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For other people, it may take many more.3

Also, mold can sometimes produce chemicals called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins may cause illness in people who are sensitive to them or if they are exposed to large amounts in the air. Large exposures are typically associated with certain occupations (e.g., agricultural work).3

Who is at greater risk when exposed to mold?
The following individuals appear to be at higher risk for adverse health effects of molds: infants and children; elderly; immune-compromised patients (people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy, liver disease, etc.); pregnant women; and individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma.3

With even slight exposure to molds and spores, sensitive people may experience headaches, runny noses, skin rashes, nausea, sinus problems, memory loss, and coughs. They may feel listless for long periods of time. In short, they feel as though they have a perpetual case of the flu. Newborns, the elderly, the sick, and those with compromised immune systems can be affected severely, even fatally. In truth, most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes of invincibility and supersensitivity. But even "normal" folks will react to unusually high concentrations of mold and spores. And the time you're most likely to stir up spores and inhale and ingest them is the very time you're trying to get rid of the stuff. That's when you need to be the most careful.7

Are some molds more hazardous than others?
Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to amount and type needed to cause reactions. In addition, certain types of molds can produce toxins, called mycotoxins, that the mold uses to inhibit or prevent the growth of other organisms. Mycotoxins are found in both living and dead mold spores.3

Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low; however, as with other types of mold, at higher levels health effects can occur. These include allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms), dermatitis (rashes), sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms, such as fatigue and the inability to concentrate, are more general. Usually, symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed. There has been evidence linking Stachybotrys with pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants who are generally less than six months old. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon condition that results from bleeding in the lungs. In studied cases of pulmonary hemosiderosis, the exposure to Stachybotrys came from highly contaminated dwellings, where the infants were continually exposed over a long period of time.4

Over the past several years, there have been a number of infants (most under 6 months old), in the eastern neighborhoods of Cleveland, who have been coughing up blood due to bleeding in their lungs. Some infants have died and more infants continue to get ill. This bleeding, a disorder called pulmonary hemorrhage, appears to be caused by something in their home environments, most likely toxins produced by an unusual fungus called Stachybotrys chartarum or similar fungi.5

1 "Controlling Mold Growth in the Home," Marilyn Bode and Deanna Munson, Kansas State University, September 1995.

2 "Mold Resources," United States Environmental Protection Agency, April 4, 2001.

3 "Mold in My Home: What Do I Do?" Indoor Air Quality Info Sheet, California Department of Health Services, March 1998.

4 "Facts about Mold," New York City Department of Health, Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology, February 2001.

5 "Pulmonary Hemorrhage and Hemosiderosis in Infants," Dorr G. Dearborn, Ph.D., M.D., Michael D. Infeld, M.D., Paul G. Smith, D.O., and Terrence M. Allan, M.P.H., General Clinical Research Center, 2000.

6 "Biological Pollutants in Your Home," American Lung Association and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, EPA Document Reference Number 402-F-90-102, January 1990.

7 "Combating Mold and Mildew," The Family Handyman, March 2000.

© Mold Solutions  
All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy
Mold Solutions - Mold Inspection, Minnesota
6973 Washington Ave S., Edina, MN 55439
Minneapolis Web Design by First Scribe