Mold is a term used to describe a vast number of filamentous fungi found around the world. There are approximately 100,000 species of mold that have been identified around the world with about 1,000 species common to the U.S. In order to spread and start new mold colonies, molds release tiny microscopic mold spores into the air which are then carried by air currents to new locations. If there is moisture, a food source and oxygen where they happen to land, mold can begin to grow. It is these mold spores that can affect a person’s health when inhaled, especially in higher concentrations.
Not everyone’s health is affected by exposure to mold spores. It really comes down to the individual’s immune system and how it is able to cope with the exposure to mold spores.
For those people who are sensitive to mold spores, some common symptoms might be:
- Sore Throat
- Nasal Congestion
- Coughing and Wheezing
- Dry, Itchy Eyes
- Irritation of the Skin.
Individuals with allergies to mold may experience more severe symptoms.
Those people with compromised immune systems and/or chronic lung disease such as asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, obstructive lung disease etc. should avoid areas where mold spores are likely to be in higher concentrations, especially exposure to indoor environments that have mold problems and poor indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality and damp indoor environments have been linked to people experiencing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and even respiratory infections in both children and adults who otherwise appeared to be healthy.
How do you know if your symptoms are caused by mold in your home?
The Department of Health provided us with a great answer. “If you are experiencing adverse health symptoms, it is important that you see your physician for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. Your physician may refer you to a specialist, such as an allergist, for additional tests. If you seem to feel better when you are away from your home for several hours, this may be an indication that there is a contaminant in your home”.
How can you tell if mold is causing harm to you, family, pets, and/or co-workers?
All molds should be considered allergenic at a minimum. However, some species of mold can produce mycotoxins that can affect the health of humans and animals alike. Some symptoms for pets may include sniffles, sneezing, rashes, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
It is not the mold itself that is toxic, but the mycotoxins that it produces. Some common species of mold that can produce mycotoxins are; Alternaria, Penicillium/Aspergillus and Stachybotrys Chartarum – more commonly referred to as Black Mold.
The Infamous “Black Mold”.
Stachybotrys Chartarum is a species of mold more commonly known as black mold or toxic black mold. However, it should be noted that not all mold that appears black in color is Stachybotrys. There are many different species of molds that appear black in color but most are not considered toxic.
Stachybotrys has been linked to many serious health issues in both humans and animals and is also linked to what has been described as “sick building syndrome”. Sick building syndrome is a term used to describe when occupants of a building experience issues with health where no specific cause can be identified, but which directly appears to correlate with time spent in a building. Stachybotrys Chartarum produces mycotoxins which can cause Mycotoxicosis in humans and animals. In order to grow Stachybotrys needs a high level of moisture, oxygen and a food source such as drywall or wallpaper which is rich in cellulose. Stachybotrys spores are covered in a slime residue and appear as a ball or mass of spores at the tip of the conidiophore (the structure bearing the conidia or spores). Due to this sticky slime the spores are not so easily dispersed into the air. However, when the mold and substrate it is growing on dries out the spores can be disturbed by air movement and become bioaerosols.