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Mold Inspection and Testing

Types of Mold Sickness Caused by Mold Exposure: What Do You Need to Know?

Molds are not just a natural and normal part of the environment, these microscopic fungi also, in fact, serve the crucial function of helping to eliminate decaying organic matter from ecosystems. Molds are, therefore, not automatically your sworn enemy. Only a small percentage of the over 100,000 known mold species pose a threat to human health. Exposure to harmful molds can, on the other hand, cause extremely serious — and even life-threatening — health complications.

If you have ever lived in an old and damp house or do so currently, you’ll know, for example, that exposure to some kinds of mold can trigger the same types of symptoms you would experience if you suffered from hay fever or had a cold. The fact is, however, that certain kinds of mold have the potential to damage your health in a variety of ways. Suffering from a mold allergy, and experiencing all the discomforts that this can bring, is bad enough — but mold sickness can also rear its head in even nastier forms. What do you need to know?

What Types of Harmful Mold Should You Know About?

Molds with the potential to cause detrimental health effects are generally divided into three broad categories. Although there is some overlap, as some molds species may affect your health in more than one way, they are:

  • Allergenic molds are, as you will have guessed, strongly associated with allergic reactions. That fact does not mean that every person exposed to molds that fall into this category will suffer allergy symptoms — the CDC, in fact, estimates that up to 10 percent of the American population in sensitized to these molds. The more time you spend in close proximity to allergenic molds, the higher your odds that you, too, will develop an allergic reaction. People who have asthma or other allergies are more likely to react strongly even to trace amounts of these molds.
  • Pathogenic molds are molds that can cause severe systemic infections in some people. Even previously healthy people can be affected, although those who are immunocompromised are much more vulnerable. In these risk-groups, exposure to pathogenic molds can prove to be life-threatening.
  • Toxic molds release spores that can, if you are exposed to them over long periods of time, contribute to extremely dangerous medical complications that even potentially include cancer.

What Types of Mold Sickness Can Mold Exposure Cause?

Molds are everywhere, and because the fact that the microscopic spores they release are easily carried by the wind is a crucial part of their reproductive strategy, nobody can avoid mold exposure altogether. In fact, because molds do help to break dead and decaying organic substances like wood and plants down, it’s a good thing that molds exist.

Most people who are not allergic will not suffer any health complications from exposure to environmental molds. When you have a mold infestation in your home, however — or another building where you spend significant amounts of time, such as your workplace, does — you may constantly be inhaling high concentrations of mold spores. A wide variety of health problems can arise, either instantly or over time, and they include:

  • An allergic reaction. Mold allergies are fairly common, and even if you can be around moldy patches without any symptoms right now, the more you are exposed, the more likely you are to be sensitized to the point at which those symptoms do set in. The symptoms of a mold allergy are similar to those of most other allergies, and include sneezing, nasal congestion, a sore throat, breathlessness, itchy, red, and swollen eyes, and skin rashes. These symptoms may subside on their own quite quickly after you leave a moldy environment. If you have a mold problem within your home, they can also become debilitating.
  • Asthma. In people who already have asthma, exposure to certain molds can quickly bring on an attack. There is also evidence to suggest that children who are routinely exposed to molds, whether because they are growing up in a home with a mold infestation or because molds are present in their schools, have an increased risk of developing asthma.
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an inflammation of a portion of the lungs that is caused by an extreme immune system reaction. This condition can be acute (short-term) as well as chronic, and in addition to the same symptoms people with a mold allergy will experience, it can also cause a fever, a constant cough, and severe shortness of breath.
  • Acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage, a rare but dangerous condition that causes internal bleeding resulting from the lungs, has been linked to mold exposure when it occurs in babies. Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of mold that falls into the infamous “black mold” category, is believed to be a major culprit. Despite the fact that the association between black mold and this serious complication is still under scientific investigation, the possibility of serious health complications should make mold remediation a top priority if you have black mold in your home.

It is important to note that the possible health consequences of mold exposure are being researched constantly, and that we simply don’t have the full picture yet. What is clear, however, is that people with established respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder, as well as those with generally weakened immune systems due to conditions like diabetes, or because of pregnancy or old age, are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of molds.

What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk of Mold Sickness?

Did you know that the World Health Organization recognizes healthy indoor air as a basic human right? Despite that fact, the indoor air quality in American buildings tends to be between two and five time worse than the already polluted air outdoors — and harmful molds are major contributors.

Because molds are all around us, it is impossible to make sure that we are never exposed to them. However, every major reputable health organization, from the CDC to the WHO and the Environmental Protection Agency, are unified in the message that limiting contact with indoor molds is the most effective way to combat mold sickness of any kind.

Molds, which require water to grow, thrive in damp conditions. High humidity levels, leaks anywhere within the home (from pipes to gutters), and insufficient ventilation all contribute to mold problems within a building. In addition, molds often build up within organic matter — and that can range from wallpaper to carpets, and from your collection of old books to curtains. Even construction materials literally embedded within your home may harbor mold growths.

Although molds themselves are so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye, their colonies can be visible. You can also often smell mold, which has a musty odor you are probably familiar with. It is also possible for mold to build up in tricky places, on the other hand, and you may therefore have a mold problem without ever seeing or smelling any mold.

The first step in preventing mold sickness — or treating it, if you have already been exposed — lies in finding out what types of molds are present within the spaces you spend most of your time in.

As an independent mold inspection only company, MI&T has no vested interests; when we come into your home or commercial space to perform a full visual mold inspection followed by a collection of air samples that are then tested at an independent laboratory, we are not trying to sell you a mold remediation package. We will, however, be able to tell you exactly what types of mold are present within a space, and in what concentrations. If necessary, MI&T can inform you of the exact steps you would need to take to remediate a mold infestation in a property. After the remediation plan is complete, we can come back to perform clearance testing. This final step will let you know whether you still have a mold problem or you can now switch to recurrence prevention.

From mold allergy symptoms and asthma attacks triggered by mold exposure to even more serious medical complications like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, pharmacological and supportive treatments certainly exist to treat patients. Getting rid of mold within the spaces where you spend most of your time plays such an important role in preventing recurrence, however, that a mold inspection should certainly earn a spot on your to-do list if you know or suspect that mold exposure is making you ill.