Mold and Your Health
By Tammera J. Karr, PhD., BCHN, BCIH ©2012
While we were preparing our new office location, it became apparent soon enough dry rot, black mold, asbestos and paint fumes were going to be a problem. As someone with environmental allergies and chemical sensitivity, I try to pay attention to the potential dangers I am exposing myself to. Needless to say I have exposed myself to more than normal in order to get us moved into our new office location. As my lungs began tightening, and gasping for air I thought about how many others in Western Oregon were additionally damaging their health with mold – black mold in particular.
Mold sickness and related illnesses from mold exposure are real. Mold has been linked to lung damage, brain damage, cancer and even death. The latest discovery of “Mold Fine Particulates” in our environment coupled with the associated medical documentation; prove sickness and disease from mold exposure and exposure to mold fine particulates is very real.
If mold spores are inhaled or ingested you can become seriously ill. As mold continues to grow inside your body it produces poisons called “Mycotoxins”, these poisons leach into your body day after day. Each day untreated the colonies of mold grow larger producing and releasing larger amounts of toxins into your body.
Different species of mold produce different toxins and people will suffer a wide range of symptoms.
Because the variety of symptoms from mold exposure are so wide in range many physicians deem their patients to have psychological problems.
The most commonly reported symptoms of short term Mold exposure:
- Itching Skin
- Redness and skin irritation
- Watery Eyes
- Itching Eyes
The following symptoms of mold exposure have been reported generally as a result from persons being in a mold contaminate environment on and off for an extended period of time. Symptoms are reported to have become more severe and longer lasting directly in proportion to the length of exposure time. Their reported symptoms are:
- Constant Headaches
- Nose Bleeds
- Feelings of Constant Fatigue
- Breathing Disorders
- Coughing up Blood or Black looking Debris
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Hair loss
- Skin Rashes
- Open Sores on the Skin
- Memory Loss “Short Term”
- Neurological & Nervous Disorders
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Swollen Glands in the Neck Area and under the Armpit
- Sudden Asthma Attacks or Breathing Disorders
- Ear Infections and Pain
- Chronic Sinus Infections
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Pain in the Joints and Muscles
How common is mold, including Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) in buildings?
Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture. The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria.
Stachybotrys chartarum is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, to determine the type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.
Some people may have more severe reactions to molds. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Immunocompromised persons and persons with chronic lung diseases like COPD are at increased risk for opportunistic infections and may develop fungal infections in their lungs.
In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.
How do you get the molds out of buildings, including homes, schools, and places of employment?
In most cases mold can be removed from hard surfaces by a thorough cleaning with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Absorbent or porous materials like ceiling tiles, drywall, and carpet may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. If you have an extensive amount of mold and you do not think you can manage the cleanup on your own, you may want to contact a professional who has experience in cleaning mold in buildings and homes.
It is important to properly clean and dry the area as you can still have an allergic reaction to parts of the dead mold and mold contamination may recur if there is still a source of moisture.
If you choose to use bleach to clean up mold:
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
- Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
- Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.
 Mold Symptoms.Org – Developed For the Public’s Better Understanding of The Dangers Of Fungal Contamination and Infections
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