Health Risks of Mold


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Health effects
Studies have shown that people who are healthy, atopic (sensitive), already suffer from allergies, asthma, or compromised immune systems and occupy damp or moldy buildings are at an increased risk of health problems such as inflammatory and toxic responses to mold spores, metabolites and other components. The most common health problem is an allergic reaction. Other problems are respiratory and/or immune system responses including respiratory symptoms, respiratory infections, exacerbation of asthma, and rarely hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, chronic rhinosinusitis and allergic fungal sinusitis. Severe reactions are rare but possible. A persons reaction to mold depends on their sensitivity and other health conditions, the amount of mold present, length of exposure and the type of mold or mold products.

Some molds also produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. The term “toxic mold” refers to molds that produce mycotoxins, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, not to all molds. Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death.[citation needed] Prolonged exposure, e.g., daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful.

The four most common genus’ of indoor molds are cladosporium, penicillium, aspergillus, and alternaria.

Damp environments which allow mold to grow can also produce bacteria and help release volatile organic compounds.

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Symptoms of mold exposure can include:

Nasal and sinus congestion, runny nose
Eye irritation, such as itchy, red, watery eyes
Respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing, chest tightness
Cough
Throat irritation
Sneezing / Sneezing fits
Health effects linking to asthma
Infants may develop respiratory symptoms as a result of exposure to a specific type of fungal mold, called Penicillium. Signs that an infant may have mold-related respiratory problems include (but are not limited to) a persistent cough and/or wheeze. Increased exposure increases the probability of developing respiratory symptoms during their first year of life. Studies have shown that a correlation exists between the probability of developing asthma and increased exposure Penicillium. The levels are deemed no mold to low level, from low to intermediate, from intermediate to high.

Mold exposures have a variety of health effects depending on the person. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Exposure to mold can cause a number of health issues such as; throat irritation, nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, cough and wheezing, as well as skin irritation in some cases. Exposure to mold may also cause heightened sensitivity depending on the time and nature of exposure. People at higher risk for mold allergies are people with chronic lung illnesses, which will result in more severe reactions when exposed to mold.

There has been sufficient evidence that damp indoor environments are correlated with upper respiratory tract symptoms such as coughing, and wheezing in people with asthma.

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Mycosis
A serious health threat from mold exposure for immunocompromised individuals is systemic fungal infection (systemic mycosis). Immunocompromised individuals exposed to high levels of mold, or individuals with chronic exposure may become infected.[14][15] Sinuses and digestive tract infections are most common; lung and skin infections are also possible. Mycotoxins may or may not be produced by the invading mold.

Dermatophytes are the parasitic fungi that cause skin infections such as athlete’s foot and tinea cruris. Most dermataphyte fungi take the form of a mold, as opposed to a yeast, with appearance (when cultured) that is similar to other molds.

Opportunistic infection by molds[16] such as Penicillium marneffei and Aspergillus fumigatus is a common cause of illness and death among immunocompromised people, including people with AIDS or asthma.

Mold-induced hypersensitivity
The most common form of hypersensitivity is caused by the direct exposure to inhaled mold spores that can be dead or alive or hyphal fragments which can lead to allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis.[19] The most common effects are rhinorrhea (runny nose), watery eyes, coughing and asthma attacks. Another form of hypersensitivity is hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Exposure can occur at home, at work or in other settings. It is predicted that about 5% of people have some airway symptoms due to allergic reactions to molds in their lifetimes.

Hypersensitivity may also be a reaction toward an established fungal infection in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.