Mold Exposure Health Effects

Mold Exposure:

We are all exposed to mold on a daily basis without evident harm. However, health problems arise when mold spores enter the air and our bodies in large numbers. Inhalation of fungal spores, fragments (parts), or metabolites (e.g. mycotoxins and volatile organic compounds) from a wide variety of fungi may lead to or exacerbate immunologic (allergic) reactions, cause toxic effects, or cause infections.

In order for humans to be exposed indoors, fungal spores, fragments, or metabolites must be released into the air and inhaled, physically contacted (dermal exposure), or ingested. Whether or not symptoms develop in people exposed to fungi depends on the nature of the fungal material (e.g., allergenic, toxic, or infectious), the amount of exposure, and the susceptibility of exposed persons. Susceptibility varies with the genetic predisposition (e.g., allergic reactions do not always occur in all individuals), age, state of health, and concurrent exposures. For these reasons, and because measurements of exposure are not standardized and biological markers of exposure to fungi are likely unknown, it is not possible to determine “safe” levels of exposure for people in general.

Health Symptoms

Nasal congestion, headache, eye irritation, tickling in the nose and throat, cough, sneezing, and skin rashes. Some people develop asthma symptoms, like wheezing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Infants and children, the elderly, persons with immune compromising conditions, pregnant women and patients with respiratory conditions, other allergies and asthma are most at risk of developing symptoms related to mold exposure.

Stachybotrys Under a Kitchen Sink

Toxic Mold:

Fungi produce volatile organic compounds during degradation of substrates that cause the “moldy” odor associated with fungal contamination. These compounds can be irritating to mucous membranes, causing headaches and many other symptoms.

Many fungi produce toxic metabolites which have a carcinogenic effect on humans exposed to high levels of these mycotoxins. Symptoms of exposure to mycotoxins may include flu-like symptoms, headache, nosebleeds, dermatitis, and immune suppression. Many mycotoxins are highly disease causing.

The most publicized mold that generates mycotoxins in the laboratory is Stachybotrys, but Aspergillus, Streptomyces and Chaetomium have also been identified as toxic. Stachybotrys is uncommon but when present, it is always associated with a severe moisture problem and normally shows up as black slimy colonies on damp drywall.