Molds can cause adverse effects by producing allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions). Potential mold and health concerns are important reasons to prevent mold growth and to remediate existing problem areas. The onset of allergic reactions to mold can be either immediate or delayed. Some symptoms of mold exposure that can create allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms such as runny nose and red eyes. Molds may cause localized skin or mucosal infections but, in general, do not cause systemic infections in humans, except for persons with impaired immunity, AIDS, uncontrolled diabetes, or those taking immune suppressive drugs. An important reference with guidelines for immuno-compromised individuals can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (www.cdc.gov). Molds can also cause asthma attacks in some individuals who are allergic to mold. In addition, exposure to mold can irritate the eyes, skin, nose and throat in certain individuals. Symptoms other than allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold in the indoor environment.
Some specific species of mold produce mycotoxins under certain environmental conditions. Potential health effects of mold and mycotoxins are the subject of ongoing scientific research.
When mold cells are inhaled and land in the respiratory tract, the body's immune system's response to those invading cells can cause allergic illness. The immune system tries to destroy the mold as it would an agent, like a flu virus, that might cause infection. In a relatively small portion of the population (about 10 percent of people in the U.S.), the immune system overreacts and causes the allergic response that results in symptoms such as runny nose, scratchy throat and sneezing. Most of us know this allergic illness as "hay fever" or "allergic rhinitis."
Asthma is a lung disease in which the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs can partially close, causing breathing difficulties ranging from mild (such as a dry cough) to life-threatening (inability to breathe). The US is in the midst of what is being called a world-wide asthma epidemic. A recent survey of North Carolina middle school children revealed that 10 percent had been diagnosed with asthma and another 17 percent had asthma symptoms that had never been diagnosed. More than half of asthmatics have respiratory allergies, often to mold. Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive asthmatics.
Some mold species can cause respiratory infection when the live mold invades the tissues of the lungs or respiratory tract. This is not a significant risk for healthy people, but can be dangerous for individuals with severely weakened immune systems.
Very large doses of certain molds, whether inhaled or ingested, can result in poisoning caused by toxins, called mycotoxins, in the mold cells. It is not clear whether an individual can receive a high enough exposure to mold growing indoors to experience these toxic effects.
One particular type of mold that is always highlighted in the media is Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Black Mold). Stachybotrys is actually not black, it is a greenish slime mold that grows on materials with high cellulose content (drywall, wood, paper, ceiling tiles) that are chronically wet or moist. It is one of several molds that can produce mycotoxins under certain environmental conditions.
Most Common Health Symptoms from Mold Exposure
Loss of concentration
Difficulties in learning
Watery mucus drips from nose
Thick slime coming from nose
Itchy nose, mouth, eyes, throat, skin