All molds are potentially a health hazard. While majority of common molds are not a concern to individuals who are healthy, the health effects of most of the indoor molds are not known. Some symptoms associated with mold exposure are also highly controversial. Health effects of mold include:
2. allergic reactions (i.e., allergy);
3. mycotoxin poisoning.
Infection of healthy individuals by indoor molds is very rare. Occasionally, however, immunocompromised individuals may be infected by some opportunistic pathogens such as species of Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium.
It’s estimated that about 20% of the human population is allergic to normal spore concentrations. The rest 80% would require exposure to higher spore concentrations. Health effects of mold partly depends on the amount of mold an individual is exposed to. However, with the large number of mold species and strains growing in buildings and the large inter-individual variability in human response to mold exposure it’s hard to define what is “normal” or “high” mold spore concentration.
Apart from infections the most well known health effects of mold is mycotoxin poisoning. Some common molds such as Aspergillus flavus, Stachybotrys chartarum, Fusarium, Alternaria, Paecilomyces, Rhizopus, Trichoderma, and Trichothecium produce substances (mycotoxins) that are toxic to humans, animals or other microorganisms. A number of mycotoxins are not only toxic but are also highly potent carcinogens. Spores of toxin producing molds contain mycotoxins. Majority of mycotoxins are not volatile and therefore mycotoxin exposure is likely to occur through inhalation of spores and dust. Evidence that inhaled mycotoxins affects human health is circumstantial.
Minimizing Exposure To Mold
The best way to deal with the health effects of mold is to minimize exposure to mold. Exposure to mold can be minimized by improving the indoor air quality. Here are some steps one can take:
- Controlling humidity and letting more air into the house by ensuring sufficient ventilation. This prevents moisture from building up on walls and windows. If there is excessive humidity, mechanical ventilation such as a fan may be needed to get rid of it.
- Measuring humidity by using a hygrometer to see if a de-humidifier is needed. The relative humidity should be kept below 50% in summer and 30% in winter.
- Repairing leaky roofs, walls, and basements.
- Cleaning moldy surfaces with a detergent.
- Keeping the house clean and dust-free.
- Regularly cleaning and disinfect humidifiers, de-humidifiers, and air conditioners.
If you have a question regarding health effects of mold, contact us at 905-290-9101.