The quality of the air you breathe is vital for your well-being. There are thousands of microbial contaminants in the air that may pose health hazards. Fungi, which are ubiquitous in distribution are one such grave threat to your health in indoor environments. Molds are the most common forms of fungi found on earth. And mildew refers to certain kinds of mold or fungus. They reproduce through the formation of spores, which are tiny microscopic cells that float through the air. These mild spores are not always dangerous. We are exposed to them daily, both indoors and outdoors.
Outdoors, molds take part in the decomposition of organic matter such as dead trees, compost, and leaves. But, when they land on a moist surface indoors, they may grow, posing dangers. Molds survive and grow in warm, humid, and damp conditions.1 So, usually they are found in places such as basements or showers where there is high humidity. They also grow on cardboard, wood products, wallpaper, ceiling tiles, paint, and paper products.
Is Everyone Vulnerable To Mold Exposure
Sometimes inhaling or touching mold or mildew may have hazardous health effects. But, everyone may not be adversely affected by molds. People who have other allergies or existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, or other lung diseases are more susceptible to the effects of mold exposure. Also, those with an impaired or weakened immune system will have severe reactions to molds.2 Pregnancy, autoimmune disease, AIDS, or diabetes are medical conditions that can weaken your immune system. Infants, small children, and elderly people are also vulnerable to mold contamination.3
Effects Of Breathing Mold Or Mildew
So, what happens when they get exposed to mold or mildew? Mold exposure may lead to allergies, infections, and toxin-mediated conditions. In most cases, symptoms are temporary.
Mold exposure may sometimes cause allergic reactions. You may have itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or a sore throat.4 You may also suffer from headache or fatigue. Even other airborne allergens like pollen or dust mites may trigger these symptoms. Thus, sometimes it is difficult to identify the specific cause behind the allergic reactions.5 You may also have skin irritations such as red itchy skin or rash.
2. Allergic Asthma
In sensitized people, fungal allergen exposure through molds may cause asthma.6 Researchers have identified a relationship between severity of asthma and total dampness and mold growth. The role of home dampness and molds as the cause of respiratory symptoms have also been studied.7 In asthma patients, thus, molds may aggravate the disease. However, there is inadequate evidence to determine the association between fungal exposure and the development of asthma.8
Those people who are immunocompromised are the victims of fungal infections. Pulmonary aspergillosis is an infection that happens in lung cavities.9 And its symptoms are pneumonia, headache, bone pain, and weight loss.10 Aspergilloma, is another infection that can happen with symptoms such as cough and weight loss.11 It is a growth that develops in an area of past lung disease or lung scarring such as tuberculosis.12 Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA) happens when the immune system overreacts to the fungus. It happens very rarely in people with a normal immune system. The condition may worsen underlying health conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis. It may also result in weight loss.
4. Toxin-Mediated Conditions
Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by molds. The ingestion, inhalation, or dermal contact of mycotoxins can be toxic under some circumstances.13 At high doses, they may affect a variety of metabolic processes. But, there is no compelling evidence that exposure at levels expected in most mold-contaminated indoor environments is likely to result in measurable health effects.14 Hence, more research is needed to explain the health implications of mycotoxin exposure in indoor environments.
Black Mold And Toxicity
When you read about molds, you may definitely want to know about black mold, as it is frequently singled out as the biggest culprit. Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mold is a greenish-black mold. It was thought to be the reason behind a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis among infants living in a water-damaged environment in Cleveland, Ohio. However, there is not much research to prove the association between acute pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis in infants and exposure to molds, specifically stachybotrys chartarum.15 The guidelines from federal organizations suggest that mold growth, regardless of the type, should be controlled in an appropriate manner.16
Bad Mold vs Good Mold
Wondering whether some molds can be of any good like good bacteria? Yes. They are not bad always. Because of their pharmacological activity, some of the mycotoxins are useful as antibiotics.17 Under correct conditions, some molds are also used in the production of cheese. But, you cannot eat the fungi that grow on the cheese at home. They may result in allergic reactions. Outdoors, molds are considered to be a good thing. However, inside your home, if they find a sustainable food source to grow they become dangerous.
How To Prevent Mold Exposure
Denying them a place to grow is an important step in preventing mold. And for that, you need to control the moisture inside your home. You should make sure that your home and the workplace is free of visible mold growth or strong moldy odor. Here are a few tips for that.18
- Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep the humidity level low.
- Make sure that your floor and wall are dry after flooding.
- Fix water problems such as roof leaks and plumbing leaks.
- Provide enough ventilation for your house.
- Use mold-killing products while cleaning bathrooms.
- If absorbent materials like carpet become moldy, they should be removed.
- Cleaning frequently keeps mold to a minimum.
- Do not paint moldy surfaces without cleaning up the mold and drying the surface.19
Cleaning up the mold in your home is the first thing you should do. These are a few ways to do it:
- Remove mold growth from hard surfaces using soap and water.
- You can also use a bleach solution.
- Take less than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water to remove the mold. Remember, never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners as it produces toxic fumes.20
- Make sure that the windows and doors are open while you use bleach.
- Also, wear protective gloves and eye mask.
If you are worried about mold exposure from your workplace and the symptoms associated with it, you should consult an occupational health clinic.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Basic Facts. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.|
|2, 4, 5.||↑||Preventing Mold-Related Problems in the Indoor Workplace. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.|
|3.||↑||Cooper, Susan C. The Truth about Mold. Dearborn Real Estate, 2004.|
|6, 7, 8.||↑||Johnston, R. B., H. A. Burge, and W. J. Fisk. “Clearing the air: asthma and indoor air exposures.” (2000).|
|9.||↑||Pulmonary aspergilloma. MedlinePlus.|
|10.||↑||Molds in Indoor Workplaces. California Department of Health Services.|
|11.||↑||Molds in Indoor Workplaces. California Department of Health Services.|
|13.||↑||Mold and Mold Toxins:The Newest Toxic Tart. Harvard University.|
|14.||↑||Robbins, Coreen A., Lonie J. Swenson, Marrk L. Nealley, Bruce J. Kelman, and Ronald E. Gots. “Health effects of mycotoxins in indoor air: a critical review.” Applied occupational and environmental hygiene 15, no. 10 (2000): 773-784.|
|15.||↑||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC. “Update: Pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis among infants–Cleveland, Ohio, 1993-1996.” MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 49, no. 9 (2000): 180.|
|16, 17.||↑||Health Professional: Mold Frequently Asked Questions. Wisconsin Department of Health Services.|
|18, 20.||↑||Facts about Mold and Dampness. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.|
|19.||↑||Mold Cleanup in Your Home. United States Environmental Protection Agency.|