Mold spores are everywhere. Unfortunately, certain types of mold growth can have serious impacts on your health and increase your risk for developing a multitude of issues.
However, people who suffer from the effects of mold are often misdiagnosed or mistreated since the toxicity resulting from mold exposure can present itself in complex ways with various symptoms.
It is important to learn about the pervasive dangers of mold and the risk they pose to your health so you can seek the medical help you may need.
We have all had run-ins with mold. Whether it be the old carton of milk that was left in the fridge, a shower that went a little too long without being cleaned, or a damp window sill in the attic, mold seems to creep up in damp spaces we have forgotten to maintain or that are hidden from our sight. Mold spores occur naturally, and they often enter your house through open windows or doors, heating, and air conditioning systems, or by attaching themselves to people or animals. When mold spores land in damp spaces, such as walls, roofs, or potted plants, they begin to grow. However, simply wiping down that window sill may not be enough to rid you of your mold problem, it’s possible that you will need a more thorough remediation of your living space. Water damage to buildings is the greatest threat for exposure to toxic mold and therefore any water damage in your home should be further evaluated for toxic mold spores and growth. Learning the causes and symptoms of toxic mold and how to make changes to protect your health is important for all of us, but is particularly important for the 25% of the population that have a genetic predisposition for a chronic inflammatory response from toxic mold exposure.
What is Toxic Mold?
While there are numerous types of mold, the most common strains found indoors are Penicillium, Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus. Perhaps the most well-known and feared mold is Stachybotrys chartarum or toxic black mold. Toxic black mold ranges in color from green to black and grows in circular patterns on household surfaces that have been exposed to water damage or high levels of moisture. Generally, it grows on surfaces with a large amount of cellulose. This includes wood, fiberboard, paper, lint, or dust. The mold itself is not poisonous. Rather, the danger with these types of molds is that they all emit mycotoxins (myco=mold). These are toxins known to cause disease or death in both humans and animals. Mycotoxins are the reason that exposure to mold triggers inflammation, allergies, immune system dysfunction, and a myriad of serious health problems in animals and humans alike.
On a basic level, mycotoxins are allergenic. Most allergens, like pollen, dust mites, or certain foods, trigger allergic reactions by the immune system. The immune system recognizes the allergen as detrimental, and then it works to eliminate it from the body. Wheezing, hives and watery eyes are the immune system’s response to an allergic substance, such as mycotoxins. However, mycotoxins can be both allergenic and toxigenic. Whether the immune response is simply allergenic or full-blown inflammatory largely depends on both the extent and scope of your exposure to mold and your underlying genetics. Over time, if your exposure to mold is chronic, the harmful effects of this exposure can compound. That means that the symptoms of the initial allergic reaction to the mold become chronic and can worsen as your exposure lengthens and your immune system weakens. In fact, over a long period of time, or if you are exposed to an extreme amount of mycotoxins, you become more and more likely to develop severe health problems.
One popular estimate states that over 25% of all buildings in the United States have some degree of water damage. This means that it is likely that you have been in a building infested with mold at some point. Due to mold’s symptoms and widespread occurrence, it is important to be aware of any water damage or excess moisture in your home, as well as symptoms of mold sickness.