Molds are simple microscopic organisms, present virtually everywhere world-wide, indoors and outdoors. Molds, including all mildew, mushrooms and yeast are fungi and are needed to break down dead material. Damp weather and moisture promotes indoor mold growth. Outdoor mold thrives in gutters, soil, rotten wood and fallen leaves. Bathrooms, kitchens, basements, carpets and houseplants need to be checked for mold. It also gets into furniture, books, stuffed toys, dirty clothes hampers and garbage cans. It thrives in humid, dark conditions with little air circulation. Add heat and humidity above 50% and mold proliferates rapidly. Mold is not always harmless. It can impact one’s health negatively.
Molds in order to grow digest organic material, which is eventually destroyed by mold ingesting it. Molds release a multitude of lightweight spores, which in many cases become airborne and find their way to other locations. These locations can become infested and toxic.
The most common indoor molds are Claudosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus and Alternaria. Stachybotrys (pronounced “stacky-bow-triss”) chartarum known as “black mold,” is not uncommon and certainly not rare. Stachybotrys may produce compounds that have toxic properties known as mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are produced depending upon what the mold is growing on, conditions such as temperature, PH and humidity. Mycotoxins can appear in both living and dead mold spores.
While stachybotrys is growing, a wet slime layer overlays the spores, preventing them from becoming airborne. When the mold dies and dries, air currents or handling can cause spores to become airborne. Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachtbotrys astra) is a greenish-black mold that can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, flooding or a combination of the above. Constant moisture is required for growth.
Mold Types: The EPA estimates indicate 50 to 100 common indoor mold types have the potential for creating health problems. Common ones mentioned above, such as, Claudosporus and Alternaria molds that produce mycotoxins, such as Stachybotrys and Trichoderma, can pose a serious health hazard. If you suspect exposure to mold or are concerned about mold exposure, laboratory tests are available. There is a simple at home test that allows you to detect the presence of mold through an easy to use petri dish collection process. When sensitivity to mold occurs, both immediate and delayed, tests should be performed by a licensed and clinically certified laboratory. Immuno Laboratories, widely recognized as the leading toxic food testing facility in the world, offers multiple airborne/food allergy assays.
The lgE Airborne and Food Allergy Assay detects the following molds:
Why do we need to be alert as to mold? Mold creates the following negative health effects:
* Allergic reactions
* Chronic Fatigue (body aches and pains)
* Cough – dry and hacking
* Eczema (Dyshidrotic) causes tiny blisters on hands
* Eczema (Nummular) which looks like ringworm
* Eye Irritation with burning, watery or reddened eyes
* Flu-like symptoms
* Food intolerances
* Headaches – Migraines
* Immune system suppression
* Irritable bowel syndrome
* Lung problems
* Memory impairment
* Mood swings
* Nasal and sinus congestion
* Nose bleeds
* Nose or throat irritation or both
* Respiratory problems including asthma
* Skin rashes or irritation
Unexplained symptoms can sometimes be attributed to mold. People who are most affected by mold are the young, the elderly, those who have respiratory conditions and many whose immune systems have been compromised by eating too many unhealthy foods. This covers many in our society today. Eating, relaxing and sleeping in a home full of allergy antagonists like mold, mildew and fungus presents your body with additional challenges which may lead to a worsening of your symptoms.
How do we know if toxic mold is present? If you can see or smell mold inside your home, office or school, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture and safely clean up and remove the mold. Be aware that mold infestation may hide underneath or behind water-damaged surfaces or behind walls or ceilings. If a mold-allergenic individual has some of the symptoms listed above, it would be wise to check for contamination…even if mold is not visible. Numerous commercial self-testing mold kits are available at hardware stores, on the Web and at the Whole Foods Market. One word of Caution: Air samplings may not indicate mold spores, especially if those are not airborne and molds that are dead – which are just as toxic as live molds.
Recommendations for Mold Prevention and To Alleviate Severity:
* Air ducts should be checked as they may be contaminated
* Stop any sources of leaks or flooding
* Weatherize the building to prevent an excessive amount of humid air from entering
* Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months to keep humidity level below 50%
* Clean and/or replace air conditioning filters periodically
* Change the water frequently in the dehumidifier to prevent mold from forming
* Use exhaust fans in kitchens, utility rooms and bathrooms to remove excess heat and humidity
* Use mold inhibitors that can be added to paints
* To remove mold and mold food from non-porous surfaces, use hot soapy water and 20 Mule Team Borax or bleach (if an item is colorfast)
* Using bleach straight from the bottle is less effective than a 10% diluted household bleach; make sure there is adequate ventilation. Use a high quality dust mask; place contaminated materials in bags for disposal
* Wear gloves and mask to limit your exposure to mold, when cleaning
* Remove carpets and other porous materials that have become infested with mold
* Bag and dispose of all material that may have toxic residues
* Avoid carpeting bathrooms or utility rooms
* Do not let water stand in air conditioning or refrigerator drip pans
* Clean ceiling fans monthly
* If closets are damp, keeping a light on can prevent mold and fungus growth
* Wipe down refrigerator and freezer door seals. Throw away leftovers and old produce
* Outside, have fallen leaves and decaying plants removed. Compost needs checking for mold, too
* For areas of high contamination, or in excess of 10 sq. ft., professional services are recommended
Check www.epa.org for more information on mold remediation and testing
Once mold starts to grow in insulation or wallboard, the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement. In areas where flooding has occurred, prompt cleaning of walls and other flood-damaged items with the diluted 10% chlorine bleach is necessary as a first step to prevent mold growth. Never mix bleach with ammonia as toxic fumes result.
If you suspect you are ill due to mold exposure in a building. It could be “Sick Building Syndrome.” If this is the case, you should probably vacate the home or building. Until the cause and presence of mold is evaluated and removed, if necessary by professionals.
The New York Times on the web published an article by Lisa Belkin (exerpts) August 12, 2001:
Is Mold Really Dangerous? Ask Melinda Ballard who began coughing up blood and suffering memory loss while living in this 22-room, 11,000 sq. ft. mansion. Her husband lost his ability to focus – and his job was terminated. Melinda Ballard’s house has become the emblem of the mold invasion.
One of the investigators hired to conduct various tests – David Straus – barely lasted 30 minutes. ““Walking into that house was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. None of us was wearing any protection. I was standing on the staircase, and all of a sudden I didn’t feel very good.” Straus spent the next four hours lying in Holder’s truck, crawling out only to vomit. He lost 25% of the hearing in one ear, and the damage seems to be permanent.
Belkin’s article continues: That is the thing about toxic mold, many of its symptoms are documented and real…and lately, the slimy black growth, with names like stachybotrys chartarum, aspergillus and penicillium seems to be everywhere – in stately homes and housing projects, courthouses and libraries, factories and schools.
It is interesting to note that mold was mentioned in the Bible. Read Leviticus 14:35-48, which was believed to have been written 3,400 years ago .from 1450-1400 BC…and learn that Our Maker spoke directly to Moses and Aaron about :greenish” or “reddish” strakes (mold) in the home, which are deeper than the surface. It was considered a plague called leprosy.
A friend had a serious problem with mold, which caused her a great deal of physical discomfort. She spent a good deal of money trying to get rid of this problem. She also lost a pet who was affected by the mold. Toxic mold can harm animals, too, as well as, people.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests consulting a physician, if you run into a health problem. Make sure it is one who has had experience in treating health problems related to mold exposure.
Hopefully this information will help you make informed decisions, if you face mold contamination. It is pays to be aware that toxic mold exists and what serious side-effects you could experience, if you have been exposed to toxic mold. However, knowing that there are solutions, can give you the ability to overcome it.