growth is indirect and that a small amount of moisture can permit significant mold growth. Therefore, while certain climates may increase the propensity of mold growth, no place is immune to mold infestation and the associated structural and health effects. 1
Overview of Research on the Health Effects of Mold Exposure Molds, as well as other microbial contaminants are increasingly associated with poor indoor air quality and a variety of health effects. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, microbial contamination was identified as the primary cause of poor air quality in only 5% of indoor air quality investigations conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. In the last ten years, microorganisms were identified as the source of poor air quality in up to 50% of indoor air quality cases. Indoor molds usually originate from an outdoor source and take advantage of indoor moisture and food sources in their growth. These indoor molds can and do affect human health. Their specific effect varies depending on the species involved, the activity of the species, the amount and duration of exposure, and individual susceptibility. Individuals with compromised immune systems, infants, children, the elderly and individuals with allergies are particularly susceptible to experiencing adverse health effects following mold exposure. Adverse health effects related to mold exposure usually stop when an individual is removed from the mold infested environment. In very few cases, molds seem to have caused long-term or lifelong adverse health effects. All molds have the potential to cause an allergic reaction in humans and this is the most common response to mold exposure. Allergic reactions to mold exposure range from mild responses to chronic illnesses. Most individuals who experience allergic reactions to mold exposure develop allergic rhinitis or allergic sinusitis, which is similar to a cold but lasts over an extended period of time. Some individuals develop skin irritation or rashes. A smaller percentage of the population develops chronic allergic diseases like allergic brochopulmonary aspergillosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis which involve difficulty breathing, fever, tightness in the chest, and muscle aches. Molds can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness, skin irritation and flu like symptoms. Mold exposure usually does not result in infections, except among immune compromised individuals. Immune compromised patients have developed infections affecting the skin, eyes, lungs, or other organs and systems. According to the National Academy of Science, mold exposure aggravates asthma. Mold exposure can result in acute attacks of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and acute asthma. Reactions usually occur within minutes of exposure and may repeat six to eight hours later. Specific Health Effects of Toxins Produced by Molds Under certain conditions, many molds can produce mycotoxins, which are natural organic compounds that initiate a toxic response in humans. Molds that can produce mycotoxins do not always produce them since developing these toxins requires specific conditions. Mycotoxins are not essential to maintaining the life of a mold cell. They seem to give mold a competitive advantage. Mycotoxins cause some of the most serious adverse health effects of mold exposure.
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- Spring '14
- Occupational safety and health, indoor air quality, Stachybotrys chartarum, PUBLIC HEALTH EFFECTS OF TOXIC MOLD