One of the most primitive organisms that inhabit this world is mold. Responsible for decomposing organic matter, it is vital to the maintenance of the world we live in. Mold and it’s spores do not contain chlorophyll; therefore they must rely on dead organic matter in order to survive. Although this isn’t a problem in the wild, it does become a serious problem when mold begins to contaminate the indoor environment we live in. This contamination leads to numerous health conditions including allergies, infections, skin, organ and vascular damage, and various other diseases.
Black Mold Exposure
It is important to point out that exposure to black mold is unhealthy for everyone; however there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to the effects of mold than others. For example, infants, children, the elderly, AIDS patients, people who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments, pregnant women, people with prior respiratory conditions such as asthma, and anyone with a compromised immune system are all at a higher risk for becoming inflicted with the health effects associated with black mold.
Health Effect: Allergies
Allergies are the single most common health effect that mold has on the human body. An allergy is the immune system’s abnormal reaction to a particular substance. Normally the reaction is to a substance that is not harmful; however, an allergic reaction to mold is a reaction to something that is extremely harmful and even deadly. Often times this health effect is the body’s last line of defense in combating harmful substances. Therefore, having an allergic reaction to mold could potentially save your life.
Black Mold Spores
The reason that mold is known for instigating allergic reactions is because of the size of the it’s spores. Smaller than four microns each, more than 250,000 spores can fit on the head of a pin at any given time. Which basically means that they have the ability to bypass our body’s built-in filtration and defense mechanisms. Once the spores have successfully done this, they will begin to accumulate in the lower portion of the lungs. Then the spores are being transported throughout the bloodstream via the lungs. Eventually this can lead to the lungs being rendered unable to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. Additionally, the exposure of the lung tissue to the mold will cause irreparable scarring and the longer or more frequent the exposure is, the worse the damage will be.
Three Black Mold Induced Allergies
Although all black mold exposure is dangerous and leads to allergic reactions, the good news is there are various types of allergies that vary in severity. The three most common types of mould induced allergies are:
1. Type 1 Allergies — This type of allergy is the most common and least severe. It manifests as an immediate hypersensitivity to the fungus that can lead to watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, and head congestion. This is very similar to the allergies that people experience to pollen grains.
2. Type 3 Allergies — This is the second type of mould induced allergy and the hypersensitivity reaction is delayed. This particular allergy is known to cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis which manifests itself through wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and a feeling of tightness in the chest area.
3. Bronchopulmonary Mycosis — This third and final mold induced allergy is only common in individuals who have suffered from asthma for years. However, it is extremely troublesome and will often result in the bronchial passages becoming overgrown with fungus.
Health effect: Infections
Pathogenic molds are the specific types of mold that are responsible for causing infections. Although normal, healthy individuals can contract an infection from mould, it is most common to happen to people who already have a suppressed or weakened immune system. Upper respiratory infections and sinusitis are the two most widely reported infections associated with mold.
Black Mold Toxicity
Considering people spend 90% of their time indoors, we need our homes to be safe. Unfortunately, many times they are not. In fact, a majority of homes are infested with black mold and even though any exposure to the fungus is harmful, it is the prolonged exposure that causes serious harm. One condition that the fungus is known to cause is black mold toxicity. It’s health effects are headaches, cough, sore throat, sinus problems, fever, dizziness, and nausea, black mold toxicity can be deadly if not treated quickly and effectively.
Risks Skin Damage
Our skin covers our entire body and is our first line of defense against harmful agents. Unfortunately, certain harmful substances can cause serious problems with our skin. One such substance is mold. Direct contact between the fungus and skin will often result in a rash that is red, itchy, sensitive to light, and feels as though it is burning.
Risks of Organ Damage
In the most severe cases, mould has been known to cause organ damage and even organ failure in humans. This happens because once it enters the human body, it begins to colonize on a particular organ and consume it. This process of consumption leads to the production of a byproduct known as mycotoxin–this is poisonous to humans. Every organ in the body is susceptible to mold including the heart, the lungs, and even reproductive organs.
Risks of Vascular Damage
In addition to causing irreparable damage to organs, black mold can also lead to severe vascular damage. Mold is responsible for deteriorating the veins and arteries resulting in internal bleeding.
Are All Molds Dangerous?
Not all types of fungi are responsible for causing invasive, infectious diseases; however, there are certain types that do. Aspergillus fumigatus, Cladosporium, Mucor, and Stachybotrys chartarum, for example, are the most common types of fungus responsible for invasive diseases. The most prevalent diseases caused by mould include cancer and a majority of diseases involving the respiratory system.
Irritation of Mucus Membranes
During the metabolic processes of fungi, volatile organic compounds (VOC) are formed. These VOC’s are released into the air making them easily inhaled by humans via the nose and/or mouth. Continued inhalation of these VOC’s will cause an accumulation of mycotoxins in the lungs which is then circulated throughout the body. Furthermore, these VOC’s will easily bypass the mucus membranes of the nasal cavity resulting in irritation and even a drying out effect. This effect is easily identified by frequent nose bleeds, headaches, and congestion in the nasal area.
Effect on the Reproductive System
Another less known yet equally important health risk associated with black mold is its effect on the reproductive system. Because the nature of mold is to colonize and consume organic matter, it would stand to reason that it could also have this effect on important reproductive organs such as the uterus or ovaries. Unfortunately the effects of black mold are just beginning to be studied so an exact link has not yet been established. However, there have been some reports of women who were exposed to black mold being unable to conceive or suffering from repeated miscarriages. Furthermore, there has been some discussion that a fetus exposed to black mould within the womb could potentially lead to bleeding of the lungs.
Overall, black mold is a serious condition that requires professional intervention in the manner of removal and medical care. If you suspect that you have been exposed to black mold, go see your doctor immediately to discuss any possible health effects and risks.