Mold Inspection and Air Sampling
Why Be Concerned?
Mold is not usually a problem indoors—unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. As molds grow, they digest whatever they are growing on. Unchecked mold growth can damage buildings and furnishings; molds can rot wood, damage drywall, and eventually cause structural damage to buildings. Mold can cause cosmetic damage, such as stains, to furnishings. The potential human health effects of mold are also a concern.
NEGATIVE HEALTH EFFECTS OF MOLD
Inhalation exposure to mold indoors can cause negative health effects in some people. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Mold does not have to be alive to cause an allergic reaction in some people.
There are some specific groups of people who are potentially more easily or severely affected by mold than the average individual with no sensitivities to mold. They include infants, children, elderly people, individuals with respiratory conditions (such as allergies and asthma), and people with weakened immune systems (people with HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy patients, and organ transplant recipients).
Sensitive people should avoid areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass and wooded areas.
Allergic reactions to mold in buildings do occur for many sensitive people. However, there is no conclusive evidence that proves that mold in a building directly causes illnesses in humans. More research is needed, and mold research has been continuous. Mold exposure as it relates to effects on human health is a complex and emerging science.
Symptoms of Mold Exposure
There are many symptoms of mold exposure. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. An allergic reaction is the most common symptom, which could include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, inhalation of fungal spores, fragments (parts), or metabolites (mycotoxins and volatile organic compounds) from a wide variety of fungi may lead to or exacerbate immunologic (allergic) reactions, cause toxic effects, or cause infections.
A single or repeated exposure to mold, mold spores, or mold fragments may cause non-sensitive individuals to become sensitive to mold, and repeated exposure has the potential to increase sensitivity. Allergic responses include “hay fever”-like symptoms, such as headache, sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Molds can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Fungi in buildings may cause or exacerbate symptoms of allergies, especially in persons who have a history of allergic diseases (such as asthma and rhinitis). In addition, molds can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of individuals, whether or not they are allergic to mold. Other symptoms include nasal and sinus congestion, burning, watery and red eyes, a sore throat, a dry cough, and skin irritation.
The effects of mold exposure can be acute or chronic. An acute effect is an immediate, severe reaction to a large exposure. A chronic effect may take days, months or years to manifest, and usually comes from small, repeated exposures.
If a person experiences these symptoms only when occupying a particular building, then that person may possibly be experiencing symptoms of mold exposure.
There are four important indoor allergenic molds. They are Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Alternaria. Alternaria and Cladosporium are outdoor molds that can be found indoors if the doors or windows of a building are left open and the spores are carried in on air currents.