Mold is a big problem in many homes, but many people are unaware of the potential risks. There is some debate regarding how mold affects humans, but much research—and common sense—tells us that sharing a home with mold isn’t beneficial.
Everyone checks for mold on the shower curtain, under the sink, or in the basement, but mold can grow just about anywhere. Mold can be found in drywall, in the roof or ceiling (if leaks are present), and even in one’s Christmas tree. One study found that Christmas trees can breed mold, quietly releasing millions of spores into the room, potentially causing winter allergies and asthma attacks.
Many types of mold can be found growing in the modern American home. Scientists classify molds based on the effect they have on humans and other living things.
Different Types of Mold
Allergenic Molds: Allergenic molds are on the low end of the danger scale. They only cause problems for those with asthma and a predisposed allergy to the specific mold. Children are more likely to have mold allergies than adults.
Pathogenic Molds: Pathogenic molds can cause infection, and are a big problem for those with a suppressed immune system. An acute response resembling bacterial pneumonia commonly occurs among those exposed to these types of molds.
Toxigenic Molds: As the name implies, these molds produce mycotoxins that can cause serious health effects; they have been tied to immunosuppression and cancer. The toxic chemicals found in these types of molds can be absorbed into the body when one inhales them, eats them, or even touches them.
Five Common Indoor Molds:
Alternaria: Commonly found in your nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract; can cause allergic responses.
Aspergillus: Usually found in warm, humid climates, and a common occupant of house dust; produces mycotoxins; can cause lung infections.
Cladosporium: This very common outdoor fungus can find its way indoors to grow on textiles, wood, and other damp, porous materials; triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms.
Penicillium: A very common species found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation; known for causing allergies and asthma; some species produce mycotoxins, one being the common antibiotic penicillin.
Stachybotrys: Extremely toxic “black mold” that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs, among other health problems. Thankfully, less common in homes than the other four, but not rare; found on wood or paper (cellulose products), but not on concrete, linoleum, or tile.
“Mold illness” refers to the variety of health problems that can occur from mold exposure. Although mold allergy symptoms are the most common reaction caused by exposure to mold, mold can cause illness—such as infections, irritation, and toxic reactions—without an allergic reaction. Infections caused by mold can lead to a variety of problems, from flu-like symptoms to skin infections and even pneumonia.
Toxic mold can also cause a chronic inflammatory response. An acute and systemic inflammatory response can be acquired following exposure to, for example, the interior of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic organisms including fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, and Mycobacterium, which are inflammagens that can keep your body in a state of inflammation.
11 Signs of Mold Illness
- Brain fog, memory problems, trouble focusing, headaches
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unexplained muscle cramping, aches and pains in the joints, persistent nerve pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Eye problems like red eyes or light sensitivity
- Asthma and sinus problems like cough or shortness of breath
- Tremors and vertigo
- Digestive issues like change in appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Temperature regulation or night sweats
- Excessive thirst and increased urination
The variety of symptoms is quite large, and they can overlap with other conditions. See a practitioner if you have the underlying conditions that may go along with mold toxicity. It’s not just the food we eat, but also the air that we breathe that can make us sick.
This article was first published in Radiant Life magazine.