Health Risks of Toxic Black Mold
Being aware of the effects of toxic black mold on your health is of primary concern to homeowners. Although there are many types of mold, the molds considered toxic are the ones that contain mycotoxins. Stachybotrys chartarum. or toxic black mold, is considered the most hazardous to your health.
Mycotoxins are simply byproducts of toxic molds. Very small and light weight, the spores can be transferred in the home through the air, by pets, and through heating and air conditioning systems. Scientists consider mycotoxins to be secondary growth, which are not needed for fungal growth, and are simply a part of the primary metabolic processes of mold. They are ingested by humans through breathing, contact with the skin, or by entering through small cuts and open sores.
It is these mycotoxins that wreak havoc with the health of the homeowner. Indications of health issues from toxic black mold include, but are not limited to, the following symptoms:
- Respiratory issues, such as shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- A persistent cough
- Asthma and chronic wheezing
- Tightness in the chest
- Infant pulmonary hemorrhage
- Hemosiderosis, which leads to abnormal amounts of iron in the pulmonary system, and subsequent development of pulmonary fibrosis and severe anemia
- Ear, nose and throat infections and problems
- Persistent sneezing
- Sinus congestion/sinusitis
- Sore throat
- Eye irritation
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Skin rash and flushing
The actual threat to humans and pets has not as yet been determined in specific measurable levels by scientists. Not enough data is available to allow scientists to determine top level thresholds of danger levels to exposure to toxic black mold. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently has no regulations or standards for indoor mold contaminants.
Although there are specific statistical and physiological tests that can help determine if a person might have been exposed to mold, it is important to remember that these tests are not generally used. The best case scenario is that an agency tests people under extreme situations, such as after flooding or hurricane damage. The bottom line is that we are exposed to molds in the natural environment every day, without adverse effects, and if you can see or smell mold in your home or building, it means you have been exposed to toxic molds.
If you are concerned about possible exposure to toxic black mold, and are showing symptoms of the effects of that exposure, then there are tests that doctors and pediatricians can perform to determine if possible exposure has been damaging to health. The following tests are used:
1. The measurement of white blood cell counts. This particular test is not widely used to detect toxic mold exposure, but can indicate higher than normal activity of the body's immune system. If a higher than normal number of T-lymhocyte cells is observed by the test, then this is an indication of possible exposure. (1)
2. The Spirometric test is a test used to measure lung function. This test is commonly used to test humans for possible exposure to mold. Because these tests measure lung function, a decreased capacity of the lung function may indicate exposure to mold. Generally, these specific tests are used to determine if the patient has asthma, but the test results are also a good indication that mold is present. (1)
3. The skin prick test is a series of tests that immunologists use to test for known allergies. If mold allergens are suspected, the doctor can skin prick the patient with a sample of various molds and observe any allergic reaction in the patient. However, it is noted that the skin prick test in not always conclusive, because we all are subjected to mold spores on a daily basis, whether we work indoors or out. A person can show positive results to an allergic reaction to the skin prick test even though they have not been exposed to a dosage of mold that would cause adverse health conditions. (1)
Simple common sense call tell you if you are susceptible to risk from toxic black mold in your home. Regular inspections of the home, knowledge of the subject, and monitoring of health conditions goes a long ways in helping reduce the devastating effects of toxic black mold. We live with molds in both the indoor and outdoor environment on a daily basis. If we notice any changes in health conditions upon entering into a new environment, such as a new job or new home, then measures should be taken to insure that an otherwise healthy human has not been exposed to the various molds that we are all exposed to.
(1) Source: University of Wisconsin, Environmental and Occupational Health Studies.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.