Mold accumulates in damp as well as poorly ventilated buildings. Along with the visible mold, there may an unpleasant odor, water stains, condensation, peeling or cracked paint or wall paper, a damp basement, and standing water under or around the house.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 percent of dwellings in cold climates have signs of dampness and 5 percent have signs of mold problems. The figures in warm climates are 20 percent for dampness and 25 percent for mold.
This issue is more common in low-income communities and rental accommodations, often due to lack of appropriate heating, ventilation and insulation. Plus, global warming and its effect on the climate can increase the problem of mold and dampness even more.
Mold is harmful and toxic due to the mycotoxins, which may contribute to several health problems. More than 50 molds are considered problematic, including stachybotrys, cladosporium, alternaria and trichoderma.
Exposure to mold inside a home can have profound effects on your health through skin contact, ingestion and inhalation. After all, you spend several hours a day at home. Plus, children and elderly people with weak immunities spend most of their time indoors.
Here are the top 10 hidden dangers of toxic mold exposure that you must know.
Prolonged exposure to high levels of indoor dampness can lead to chronic health problems like asthma.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 6 million children in the United States have asthma. While genes play a lead role, childhood asthma has also been linked to indoor mold growing in a child’s home.
In a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers analyzed several studies and reported that there is consistent evidence that dampness exacerbates preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma, but they said it was not clear whether it also causes these conditions.
Later, a 2012 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives reported that mold exposure during early childhood increases the risk of asthma by 80 percent.
Apart from asthma, mold exposure is also linked to bronchitis.
A 2010 study published in Environmental Health reported that residential dampness and mold are associated with substantial and statistically significant increases in both respiratory infections and bronchitis. It emphasized controlling dampness and mold in buildings to prevent a substantial proportion of respiratory infections.
The association between mold and asthma, and also bronchitis, makes it more important to remediate water damage in homes, particularly in lower-income, urban communities where the problem of mold is a common issue.
2. Rhinitis Infection
Household molds increase the risk of rhinitis. In fact, those already suffering from a rhinitis infection are more likely to have more severe symptoms when exposed to mold.
A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society reports that although indoor dampness or mold exposure in relation to rhinitis symptoms does not have a strong relationship, there is a strong connection between high in-home fungal concentrations and development of allergic rhinitis in a child’s first five years of life.
A subsequent 2013 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology provides evidence that dampness and mold exposure at home are determinants of rhinitis and its subcategories, allergic rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis. The associations were strongest with mold odor, suggesting the importance of microbial causal agents.
If you are spending time in a mold-affected home and you get frequent headaches, the reason may be mold toxicity.
Headaches, including migraines, are common consequences of mold toxicity. Mold can trigger a headache or migraine as a result of an allergic reaction to mold spores in the air. It can even be due to sinus pressure caused by a sinus infection or inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nasal cavities.
Along with headaches, you may also suffer from fatigue and tiredness. In addition, you may experience soreness in your muscles and joints.
To prevent headaches and migraines due to mold toxins, you’ll need to eliminate your exposure to mold.
4. Weak Immunity
Mold toxins can even affect the body’s immune system, thus making you more prone to illness.
Heavily infested homes can have fungi that can produce volatile organic compounds, which in turn impair the immune system.
The problem is basically common in small children, whose immune systems are not fully developed. When their bodies are exposed to mold or antigens, their immune systems may react abnormally, creating frequent health problems.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toxic effects from mold may cause severe health problems in infants, including acute vomiting, diarrhea, asthma attacks and even pulmonary hemorrhaging in severe cases. In fact, long-term exposure can lead to death.
Not just children, even adults living around toxic black mold for extended hours are more prone to get infections and become sick.
5. Eye Problems
Homes heavily infested with mold can cause vision and eye problems, too.
Mycotoxins can be present in the air, thereby easily entering a person’s eyes. The mycotoxins are toxic to cells, and when they come into contact with the cells in your eyes, they cause problems.
Toxins in mold can cause eye problems like inflammation in the eyes, soreness, watery eyes, bloodshot eyes and blurry vision, to name a few.
6. Skin Rashes
Toxic mold can enter your body through the minute pores present on your skin. Those who have sensitive skin can suffer from severe skin problems, especially after exposure to black mold.
The symptoms may include skin inflammation, pink or brown skin rashes, blisters and severe itchiness. At times, it can cause yellowing of the skin as if you are suffering from jaundice.
A rash due to mold can be very itchy and excessive scratching increases the risk of breaking the skin and triggering an infection. This type of skin problem may need antibiotics or other treatments prescribed by a doctor.
As long as you remain exposed to mold, you are most likely to have signs and symptoms, even with treatment. To get rid of the mold-related skin problems, you need to avoid mold-affected areas completely.
7. Circulatory Problems
Long-term exposure to mold and dampness can also cause circulatory problems. Toxic mycotoxins can be breathed in, ingested or absorbed through a person’s skin or eyes, and soon they can find their way into the person’s blood.
Once harmful mycotoxins reach the blood, they can cause heart damage as well as lead to blood clotting and internal or external hemorrhaging.
Symptoms of circulatory problems due to mold toxicity include an irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure. In severe cases, it can cause bone marrow disruption, vomiting up blood and even bleeding in the brain and other organs.
8. Neurological Problems
Mycotoxins present within or on the surface of mold spores, which you can inhale, ingest or touch even without your knowledge, are extremely potent and can affect nearly every organ system in your body.
They can affect your central nervous system, which in turn can result in cognitive and behavioral changes, ataxia (lack of muscle coordination) and convulsions.
In fact, toxins can compromise the functions of the frontal cortex, where problem-solving, memory and impulses are controlled. This in turn impairs a person’s mental ability.
Symptoms related to neurological problems due to mold toxicity include confusion, brain fog, shortened attention span, difficulty concentrating, memory loss and memory problems, impaired learning ability, hallucinations and so on.
People who live in damp and moldy homes are found to be at an increased risk of depression. And depression, in turn, is associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases including asthma.
A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Public Health studied about 6,000 adults living in approximately 3,000 households and concluded that dampness and mold were associated with depression, independent of individual and housing characteristics.
This conclusion was independently mediated by perception of control over one’s home and by physical health.
The stress and anxiety of living in a damp and mold-affected home can give sleepless nights to many.
In fact, people who have underlying sleep-breathing problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea, may be extra sensitive to molds compared with someone without sleep apnea.
When you breathe in the toxins in the air, it may result in irritated and inflamed nasal passages. This may further cause nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose, which can lead to poor sleep. There may be significant daytime sleepiness and fatigue, also.
A 2015 study published in Environmental Research reports that exposure to visible mold or dampness at home might negatively influence sleep in children. However, this study does not give a green light to the influence of allergic rhino conjunctivitis on this association. Further research is needed to reach a solid conclusion.
Mold Prevention Tips:
- Use a dehumidifier in areas that have humidity above 50 percent. Change the water frequently and also disinfect it to prevent mold from forming.
- Move furniture or clutter to allow for better air circulation in the attic, basement, closets and bathroom.
- Keep damp areas, such as the kitchen, laundry room, under the kitchen sink and under the lid of the washing machine, as dry as possible.
- Once every few days, do diligent housecleaning. When cleaning, always use gloves and wear a mask to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Dry out water-damaged items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
- Regularly check for mold or mildew in attics, basements, closets, bathrooms, dirty clothes hampers, garbage cans and any other possible area where mold can develop.
- Dry your clothes, soft toys and even items used by your pets thoroughly in the sun, if possible.
- Keep the seals on your refrigerator and freezer doors clean and throw away leftover food.
- Clean and replace air conditioner filters periodically.
- If your closets are damp, keeping the light on can prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
- Keep your garden area clean by getting rid of fallen leaves, decaying plants and compost heaps.
- It is important to prevent water leaks by controlling and maintaining rain and surface water drainage.
- If you notice visible mold in your home, remove the mold and identify and address the cause of the excess moisture.
- For extensive mold damage, you may need to call a professional mold-remediation service.