Mold has recently and increasingly become the subject of lawsuits being filed by homeowners against home builders, landlords, architects, realtors, building system manufacturers and insurance companies seeking property damage and bodily injury awards. Why this sudden attention to mold? In recent years, the general public has learned more and more about the health effects of mold.
The effects of mold on health varies from person to person. While the long term health effects of Mold remain a topic of debate the fact remains that mold creates allergic reactions within the human body. For some people, a small exposure to mold spores can trigger an asthma attack or lead to other health problems. For others, symptoms may only occur when exposure levels are much higher. The most common symptoms reported from mold in indoor environments are runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, aggravation of asthma, headache, and fatigue. The production of potentially toxic mycotoxins can cause more severe reactions, and in rare cases, death. All types of mold are potentially a health risk that needs to be addressed.
The majority of people with health immune systems may not experience serious health effects of mold exposure. However, individuals with compromised immune systems can also suffer from mold infections. For seriously immuno-compromised persons, such as bone marrow transplant patients, they could die from exposure to mold.
Prevention of mold exposure and ensuing health effects involves prevention of mold growth in the first place by avoiding a mold-supporting environment such as humid air. Extensive flooding and water damage can support huge numbers of mold growth.
Mold belongs to the Kingdom Fungi. Fungi includes the yeasts, molds, and the mushrooms.
Harmful effects of fungi to humans
A number of molds and yeasts cause human and animal diseases. For example, species of Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Sporothrix are opportunistic pathogens and easily infect individuals with weak immune systems.
A number of other molds are well recognized causes of allergic reactions. For example Penicillium roquefortii and Aspergillus clavatus are causes of pulmonary allergy in the cheese and brewery industries respectively. Arthrinium casues skin allergies of cane harvesters.
Apart from infection and allergies, some molds produce toxic compounds that are harmful to both humans and animals. The best known of these toxins is aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is mainly produced by some species of Aspergillus such as Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasitica. Aflatoxin is a powerful trigger of cancer (i.e., it is carcinogenic).
Harmful effects of fungi to plants
Majority of plant diseases are caused by fungi. The plant diseases caused by fungi range from tissue death to vascular wilting. Fungi cause both field and storage losses of agricultural products.
If you are concerned about effects of mold exposure, check your home to make sure there are no hidden areas of mold growth. Speak to your doctor if you have had previous mold exposure, and discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing.