What is Mold?
Before discussing mold health effects, it’s important to know what mold is. Mold belongs to a group of organisms called fungi. Mold differ from other fungi in that their body is made of a network of thread-like structures or filaments. For mold to grow in buildings moisture, suitable temperature and food source must be present. Cellulose-containing materials such as dry wall, cardboard or any plant or animal based products are suitable food sources for molds.
How Would One Recognize Mold?
Mold growth is often associated with organic material such as cellulose-containing material that have been wet or damp for a prolonged period of time. Mold may appear as discolored, raised, wooly or hairly growth. Molds can be a variety of different colours, and may not be identified by colour alone.
Why Is Mold a Health Concern?
During growth mold may release spores into the air. Inhalation of these spores can result in a variety of mold health effects which can generally be categorized as infection, allergies or irritation. Of the three main categories of health effects, allergy is the most common, producing symptoms such as sneezing and coughing in affected individuals. People inhale airborne spores everyday, both indoors and outdoors. However the mold health effects depend on a number of factors including:
- Individual susceptibility – if a person’s immune system is weakened for any reason they may be at risk of mold exposure. Individuals undergoing medical treatment such as chemotherapy or kidney dialysis, expectant women, infants and elderly people should not be exposed to mold.
- Level of mold exposure – if exposed to high levels of mold over a long period of time, one may develop sensitivity to mold.
- Type of mold – certain types of molds are known to be more hazardous than others.
Some molds may produce toxins (mycotoxins) during their growth. Currently, mold health effects due airborne mycotoxins have not been established. However, ingestion of mycotoxins such as aflatoxin can be fatal.