Mold / Toxic Mold Allergies - Sick Building Syndrome

February 17th 2004
Mold / Toxic Mold Allergies - Sick Building Syndrome

Along with pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds, molds are a leading cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis. In warm regions, molds may be present year round. In colder areas, the mold season generally runs from early spring well into the fall, typically peaking during July and August. While most molds, like pollens, are killed by the first major frost, others may persist during the winter months even in cold regions.

There are literally thousands of types of mold. The seeds of reproductive particles of fungi are known as spores. It is usually these spores that actually cause mold allergies. A single mold growth can spawn literally millions of spores.

Molds can be found wherever moisture and oxygen are present. Rotting logs and vegetation are prime habitat for molds, as are damp walls and carpet. Some molds attach to certain grasses, weeds, and grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and corn. Molds thrive at room temperature.

Inside your home, molds can often be found in damp basements and closets (in sheetrock, wallboard, and insulation), bathrooms, refrigerator, house plants, air conditioning system, humidifiers, foam pillows, washing machines, dryer vents, and furniture. Certain workplace environments are also very prone to mold infestation or problems. Mold is one of the leading causes of what has become known as Sick Building Syndrome.

Mold allergies are caused by inhaled mold spores, or inhaled fragments of mold growths. Fortunately, while there are thousands of types of molds, only a few dozen are believed to cause significant allergies. Mold spores may lodge in the pathways of the upper respiratory system or in the lungs themselves, where they cause irritations.

Symptoms of mold allergy are similar to other allergies, including nasal congestion, sneezing, watery and itching eyes, dry tickling throat, recurrent ear infections, rashes, coughing, soar throat, post nasal drip, and breathing difficulties. In some individuals, exposure to certain molds can lead to asthma or to a rare lung disease called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis which is characterized by wheezing, low-grade fever, and coughing-up brown-flecked masses or mucus plugs. Individuals who have mold allergies may be more susceptible to other types of allergies.

Black (toxic) mold, called Stachybotys, is a particular threat. It is especially toxic and can prove to be a serious health threat, particularly to children with mold allergies.

Stachybotys is widespread in the southern U.S. where foam board insulation were used without adequate ventilation. Symptoms of an allergic toxic mold reaction are generally the same as traditional mold allergies, however, they are usually much more severe and could progress to: coughing up blood, nose bleeds, anemia, memory loss, pulmonary hemorrhage, and even coma or death.

You can do the following to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful molds in your home:
- install a quality air cleaner/purifier in your home
- remove carpet in bathrooms and replace with tile or linoleum
- clean bathrooms and shower stalls frequently with mold-killing cleaning solutions
- turn your exhaust fan on in the bathroom when showering, and in the kitchen when cooking
- vent your clothes dryer outside of the home
- use a dehumidifier in the summer if the humidity in your home exceeds 50%
- make sure clothes are well dried before they are put away in closets or dressers
- use paints with mold inhibitors
- repair any water leaks in basements quickly