The health effects of mold exposure depend on the age and sensitivity of individuals, but most reactions to mold are due to inhaling excess mold spores floating in the air. In addition, Dr. Burge, Director of Aerobiology for Emlab P&K, warns that nonviable (dead) spores retain their allergenic properties.
Mold can be classified into three broad types as far as health effects are concerned. The first category is allergenic molds, which cause allergic or asthmatic reactions, but do not usually cause permanent health effects in most healthy, active people. There are pathogenic molds, which can cause serious health problems in those who are more susceptible. And finally, there are toxic molds that can cause serious health problems in everybody. The severity of these problems differs depending on age, immune system, and sensitivity. Children, the elderly, and people with depressed immune systems due to cancer, organ transplants, or AIDS, can become very sick when exposed to higher than normal levels of mold. Even some healthy individuals happen to be very sensitive to mold and are unable to tolerate a slight elevation of mold spores.
The health effects of mold are varied, from mold growing on you, such as simple athlete’s foot, to far more serious infections, such as Aspergillosis, which is caused by Aspergillus mold growing inside the body. Aspergillosis is a non-contagious disease of the genus Aspergillus that affects humans and pets equally, particularly in immuno-compromised hosts. The infection starts with fungal inhalation and is then dispersed to tissues and organs. The disease can affect the eyes, nose, heart, lungs, intestines, kidneys, and more.
Mold can affect animals as well. In recent years, so called “mold dogs” have been in the news as celebrity and novelty. Their job is to sniff and locate mold, and thus they are being exposed to mold on a daily basis. What people may not know is that long nose dogs are at relatively high risk of developing Aspergillus sinusitis or nasal Aspergillosis, and some develop nose cancer.
A 1994 Harvard study of 10,000 homes found that half had “conditions of water damage and mold associated with a 50 to 100% increase in respiratory symptoms”.
The Mayo Clinic, a renowned research institution has pioneered several studies on chronic sinusitis to determine whether mold spore exposure and inhalation played a part in the disease. A research project conducted in 1999 indicated a link between chronic sinusitis infections and fungus (mold) in 93% of the subjects.
According to a recent survey by the National Center for Health Statistics 14.1% of the U.S. population suffers from chronic rhinosinusitis. This means that 1 in 7 people suffer from the disease.
In conclusion, the most common health effects of mold come from inhaling excess mold spores as a result of exposure to an indoor mold problem. See The Health Effects Of Mold – Part 2.