Although some molds are linked more closely with specific health problems than others, all household molds present black mold health risks and should be handled with caution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that any indoor mold growth be dealt with immediately and that all water or moisture sources be removed completely. Black mold health risks are not limited to known residential and commercial flood areas; minor water releases as a result of plumbing problems, condensation, household water leaks and other accidents contribute as well. There are a wide range of health risks associated with black mold, ranging from mild to severe. Educating yourself is the best way to ensure the health and safety of yourself and your family.
Some people reside in a moldy environment for months or even years without experiencing black mold symptoms, while others have instant and oftentimes severe reactions. As with other common allergies, the severity of one’s reaction is based on individual sensitivity. Beyond reactions related to mold allergies, black mold also has the potential to cause chronic illnesses in people after prolonged exposure. Individuals with high susceptibility to black mold health risks include those with an immunodeficiency. Examples include: infants undeveloped immune systems, elderly with weak immune systems, AIDS patients, cancer and chemotherapy patients, and people with pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.
The most common black mold health risks involve allergic reactions. An individual with a history of allergies are at greater risk when exposed to black mold. Reactions can range from mild, fleeting responses, to severe, chronic illnesses. According to the Institute of Medicine, as much as one in five Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis, making it the most widespread chronic disease experienced by humans. Additionally, nearly 14 % of people suffer from allergy-related sinusitis, and 10 – 12% live with asthma related to allergies. Particularly in people susceptible to allergies that live or work in moldy environments, fungal sinusitis is a not uncommon. While there is debate over whether the illness is solely allergic or has an infectious component, mold is a major culprit.
In addition to mold allergy symptoms, there are several less common, but more severe black mold health risks for which to be aware. In the most severe cases, mold is known to cause organ damage and failure in humans. Upon entering the body, it forms a mold colony on a particular organ and consumes it, which can lead to the production of poisonous toxins, called mycotoxins. These small, light-weight toxins are airborne, and easily transferable through pets and heating and air conditioning systems. Mycotoxins are ingested through inhalation, skin contact, as well as cuts or sores on the body, and every organ in the body is prone to damage. In addition to causing irreparable damage to organs, severe vascular damage is also a concern, as mold is responsible for deteriorating the veins and arteries resulting in internal bleeding.
Because of the limited number of studies performed on humans for which to evaluate specific black mold health risks, many of the links between disease and mold remain unproven; however, if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms or conditions, and believe you are living in an environment contaminated with mold, you should have your home inspected and tested for black mold and discuss the results with your doctor. Further, individuals with persistent health problems should see their physicians and referred to practitioners who are trained in occupational and environmental medicine, and are knowledgeable about black mold health risks. Once the risk has been identified and confirmed, the affected person must begin the process of black mold removal by taking the actions necessary to eliminate the threat to their health.