Toxic mold

From Academic Kids

Molds are ubiquitous in nature, and mold spores are a common component of household dust. The term toxic mold is sometimes used to refer to mold-related indoor air quality problems.

Exposure to significant quantities of mold spores can cause allergic reactions. Under proper growing conditions, some species of molds may generate molecular compounds called mycotoxins. In large quatities or with chronic exposure, mycotoxins can be toxic to humans or animals.

Contents

Growing Conditions

For significant mold growth to occur, there must be a source of water and a substrate capable of sustaining the growth. Many common building materials, such as carpeting, drywall, and wood, are capable of sustaining mold growth.

History

Since Biblical times it has been known that indoor mold growth can be a health hazard. (See Leviticus 14:39-47 (http://www.torahbytes.org/63-28.htm).) In the 1930s, mold was identified as the cause behind the mysterious deaths of farm animals in Russia and other countries. Stachybotrys was found growing on wet grain used for animal feed. Today, the agriculture industry keeps a close eye on mold and mycotoxin levels in grains in order to prevent the contamination of animal feed and human food supplies.

In the 1970s, building construction techniques changed in response to the energy crises. As a result, homes and buildings became more air-tight. Also, cheaper materials such as drywall came into common use. This combination of increased moisture and a suitable substrates led to an increase in mold growth inside buildings.

Causes

Since common building materials are capable of sustaining mold growth and mold spores are ubiquitous, mold growth in an indoor environment is typically related to an indoor water or moisture problem. Leaky roofs, building maintenance problems, or indoor plumbing problems can lead to mold growth inside homes, schools, or office buildings. Another common source of mold growth is flooding.

Symptoms

Our bodies can tolerate molds and mycotoxins in small quantities. In larger quantities, they can be a health hazard. Because exposure to mycotoxins is relatively rare, allergic effects are more common than toxic effects.

The health effects of mycotoxin exposure are different from allergic reactions to mold spores. Toxic effects can include flu-like symptoms, respiratory problems, headaches, cognitive problems, and skin irritation. Environmental illnesses can be difficult for healthcare practitioners to diagnose.

Remedies

The first step in solving an indoor mold problem is stopping the source of moisture. Next is to remove the mold growth. Here are the most common remedies for small occurrences of mold.

  • Sunlight
  • Ventilation
  • Non-porous building materials
  • Household cleansers

Significant mold growth may require a professional cleanup service and removal of affected building materials. A conservative strategy is to discard any building materials saturated by the water intrusion or having visible mold growth.

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