Studies have shown that people who are atopic (sensitive), already suffer from allergies, asthma, or compromised immune systems and occupy damp or moldy buildings are at an increased risk of health problems such as inflammatory and toxic responses to mold spores, metabolites and other components. The most common health problem is an allergic reaction. Other problems are respiratory and/or immune system responses including respiratory symptoms, respiratory infections, exacerbation of asthma, and rarely hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, chronic rhinosinusitis and allergic fungal sinusitis. Severe reactions are rare but possible. A person’s reaction to mold depends on their sensitivity and other health conditions, the amount of mold present, length of exposure, and the type of mold or mold products.
Some molds also produce mycotoxins, that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. The term “toxic mold” refers to molds that produce mycotoxins, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, not to all molds. Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death. Prolonged exposure, e.g., daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful.
The five most common genera of indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, and Trichoderma. Damp environments which allow mold to grow can also produce bacteria and help release volatile organic compounds.
Symptoms of mold exposure.
- Nasal and sinus congestion, runny nose
- Respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing, chest tightness
- Throat irritation
- Sneezing / Sneezing fits
Health effects linking to asthma.
Infants may develop respiratory symptoms as a result of exposure to a specific type of fungal mold, called Penicillium. Signs that an infant may have mold-related respiratory problems include (but are not limited to) a persistent cough and/or wheeze. Increased exposure increases the probability of developing respiratory symptoms during their first year of life.
Flood specific mold health effects.
Among children and adolescents, the most common health effect post-flooding was lower respiratory tract symptoms, though there was a lack of association with measurements of total fungi. Another study found that these respiratory symptoms were positively associated with exposure to water damaged homes, exposure included being inside without participating in clean up.
- Fungal infection
- Mold-induced hypersensitivity
- Mycotoxin toxicity