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Black Mold Health Risks and Dangers

Mold health effects may vary from person to person as individual immune responses to the mold spores may be different. Mild common symptoms include allergic reactions like skin rashes, breathing difficulty, and asthma. The irritation caused to the airways and the skin by very fine mold spores in the indoor air, and volatile organic compounds released by molds, are responsible for these reactions.

Who is at risk?

Mold health effects are mostly felt by individuals prone to allergic reactions. Infants, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly also have higher mold health risks. With repeated exposure, anyone can become sensitized to indoor toxic mold.

What makes mold so dangerous?

The mold growing indoors produce certain toxic substances broadly named as mycotoxins. When the spores containing these toxins are inhaled, they enter the alveoli of the lung and release them into the bloodstream.

Mycotoxins can interfere with several cellular processes and inhibit the production of proteins essential for the body. Indoor molds such as Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Trichoderma and Chaetomium produce highly dangerous neurotoxins and trichothecenes.

Health risks of mold exposure

Allergic reactions are the mildest of mold health effects. Hard evidence of several mold related illnesses are steadily piling up. Dr. Michael R. Gray, from the Arizona State Division of Emergency Medical Services, in his article, "Molds, Mycotoxins and Public Health", lists toxic encephalopathy, multiple sclerosis, pulmonary and gastrointestinal bleeding and even blindness as some of the mold health risks.

Poor indoor air quality and infant health

Direct evidence of mold health dangers came to light when ten infants in Cleveland, Ohio, suffered from idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage or bleeding from the lungs in 2004 due to mold exposure in their homes. Only when mold spores were detected in the alveoli of an infant who died of the condition did the medical fraternity slowly wake up to the seriousness of mold health risks. Infants who returned to their mold-infested homes had a relapse, and it resulted in the death of one of them.

Subsequently, Dr. Ruth Etzel, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health, conducted a detailed study on 40 infants, 10 of them with acute pulmonary hemorrhage. The presence of the toxic mold Stachybotrys atra (also called S. chartarum) in the homes of the affected children finally proved the mold health risks.

Diagnosis of mold related illnesses

According to Mayo Clinic, Mold health concerns expressed by patients may be ignored by doctors since mold and related illnesses are more common during the wet and damp seasons, and many of the initial symptoms closely resemble those of common cold, flu, and chronic sinusitis. There are no definitive tests to confirm a suspected mold related illness.

Policy Statement by the Environmental Health Committee titled "Toxic Effects of Indoor Mold" has spelled out the risks associated with indoor mold exposure. It advises pediatricians to discuss air quality issues in the home of infants displaying any respiratory distress, and to educate the parents about mold health dangers and the importance of mold remediation.

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