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There is mold everywhere, inside homes, outside homes, in the air, on many surfaces and so on. Molds have been existing on earth for millions of years. They grow where is moisture. Although molds have some benefits, such as in the production of food, in the manufacture of medications and also in art. They do have a dangerous effect on human health. This article is about the various benefits and the harmful effect of mold and mildew on human health.

What Are Molds?

Mold is a fungus that develops in the form of multicellular filaments referred to as hyphae. Molds are a large and diverse group of fungal species that grows hyphae that has a discolored and fuzzy appearance, especially when they grow on food. Molds do cause the biodegradation of natural materials. As an illustration, they develop on food and makes the food undesirable. They also do damage to properties. This makes mold an essential part of biotechnology and food science. Molds are important in the production of foods, beverages, antibiotics, pharmaceutical, and enzymes. On the other hand, some diseases that affect man and animals are due to certain molds. This disease may occur due to allergic sensitivity to the spores of mold, also from the abnormal growth of molds within the body, or from the effects of ingested.

Where Can Molds Be Found?

Molds can be found everywhere, provided the environment supports its growth. They can be found both indoors and outdoors, all throughout the year. They only thrive in warm and moist conditions. They can be found outdoors, in shady and damp places. In addition, they can be found where leaves and vegetations are decomposing. They can be found indoors where there is high humidity, such as in bathrooms, and in basements.

What Are Some Of The Common Indoor Molds?

There a lot of various species of indoor molds. Some of the common ones include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, Aspergillus and so on.

How Can People Reduce Mold Exposure?

Mold does have harmful effects on human health. This is why it’s important for people to reduce their exposure to mold, especially individuals that are highly sensitive to mod. People that have a high sensitivity to mold should avoid places such as compost piles, cut grass, decomposing leaves, vegetations, and wooded area. Since molds only thrive in humid conditions, some of the ways of reducing their growth, and eliminating them include regulating the humidity levels in places they may likely grow, such as in ventilating showers and cooking area. You should clean up molds, if you notice any form of mold growth in your house, and fix whatever water problem that might have caused it. Some of the ways of doing this include the use of products such as soap, water, bleach and so on. Below are the steps to follow if you decide to make use of bleach:

  • You should not mix bleach with ammonia or other types of household cleaners. This is because of the chemical reaction that would develop, which could generate dangerous and toxic fumes.
  • Endeavor to leave your windows open when doing this, for proper ventilation. Inhaling these chemicals isn’t good for human health.
  • You should wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles when cleaning up the mold affected area.
  • You should remove the dirt and mud that might be on the floor first, before applying the chemicals. This is because water, soap or bleach would not work on a surface that has mud or dirt.
  • You should follow the instruction written on the bleach or any other cleaning product before application.

Recommendations To Help Keep Your Home Mold-Free

Below are some of the steps you can take to keep your home mold-free:

  • Keep the humidity of your home low: Studies have shown that molds can only thrive in places that have a humidity level of above 50%. One of the ways of keeping molds out of your home is by ensuring that the humidity level in your home in not higher than 50%. Although humidity level tends to change a couple of times during the day. Your job is to check the humidity levels at least once a day.
  • You should make use of air conditioners or dehumidifier during wet months.
  • You should clean bathrooms with mold-killing products.
  • Ensure your home has proper ventilation. Installing an exhaust fan helps with this.
  • Ensure you apply mold inhibitors to paints before applying If’ you’d be hiring a painter to help with this, you should ensure they add this product.
  • You shouldn’t carpet bathrooms and basements, especially when you know they are generally humid.
  • You should regularly change carpets in your home when they get soaked. This same also applies to upholstery.
  • Fic leaks and seepage: This is one of the most common causes of abnormal humidity in homes. Water does get into the house from outside. Some of the ways of preventing this are by extensive excavation and waterproofing.
  • Dry wet areas within the shortest period of time, to prevent the growth of molds.
  • You should also ensure that air conditioning drip pans are clean. In addition, drain lines should be made free of obstructions, so water can flow properly.
  • You should endeavor to add insulation to cold surfaces, such as exterior walls, floors, and windows to decrease condensation.
  • Regular checking: One of the ways of preventing the growth of mold in your home is by having heating and cooling contractor check your heating and cooling system to ensure it’s working well to eliminate humidity. Air conditioners would not do well in removing humidity if the system is too big. You should ask your contractor to assess the duct system for any forms of air leaks, proper size and flow to each room.
  • Another way of preventing mold growth is by opening doors between rooms to increase circulation, which transfers heat to cold surfaces. Fans are also effective in circulating air.

              What Areas Have A High Mold Exposure?

Some of the places that molds are commonly found include the following:

  • In antique shops
  • Greenhouses
  • Saunas
  • Farms
  • Mills
  • Construction areas
  • Summer cottages

How Do I Test A Mold If I Find Them In My Home?

It’s not recommended to identify the species of a type of mold in your house. Even the CDC does not recommend people do this. Recent evidence has shown that allergies are the type of diseases that are mostly associated with molds. However, people’s sensitivity to molds differ. While some people are highly sensitive to molds, others are not. People that are susceptible to mold react to it, just by smelling or seeing. This goes to show that regardless of the type of mold, you should immediately arrange for its removal. It’s important to know that the elimination of molds from your home is an expensive process, but worth it, considering the risk associated with it.

How Does Mold Affect People?

People’s sensitivity to mold differs. Individuals with a high sensitivity to mold do present with various signs and symptoms. Some of them include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Itchy eyes and skin
  • Problems concentrating
  • Pains in the joint
  • Stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning
  • Skin reactions, itching
  • Some parts of the skin can become numbed
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Lightheadedness and vertigo
  • The eyes might become red, blurred vision
  • Nasal congestion
  • People with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to developing mold infection.

What Type Of Physician Should I Consult Concerning Mold Exposure?

It’s important to consult your family physician or a general health care provider, who would then refer you to a specialist. Physicians that specialize in the treatment of mold are an allergist. There are also physicians that specialize in the treatment of infectious diseases. In situations where the mold infection affects the lung, it’d be ideal to consult a pulmonologist. This is why it’s important to consult a general health care provider, so you can be referred to the right specialist.

Do You Reside Where There Are Poisonous Molds?

You would know there are molds where you stay if the dampness is more than fifty percent.

Molds only thrive in the moist and highly humid environment. A humidity level above this figure puts you at health risks. The most common toxic one is the Black Mold. They are usually black in color, but also have a tint of green. The black mold exists worldwide. They can be found in house materials, such as chairs, rugs, ceilings, etc. The black mold is a poisonous mold, and it is a significant health hazard.

What Do You Do When Your Landlord Or Builder Fails To Take Responsibility For Cleaning Up The Mold In Your Home?

There are situations in which landlords or builders fail to take responsibility for cleaning up molds or have not been responsive to concerns shown by the occupants of the house. In this case, you can contact your board of health or housing authority. Another option is to review your lease or building contract and contact local or state government authorities, insurance company or an attorney to learn more about the codes, rules, and regulations that guide such situations.

Who’s At Risk Of Developing Mold Reactions?

People that are sensitive to mold can get sick by just inhaling, touching mold spores. Some of the common signs and symptoms by this set of people include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. In severe conditions, patients may develop shortness of breath. Asthmatic patients can develop asthma attacks if they breathe in mold spores. In addition, another group of people that are sensitive to molds includes the following:

  • Infants and children: This can be attributed to the weak immune system. The immune system doesn’t become strong enough when children get older. This makes infants susceptible to molds.
  • Elderly: Just like infants, the immune system of the elderly weakens over time, which makes them vulnerable to mold infection.
  • Persons with chronic lung disease
  • People with a weak immune system: People with a weakened or compromised immune system have a high risk of developing mold infection. Examples include people with a compromised immune system due to HIV infection, cancer, liver disease, or chemotherapy.

                            What Are The Benefits Of Molds?

Although molds could be harmful when inhaled or touched. It still has some benefits. Molds are important in several ways, such as in the production of food, in the manufacture of medications and also in art. Below are some of them:

Mold In Food Production

Molds are useful in the production of some food products. As an illustration, they are used to ferment soybean and wheat mixture to produce soybean paste and soy sauce.

  • They are used in the fermentation of soybean and wheat mixture, which is used to make soybean paste and soy sauce.
  • They are also used in breaking down starch in rice, barley, sweet potatoes. This process is also known as saccharification.
  • They are also important in the manufacture of different types of cheese.
  • In addition, they are used to flavor food.
  • It is also used in reducing the intensity of food.
  • Used for ferment meat, especially in the manufacture of sausages

Mold In The Production Of Medications

Molds are important in the production of drugs that people benefit from. As an illustration, one of the most effective and the first antibiotic, penicillin is made from a mold. Other pharmaceutical uses of molds are as follows:

  • Antibiotics: Molds are used in the manufacture of antibiotics, an example of which is penicillin.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Molds are used in the production of drugs that lowers the level of cholesterol in the body. Examples include lovastatin, which is derived from Aspergillus terreus.
  • Immunosuppressants: These are medications that are used to suppress the immune system, especially in to suppress the rejection of transplanted organs.

Mold and Art

Some creatives do infuse mold into their artistry. The purpose of infusing mold in their work to give it an old, disturbing look and feel. They do this by first creating the piece; it could be a miniature building, picture. Then they induce molds to develop on them.

                                   Toxic Mold Syndrome

Toxic mold syndrome has recently become a serious health concern, and this is because of its ability to cause harm if not well managed. A lot of people don’t have knowledge of the types of diseases that can occur due to this condition. In addition, the study and research on this condition have been slow over the years, and this is because of its complexities.

Contrary to popular belief, not all molds are poisonous. There are harmless molds, and there are some that have dangerous effects on the body. However, people that are sensitive to molds react to it, regardless of their toxicity or not. The dangerous molds release spores that produce toxins. These toxins are capable of causing inflammatory reactions. Persons affected with this do present with various signs and symptoms such as skin reactions, itching of the skin, numbness of the skin, nausea, vertigo, blurred vision, stuffiness of the nose and so on. There are two main types of mold, and they include the following:

  • Black mold
  • Aspergillus

These two types of mold are capable of initiating chronic inflammatory response syndrome. This process describes the reaction of the body, to the presence of toxins in the body, when it cannot get rid of them. The chronic inflammatory response syndrome does not happen to everyone, but to only people that are highly sensitive to mold.

Black Molds

Black molds are one of the most common species of molds. Although they are referred to as “black,” they could either have a black or a dark green appearance. Just like other types of molds, they live and grow well in humid conditions. They can be mostly found in toilets, kitchen, basements, wood, dirt and so on. A lot of black molds are toxigenic, which means that they are capable of releasing toxins, which can cause a lot of harm to people. The toxins released by molds are referred to as mycotoxins. However, these toxins can only cause problems when they’re in high concentrations, even in healthy individuals. The upside to this is that black mold infection can be treated.

           What Are the Signs and Symptoms Of Black Molds?

Persons affected with mold poisoning do present with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Impairment of the respiratory system: Black mold toxins usually affect the upper respiratory system. Patients may present with symptoms such as a cold.
  • Asthmatic attacks: This mainly occurs in people affected asthma. They tend to develop attacks when they inhale black mold spores.

Other common symptoms of black molds include the following:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Skin itchiness
  • Redness of the eyes
  • People with allergies may present with symptoms such as headaches, chest colds, fever, problem breathing, sinusitis and so on.

The long term exposure to mold may not cause patients to present with symptoms immediately. However, they may eventually manifest symptoms such as the following:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Hair loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplainable weight gain
  • Numbness of the hands and feet.
  • Loss of memory
  • Confusion

Patients can develop severe symptoms if they have any of the following conditions:

  • Immunodeficiency diseases
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders
  • Mold-specific allergy

Studies have shown that individuals that got exposed to mold as infants or young children have a high risk of developing asthma later in life.

                                                   Aspergillus

Aspergillus is a common type of mold. It can thrive in both indoors and outdoors. A lot of people get exposed to aspergillus every day without falling ill. However, individuals with a weakened or suppressed immune system are usually more vulnerable to this mold. Aspergillus causes a disease known as Aspergillosis. Persons affected with this condition do manifest the following signs and symptoms:

  • Lightheadedness and vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Pains in the joint
  • Stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning
  • Skin reactions, itching
  • Some parts of the skin can become numbed
  • Nasal congestion
  • Problems remembering events and activities
  • Difficulty recalling words
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Pain in the abdomen

The routes through which Aspergillus enters the body are;

  • Nasal route: Since mold propagates through spores, their spores can be easily inhaled. This is why it’s important to get rid of them whenever you notice them in your house or environment. Although people inhale aspergillus spores every day, only those with a weakened immune system usually succumb to it.
  • Oral route: Spores can be ingested. This occurs when the spores are on food, and people consume them intentionally or not. It can also enter through cuts
  • Skin: The spores produced by Aspergillus are so minute that they can easily be absorbed by the skin.
  • They can also be passed from in utero. This means that a pregnant mother can infect the fetus with the toxin.

How Is Mold Diagnosed?

Mold poisoning can’t be diagnosed based on just the signs and symptoms presented by patients alone. Physicians need to carry out other tests such as blood tests, allergy tests, assessments of the mold levels in the patient’s home, and so on. The physician would also consider the medical and family history of the patient.

  • Blood test: Physicians take a sample of the patient’s blood and send it for evaluation in the laboratory. They test for the presence of some specific antibodies in the immune system of the patient. This helps to know if the patient has a mold poisoning problem. Blood tests also show the biotoxins in the blood of the patient.
  • Skin prick test: This is done to test for the amount of mold on the skin of the patient. Persons affected with mold poisoning would have skin reactions such as breakouts, rash and so on.

                             How Is Mold Exposure Treated?

Physicians treat mold exposure through various means. Some of them include the following:

  • Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays are effective for the treatment of nasal congestion that is associated with this condition. Examples of nasal sprays that works include corticosteroids, such as fluticasone and so on.
  • Montelukast: These are oral medications that are used in reducing the mucus in the airway. They help to reduce the symptoms of asthmatic patients and those with allergies.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Examples of these medications include antihistamines, loratadine, decongestants and so on.

Overall, people with conditions such as asthma, allergy, or other immune system conditions are usually more vulnerable to mold poisoning. You should consult your physician if you think your health is impaired by mold exposure.

What Is Mildew?

Mildew is a form of fungus. However, it’s different from the mold. Some of the features that distinguish it from molds include its color. While molds can appear in shades of black, blue, red and green, mildew is white in color. Some of the similarities between the two include their offensive smell, which is responsible for the diseases it causes in man. Mildew requires some factors for it to grow. Some of them include a food source and a moist environment.

References

Johanning, E., Auger, P., Morey, P., Yang, C. and Olmsted, E. (2013). Review of health hazards and prevention measures for response and recovery workers and volunteers after natural disasters, flooding, and water damage: mold and dampness. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 19(2), pp.93-99.

TRUCKSESS, M., STOLOFF, L., and MISLIVEC, P. (1988). Effect of Temperature, Water Activity, and Other Toxigenic Mold Species on Growth of Aspergillus flavus and Aflatoxin Production on Corn, Pinto Beans, and Soybeans. Journal of Food Protection, 51(5), pp.361-363.

Wakefield, J. (2006). A Killer Smell: Mold Toxin Destroys Olfactory Cells in Mice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(7), pp.A428-A428.

YOSHINAMI, M. (2014). Cause Investigation and Measures of the Mold Contamination in the Food Production Site. Japanese Journal of Food Microbiology, 31(1), pp.13-19.

 

 

 

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