Understanding Mold Health Risks
An Overview of the Potential Health Effects from Mold and Mycotoxins
Not all molds are bad for your health but all molds have the potential to affect health. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual's exposure, the ages of the individuals, and their existing sensitivities or allergies. People who may be affected more severely and sooner than others include infants and children, the elderly, individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma, and people with weakened immune systems.
Mold exposure can come from breathing in spores or other tiny fragments, through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces), and by swallowing mold. Chronic exposure can lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic asthma, and chronic allergy symptoms.
Mycotoxins may cause a variety of short-term as well as long-term adverse health effects. These range from immediate toxic response and immune-suppression to potential long-term effects which could include cancer. Symptoms due to mycotoxins or toxin-containing airborne spores (particularly those of Stachybotrys chartarum) include dermatitis, recurring cold and flu-like symptoms, burning sore throat, headaches and excessive fatigue, diarrhea, impaired or altered immune symptoms, bloody nose and lung bleeding in infants. The ability of the body to fight off infectious diseases may be weakened, resulting in opportunistic infections.