To create awareness about mold health hazards, the government and the media raised the alarm on Stachybotrys, commonly known as “black mold.” The general information you know about mold could have been shaped by the hysteria around Stachybotrys. But what you know may not be completely accurate.
Mold encompasses several species of fungi. These species grow in an array of color patches – black, brown, yellow, pink, green – and are often smelly, fuzzy growths that are unwanted. Most molds are non-toxic and not poisonous. However, these spore-producing organisms comprise approximately 25% of the earth’s biomass and act as decomposers of organic material. Therefore, it should not be surprising to learn that most people interact with fungi daily.
Of all the fungi species, eight molds can be toxic to humans and cause health issues or agitate current health issues. Approximately 10% of the population is allergic to mold, and 25% is genetically susceptible to mold-related illnesses. The most common indoor fungi are Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Stachybotrys.
Most Common Indoor Molds
An olive black or greenish-black with a greyish white or light-colored border. Alternaria is commonly associated with agricultural products and soil, and known as the “allergy fungus.” It’s typically found in the mouth, nose, and upper respiratory tract.
A significant component of mildew, Aspergillus, is also often found in pillows. Aspergillus has what is known as a “foot cell,” which makes the spores look like dandelions.
Olive green to black branching chains that usually do not produce odor. Most commonly associated with plant materials, living and dead.
Most commonly known for its role in the production of penicillin, a drug used to fight off bacteria. Often confused with a different species used to make blue cheese. Green in color, it resembles an old wooden house broom and may cause allergic responses.
Commonly known as “black mold” because of its greenish-black color. This species of mold grows on high-cellulose and low nitrogen materials. Stachybotrys can be found on gypsum board, paper, dust, fiberboard, or lint. Spore growth requires constant moisture and usually occurs from water damage, excessive humidity, condensation, water leaks, water infiltration, or flooding. Stachybotrys is a true pathogen fungus that most likely will cause illness in most people.
On the low end of the danger scale, allergenic mold cause problems for asthmatics and those with a predisposed allergy to the specific mold species.
Pathogenic molds can cause infection and became a problem for immunocompromised people. Pneumonia is a typical acute response.
Mycotoxin producing mold can cause serious health effects on a variety of people. The toxins may be absorbed by the body through touch, breathing, or eating. Less than 5% of the general population can become gravely ill. However, exposure to toxigenic molds by genetically susceptible people and those with suppressed immune systems can cause a wide array of health issues.
37 Mold Illness Symptoms
Mold illness presents in a multitude of ways because fungi can affect multiple bodily systems. While mold allergies can become very serious, the mold tends to flush from the body. In genetically susceptible people, the mycotoxins do not leave the body. Therefore, it can start by affecting one system and eventually affects several systems and cause a rapid decline in health.
Experiencing several of any of the symptoms listed below could indicate mold illness.
- Abdominal Pain
- Appetite Swings
- Blurred Vision
- Decreased Learning of New Knowledge
- Excessive Thirst
- Focus/Concentration Issues
- Ice Pick Pain
- Increased Urination
- Joint Pain
- Light Sensitivity
- Memory Issues
- Metallic Taste
- Mood Swings
- Morning Stiffness
- Muscle Cramps
- Red Eyes
- Shortness of Breath
- Sinus Problems
- Skin Sensitivity
- Static Shocks
- Sweats (especially night sweats)
- Temperature Regulation or Dysregulation Problems
- Unusual Pain
- Word Recollection Issues
Mold Illness Treatment Options
The priority for mold illness treatment is differentiating the group an individual falls into the general population, allergy, or genetically susceptible. If the symptoms are acute, then identifying the source influences the treatment. Doctors typically consider nasal corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants, immunotherapy, and nasal lavage.
If the mold illness is chronic, then the person may be genetically susceptible. In genetically susceptible people, the amount of exposure does not equal the immune response, unlike an allergy. The course of treatment depends on many factors, including:
- Exposure assessment
- Differential diagnosis
- Clinical assessment
- Laboratory testing
- Response to treatment
Chronically ill mold patients may suffer from biotoxin illness. A person can live with biotoxin illness for several years and rapidly decline into chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) within a short period.
CIRS is an advanced form of biotoxin illness determined by a statistical cluster of symptoms. Adults with a cluster score of eight (children – six) may be diagnosed with CIRS. Approximately 80% of biotoxin illness and CIRS patients who have low melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) also have MARCoNS. Progression into CIRS depends on a few factors. However, MARCoNS and low MSH are dominating features.
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Adverse human health effects associated with molds in the indoor environment: position paper.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). CDC – Mold – General Information: Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum and Other Molds. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods. MMWR, 55(RR-8). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5508.pdf
Hope, J. (2013). A Review of the Mechanism of Injury and Treatment Approaches for Illness Resulting from Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings, Mold, and Mycotoxins. The Scientific World Journal, 2013, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/767482
Indoor Science. (2018, March 29). Mold Testing and Inspections. Retrieved April 5, 2019, from https://indoorscience.com/mold-testing/
Kontoyiannis, D. P., & Lewis, R. E. (2014). Treatment Principles for the Management of Mold Infections. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 5(4), a019737. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a019737
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2013, November 8). Safety and Health Information Bulletins | A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib101003.html
Shoemaker, R. (2010). Surviving Mold: Life in the Era of Dangerous Buildings. Baltimore, United States of America: Otter Bay Books.
Shoemaker, R. C., Lark, D., & Ryan, J. (2019, October 26). Moldy Buildings, CIRS, Sick People and Damaged Brains, Part 3: 25 Years of Research Brought Us to the Cure Word. Retrieved from https://www.townsendletter.com/article/435-moldy-buildings-water-damage-cirs-antifungals/
Shoemaker, R.C., & Katz, D. (2013). BEG, CSM, VIP [DVD Training Modules]. Retrieved July 14, 2018, from https://www.survivingmold.com/
Shoemaker, R. C., Schaller, J. L., & Schmidt, P. (2005). Mold warriors: fighting America’s hidden health threat (3rd ed.). Baltimore, United States of America: Otter Bay Books.
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