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Mold Damage on Ceiling and Wall

Ten Things You Should Know About Mold

  1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
  2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
  3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
  4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
  5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
  6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
  10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet and foods.

Mold & Fungal Infections

Mold Allergy and Respiratory Problems

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing" advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants. Potential health concerns are an important reason. The U.S. EPA, March, 2001. The EPA warns people that  Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health but may not know that indoor air pollution can also have significant effects. EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by EPA and its Science Advisory Board (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health. Ninety four percent (94%) of all respiratory ailments are caused by polluted air according to the American Medical Association, which also reported that one-third of the USA’s national health bill is for causes directly attributable to indoor air pollution.

A recent Finnish health study results provide new evidence of the relation between workplace exposure to indoor molds and development of asthma in adulthood. The findings suggest that indoor mold problems constitute an important occupational health hazard. [Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in Environmental Health Perspectives, May, 2002.] The Finnish workplace mold study estimated that the percentage of adult-onset asthma attributable to workplace mold exposure to be 35.1%." We were able to find sufficient evidence that certain respiratory problems, including symptoms in asthmatics who are sensitive to mold, are associated with exposure to mold and damp conditions. Excessive dampness influences whether mold, as well as bacteria, dust mites and other such agents, are present and thrive indoors, the committee noted. In addition, the wetness may cause chemicals and particles to be released from building materials.

A rare ailment known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis also was associated with indoor mold exposure in susceptible people, as reported in the almost 300 page report by the Institute of Medicine [Division of the U.S. Government's National Academy of Sciences]. Just a few hours of unprotected exposure to elevated levels of airborne mold spores can start mold growing inside one's body, and then possibly require medical intervention to cleanse the body of internal mold growth. Learn the various unhealthy mold species." An association between working and/or residing in damp buildings and respiratory health has been reported in a number of studies.  Longtime exposure to building dampness may increase the risk for hyperreactivity of the upper air-ways. This acquired hyperreactivity may last for years and decrease only slowly, even after the indoor climate has been properly improved.---from the study conclusion of Stig Rudblad of the famous Karolinska Medical Institute of Stockholm Sweden, in the medical research study Nasal mucosal reactivity after long-time exposure to building dampness, published on October 15, 2004, by the Institute. [The human subjects in the study were teachers and students in school buildings with known dampness problems, as compared to a control group of teachers and students in buildings with no known moisture problems.]

Lifetime Asthma from Mold Exposure while in the Uterus or as an Infant. Recent studies have confirmed what scientists have suspected for years: that asthma is an immune system reaction to dust, pollution and other allergens [e.g., airborne mold spores] in the environment, which trigger spasms and tightening of the airways of some people who also have a genetic predisposition. Now they're zeroing in on the genetic vulnerability. The new thinking is that asthma isn't simply a matter of having the wrong genes. Instead, at some point in early childhood, or possibly in the womb, an event takes place that turns a person into a lifetime asthmatic. Scientists think the fetus or infant is somehow exposed to a critical dose of pollutants that cause the immune system to overreact, permanently narrowing the airways and making them more sensitive to irritants. It might be possible to inoculate children against the condition before this even occurs, preventing asthma entirely.---from "Waiting to Inhale," NEWSWEEK, March 14, 2005.

A fungal disease caused by the Mucor mold species, which is a very common mold species that readily grows in water-damaged buildings worldwide, and which is commonly found in the soil and in decaying vegetation. Mucormycosis affects the sinuses, brain, lungs, skin and kidneys. People with immune disorders are more susceptible to the infection.

Mold Skin Diseases

Coccidioides immitis mold [the cause of widespread "Valley Fever" in the southwestern USA desert cities] is on the U.S. Dept. of Human Service list of biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, and that can potentially be utilized by terrorists to infect and kill Americans.

Moldy Food

Mold fungus spores are very small in size and can easily enter the human body by breathing [nose and mouth], eating mold spores [often contained in food and from landing on food], drinking mold infested water, entry through one's eyes, entry through open skin cuts and sores, and sometimes skin absorption through skin pores. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA], "Most moldy foods should be thrown out. But you might be able to save molding hard cheeses, salami, and firm fruits and vegetables if you cut out not only the mold but a large area around it. Cutting the larger area around the mold is important because much of the mold growth is below the surface of the food.

"Sick Building Syndrome"

Molds and fungi growing inside buildings may be the source of indoor air-quality problems known as the "sick building syndrome." While the syndrome has been blamed on a variety of causes, from the emissions of particleboard partitions and paints to carpets and cleaning supplies, Georgia Tech research has found that metabolic gases emitted from molds and fungi may be a significant source of airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause indoor air-quality problems. The new research suggests that control measures prescribed for sick buildings may need to be altered to address microbial problems as well as building materials.


Individual Characteristics of Common Mold


Cladosporium is an extremely common mold found in temperate climates. The Spores readily become airborne and are transported over long distances. The high season for Cladosporium is typically late summer and autumn while the low season is typically winter and early spring. Cladosporium has been isolated from many different types of soil and plant litter; enzymes produced by the mold breakdown cellulose, pectin and lignin that are major components of leaf litter.

Inside, Cladosporium can be found in dirty refrigerators, in condensation reservoirs, on moist window frames, and pretty much on any moist, porous surface. Cladosporium often discolors interior paint paper, or textiles stored in humid environments.

The ability for Cladosporium to rapidly and heavily sporulate makes this mod a common airway allergen associated with asthma and hay fever. Cladosporium may cause more serious illnesses in individuals with suppressed immune function.

Penicillium sp.

The spores of Penicillium contain mycotoxins responsible for causing a variety of allergy symptoms and illnesses. Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by fungi that are most concentrated in the spores but are also resent in actively growing mold filaments. Under normal circumstances, the indoor concentration of spores is generally low enough to not provoke an immune response except in those people who are sensitive to the specific mycotoxins or have compromised immune systems. Mycotoxins can cause a variety of short term, as well as long term illnesses. Symptoms due to mycotoxin exposure include or altered immune function, which may lead to opportunistic infections.

Stachybotrys atra

Stachybotrys is described as an indicator mold and when identified in either air or bulk sampling "may signal moisture presence or a potential for health problems" (Macher et al, 1999). Stachybotrys is generally found on materials with high cellulose content (such as wallboard and ceiling tiles) that become chronically moist or water damaged from excessive relative humidity, pipe or roof leaks, condensation, or flooding. several toxins are produced by Stachybotrys and are known to be toxic to humans exposed to significant quantities. If Stachybotrys spores are released into the air, there is a potential for allergic, respiratory, or immunological symptoms to develop or become exacerbated. These conditions include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, dermatitis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis (New York City Department of Health, 1993).

Alternaria sp.

Alternaria is a very common fungal saprophyte found on decaying wood, in composts, on plants and food and in different types of soil. Its distribution is worldwide and is frequently found in outside air, where in temperate climates, the conidia (spore) levels reach their peak in late summer. Indoors it can be found in dust and carpets, on damp spots around showers and window frames and virtually any area where condensation exists.

The ubiquitous and common Alternaria is an important fungal allergen. Allergies to Alternaria will most often cause an immediate mediated allergic response, however, there have been documented cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis to airborne exposure of Alternaria spores. Serious infection associated with Alternaria is rare. Alternaria mycotoxins have not been the subject of much investigation although they are produced.

Aspergillus sp.

There are more than 160 species of Aspergilus, 16 of which have been documented as etiologic agents of human disease. They are among the most common groups of environmental fungi. Many species are isolated from a variety of substrates, including grains, nuts, cotton, organic debris and water damaged, organic building materials. The most frequently encountered opportunistic Aspergillus pathogen is A fumigatus and is seen most abundantly in decomposing organic materials. Aspergillus fumigatus and A niger have been identified as the more harmful species of the Aspergillus group.

Aspergillus is considered a common environmental mold that can pose health risks when it is present in elevated levels. Health problems due to Aspergillus exposure may include headaches, eye, and skin irritation, asthma aggravation of existing respiratory conditions , other typical allergic symptoms, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Hypersensitivity and allergic responses can be triggered by minimal exposure and especially in people who have an existing sensitivity to mold allergens and toxins or who have compromised or suppresses immune function. Aspergillus can proliferate successfully indoors when conditions become favorable resulting in an increase in the number of spores, and therefore, mycotoxin concentrations that can be harmful.

Aureobasidium pullulans

Aureobasidium is one of several "black yeasts" so called because of its slimy black appearance in cultures. It is a common saprophyte with worldwide distribution and is frequently isolated from soils. During autumn, Aureobasidium colonizes the surface of the leaves of many types of trees, producing pectins that breakdown the cell walls. The initial decomposition of leaves is generally caused by Aureobasidium paving the way for other molds to further breakdown the leaves. Aureobasidium is a known allergen, however, not much information is available on this mold to date.

Fusarium sp.

Fusarium species are soil fungi and have a worldwide distribution. Many are plant pathogens, however, several are pathogenic to humans and other animals causing mycotic infections especially in burn victims and transplant patients.

Paecilomyces sp.

Paecilomyces has been isolated from jute fibers, paper, PVC time (oak wood) optical lenses leather, photographic paper, cigar tobacco, grapes, bottled fruit juice undergoing pasteurization. Type I allergies (hay fever, asthma) and Type III hypersensitivity pneumonitis have been associated with Paecilomyces exposure. Species of the mold genus Paecilomyces are seldom associated with serious human infection.

Rhizopus sp.

Rhizopus is a common mold found on decaying fruits, in soil, house dust and frequently in the air. Rhizopus grows rapidly and produces countless, easily aerosolized spores. Human infections or diseases are rare.

Trichoderma sp.
Trichoderma is a common genus of molds, especially in soils and on decaying wood. A species of Trichoderma has bee linked with pulmonary fungus ball disease however disease is quite rare and only reported in those immuno-compromised.


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