I was watching an episode of 'King of the Hill' the other day in which the Hill family were told they had a mold problem in their home. While the episode was very funny (as always!) it put across the message that mold isn't something that needs to be taken seriously and that anyone suggesting your house has a mold problem is a conman. This attitude is very widespread with the public and even many healthcare providers often dismiss the possibility of mold being at the root of health issues. Unfortunately mold in reality can be the cause of
various health problems, some of them potentially very serious. If you're at all worried I recommend starting by testing your home with a scientifically-proven Diagnostic Mold Test kit - available here.
The most common health effects of mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory problems. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds."
In those people who are allergic to molds, exposure can produce all the well known allergy symptoms such as stuffy and/or runny nose, eye irritation and watering eyes, wheezing, itching of the eyes, nose and throat, or skin irritation. In more severe mold allergy reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. These symptoms most often occur in individuals who are exposed to large amounts of mold at work, an example being a farmer who spends all day around moldy hay. In people who suffer from chronic respiratory and lung diseases the consequences of mold exposue can be more serious still with mold infection of the lungs being a real possibility.
Allergic and respiratory problems are not the only symptoms that can be attributed to mold exposure however. There is evidence that exposure to mold can trigger a host of neuropsychological symptoms as well.
A recent study examined twelve women who worked in an office suspected of having issues with mold. All of the women presented with a range of neuropsychological symptoms including weakness and numbness in their legs, dizziness, memory loss, light-headedness, vertigo, fatigue, getting lost in familiar places, and general mental confusion.
The women underwent a series of tests including immunological, EEG (brainwave), and neuropsychological investigations. The researchers found that all of the women were allergic to Alternaria tenuis, Pullularia pullulans, and Epicoccum nigru (all types of mold) and all had abnormal brainwave patterns on the EEG tests. Perhaps most significantly, the neuropsyhological investigations revealed that the women had impairment equivalent to that seen in brain-damaged individuals. The researchers concluded that chronic exposures to toxigenic molds may lead to neuropsychological manifestations.
So what can you do if you suspect mold is causing your health problems? This all depends on where you are being exposed. If your exposure is at work then unfortunately unless your employer is willing to address the issue there is not much you can do. In most countries including the US and UK, there are currently no laws requiring specific levels of air quality in places of employment (except now widespred smoking bans).
If your mold exposure is at home then there are many ways you can reduce mold growth using a comprehensive range of specific products from the like of Micro Balance Health Products - and hopefully improve your health and that of your family. The first thing to know is that moisture is the key to mold growth. Any areas of your house that are constantly damp are likely to be an area where mold growth is likely. Some simple measures may significantly reduce the mositure content of your home and thus mold growth. These include fitting extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms to vent steam to the outside of the building, using dehumidifiers, and replacing fitted carpets with solid wood/tile flooring and washable rugs. More expensive and involved measurs may include replacing windows with double-glazed models (eliminates condensation) and installing new damp-proofing throughout the structure of the building.
For more information visit the EPA's Mold Resources page
I also recommend you visit Mold Madness - a site set up by a family seriously affected by mold problems in their home