There is no doubt that mold is unsightly and that no one really wants it in their house. However, there are also a lot of scary discussions these days about the effects of mold on the human body.
But what do scientists really know about mold? Is leaving mold in the home an acceptable thing to do, or is it bad for your health?
The medical research on mold is robust, and there are definite health issues associated with mold. Let’s look at what the science shows.
It is well-established in the medical literature that people who are exposed to mold tend to have more:
- Chest tightness
- Runny nose
- Throat irritation
The correlation between these symptoms and mold are thought to be due to a hypersensitivity reaction to spores and hyphal elements.
People with preexisting conditions that are sensitive or atopic often have worse symptoms. Allergy and asthma sufferers are at an increased risk of mold-associated health effects.
Further, people with weakened immune systems are also at risk of mold-related conditions. This is particularly true in those exposed to damp conditions such as those found after flooding. Children exposed to mold appear to be especially susceptible to lower-respiratory problems.
Mold is also associated with serious health threats due to fungal infection. This is particularly true in immunocompromised individuals who have chronic mold exposure or are exposed to a high level of mold.
These infections can be systemic in nature, or they may be more localized. Skin, lungs, sinuses, and the digestive tract are all body systems that mold may directly attack via an infection.
Under certain conditions, mold can excrete toxins into the environment. If produced at high enough levels, those toxins can be harmful or fatal to people and pets.
In high enough quantities, these toxins may cause cancer or neurologic problems. Also, prolonged exposure can result in human injury. Fortunately, it is the rare home where there is enough mold to create toxins at such high levels. But this is a significant reason why mold removal is so important.
The most famous of toxin-producing mold is Stachybotrys chartarum, often referred to as “black mold” or “toxic mold”. However, not all mold produces toxins. That being said, there is no benefit to having mold in a house regardless of whether it produces toxins, and so the CDC does not recommend testing the mold for species. Instead, they say you should just remediate the mold problem.
Immune System Activation
There is also a substantial amount of medical literature about the potential for mold causing an innate immune system response. This is a controversial topic, but it is the basis for the idea behind the “sick building syndrome”.
Symptoms of the sick building syndrome include:
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Wheezing and chest tightness
- Throat, nose, or eye irritation
- Skin irritation, dermatitis, or dryness
- Headaches or loss of taste/smell
- Cognitive dysfunction, irritability or fatigue
- Musculoskeletal complaints
It may be that mold brings the body into a constant state of inflammation due to the immune response. Certainly, more research is being done on this subject.
It is clear that mold is prejudicial to good human health. Looking at the evidence, we unhesitatingly recommend removing any mold that is in your home rather than putting you or your family at risk.