Mold in the Home.
It's very common to find molds in homes and buildings. After all, molds grow naturally indoors. And mold spores enter the home through doorways, windows, and heating and air conditioning systems. Spores also enter the home on animals, clothing, shoes, bags and people.
When mold spores drop where there is excessive moisture in your home, they will grow. Common problem sites include humidifiers, leaky roofs and pipes, overflowing sinks, bath tubs and plant pots, steam from cooking, wet clothes drying indoors, dryers exhausting indoors, or where there has been flooding.
Many of the building materials for homes provide suitable nutrients for mold, helping it to grow. Such materials include paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood and wood products, dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
Mycotoxins are chemicals (metabolites) produced by molds, which cause a toxic response in humans if ingested, inhaled, or in contact with skin. Mycotoxins can affect the immune system, nervous system, liver, kidneys, blood and blood clotting. Some mycotoxins are known to be carcinogens. Research is being conducted to determine how fungal mycotoxins may contribute to vague health symptoms experienced by those who live in environments with a high fungal load. Many fungi produce mycotoxins, both inside spores and on their surfaces. Killing spores does not disable the toxicity of mycotoxins. In fact, mycotoxins can be present on or in spores, whether the spores are dead or alive. Stopping fungal growth does not stop adverse medical symptoms. Both spores and hyphae can be allergenic and/or toxic.
Aspergillus and Penicillium, which produce mycotoxins, are often present in homes following a flood or chronic moisture invasion. Stachybotrys chartarum will grow on very wet building materials which contain cellulose and low nitrogen content. Stachybotrys is associated with a very potent mycotoxin. In addition to unusual mycotoxin symptoms, exposure of Stachybotrys to the skin may also cause a rash.
Health Effects of Mycotoxins
Mycotoxins may cause a variety of short-term as well as long-term adverse health effects. This ranges from immediate toxic response and immune-suppression to the potential long-term carcinogenic effect. Symptoms due to mycotoxins or toxin containing airborne spores (particularly those of Stachybotrys) include dermatitis, recurring cold and flu-like symptoms, burning sore throat, headaches and excessive fatigue, diarrhea, and impaired or altered immune function. The ability of the body to fight off infectious diseases may be weakened resulting in opportunistic infections. Because these symptoms may also be caused by many other diseases, misdiagnoses of mycotoxin exposures are common. There are very few physicians with the experience or expertise in correctly diagnosing mycotoxin exposures or mycotoxicoses. Occupational or building-related exposures to mycotoxins through inhalation are slowly being recognized as a major indoor air quality problem. Generally, removal of causative agents is necessary.
There are a host of fungi that are commonly found in ventilation systems and indoor environments. The Cladospo rium and Aspergillus fungi make up 75% of the microbes. These organisms can occur naturally in the exterior environment and enter as spores or active fungi attached to dust particles. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration of incoming air and a regular program of maintenance and cleaning of ventilation ducts can reduce the levels of molds that may enter and multiply in the indoor environment. Damp areas such as basements and attic areas where water seepage or condensation may occur are prime growing areas for molds. Most will reproduce quickly if the temperature (the ideal temperature range is 68 to 86) and humidity conditions (70% or higher) are right.
The most common hazardous species associated with a water loss belong to the families: Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium, Mucor, Stachybotrys atra, Absidia, Alternaria, Fusarium and Cryptostroma. The greatest risks are caused by the Aspergillus and Penicillium strains. Various strains of these families of molds have been implicated in being causative agents in asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and pulmonary mycosis.
Many species in the genera Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium are known to produce mycotoxins. These three groups of fungi are also very common indoors. Other toxigenic fungi frequently found indoors are Alternaria, Trichoderma, Fusarium, Paecilomyces, Chaetomium and Acremonium.
When discussing mycotoxins, species of Aspergillus deserve special attention. Species of Aspergillus produce such well-known toxins as aflatoxins, ochratoxins, and sterigmatoeystin. Aflatoxins that are produced by Aspergillus flavus and Asparasiticus are detected in stored peanut and grains. Ochratoxins are produced by many species of Aspergillus as well as Penicillium. These fungi grow well on many common building materials soiled and contain higher than normal moisture content.
Allergic Fungal Sinusitis
Allergic fungal sinusitis (infection of the sinus) is a unique, probably under diagnosed condition similar to the lower airway disorder, allergic bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis. Characteristic features of fungal sinusitis are signs or symptoms of chronic sinusitis unresponsive to antibiotic therapy. The sinus contents in patients with fungal sinusitis contain allergic mucin, a thick cheese-like secretion, Charcot-Leyden crystals, and fungal elements. The fungi associated with this condition include Aspergillus, Curvularia, Drechslera, Bipolaris, Exserohilium, Alternaria, Helminthosporium, and Fusarium. (John W. Georgitis, MD, FCCP Professor of Pediatrics Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Winston-Salem, North Carolina.)
The importance of mold in the real estate market today
Much has been made of indoor mold in advertising and the media lately, so it’s a common concern for homeowners and buyers. It's common to find mold even in new homes. Whether you’re selling your current home or looking into buying one, it’s vital to get a mold inspection. Presence of active mold can drastically affect the resale value of any home.
For homeowners, a mold inspection will either put your mind at rest or make you aware of any problems that could otherwise cause delays or deal breakers once you’ve entered negotiations with a buyer. A professional mold inspection will give you a signed report from an expert before you put the home up for sale. Imagine being able to show a “clean bill of health” to potential buyers that express concerns – they’ll be impressed by your thoroughness and commitment to your home.
For buyers, getting a mold inspection will ensure that you’re not surprised by costly clean up and the potential health hazards of mold. If any mold is found to be present and active in the home, the mold inspection will allow you to ask the seller to do the clean up prior to buying the home.
Exposure to mold
Everyone is exposed to some amount of mold on a daily basis, most without any apparent reaction. Generally mold spores can cause problems when they are present in large numbers and a person inhales large quantities of them. This occurs primarily when there is active mold growth.
For some people, a small exposure to mold spores can trigger an asthma attack or lead to other health problems. For others, symptoms may only occur when exposure levels are much higher.
The health effects of mold can vary. The production of allergens or irritants can cause mild allergic reactions and asthma attacks. The production of potentially toxic mycotoxins can cause more severe reactions, and in rare cases death.
Should I be concerned about mold in my home or Building?
Yes. If indoor mold is extensive, those in your home or building can be exposed to very high and persistent airborne mold spores. It is possible to become sensitized to these mold spores and develop allergies or other health concerns, even if one is not normally sensitive to mold.
Left unchecked, mold growth can cause structural damage to your home as well as permanent damage to furnishings and carpet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control*, "It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal."
Can my home be tested for mold?
Yes. AAA Inspections offers thorough mold inspections that involve visual examinations of the most likely areas to harbor mold. We also take air samples indoors and out to determine whether the number of spores inside your home is significantly higher. If the indoor level is higher, it could mean that mold is growing inside your home.
How do I remove mold from my home?
Go to USGPC.COM for Green Performance Chemistry mold removal products.
Mold in your property
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