by Kimberly Allen RN
Molds are certain types of fungi that form spores to reproduce. Mildew is the term many use for certain types of household molds especially the mold that grows in the shower. Molds are naturally occurring organisms that exist both indoors as well as out. Molds play a significant role in the breakdown of organic material, and that group includes more than food. Molds also help breakdown organic material outside, including wood, leaves and compost. Outdoor molds can be found anywhere there is decomposing plant life. Indoor molds are usually in the basement, bathrooms and under many kitchen sinks. Because mold causes material to breakdown it can cause damage to the surface where it grows.
Molds are all around us in the air we breathe everyday. For most of us they pose no problem but there are many that are sensitive to molds and mold spores. There are over 100 species of mold that fall into certain categories or types. The most well known types of mold are black mold, allergenic mold and toxic mold.
The molds known as allergenic molds and their spores usually do not cause serious problems, however, they can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks in people that are susceptible. People that would be at risk include those with impaired immune systems and people with a history of asthma. Though these types of mold are easy to clean and remove it’s important to remember that dead mold and mold spores can also cause symptoms.
Molds and their spores that contain toxins are known as mycotoxic molds. These molds have toxins in their cell walls and can cause some people to develop serious health problems. This type of mold can also cause health problems in animals. The adverse health effects from these toxins can range anywhere from mild to moderate allergic reaction to cancer and even death. If molds of this type have been identified in or around your home DO NOT attempt to clean or get rid of it without consulting a mold professional like an Industrial Hygienist for assistance.
Another type of mold that is of concern is called pathogen mold. This type of mold is responsible for causing infections. The people most at risk for developing infections from this type of mold are those with compromised immune systems like from chemotherapy, autoimmune disorders, and HIV/AIDS. This is another type of mold you should NOT attempt to clean without first consulting a mold specialist as there are certain precautions and procedures that need to be followed.
There are also several single fragments of mold that are unidentifiable known as hyphae and hyphal. Though they are not identified as part of a specific specie they can cause allergic responses. There are also clusters of spores called ascospores and basidiospores that aren’t identified as a specific specie that can cause problems.
The most common health issues related to mold are allergenic reactions with sneezing , runny nose and coughing. The eyes may also get red and watery, and some people develop a rash. People that have asthma have a higher risk of suffering a severe asthmatic attack when exposed to mold and mold spores. People exposed to the mycotoxins in certain molds like “black mold” can develop severe breathing problems due to the irritation of the airways by the toxins in the mold.
Though there is no way to eliminate all mold spores in any environment, indoors or out controlling the amount of moisture inside your home can help. Always repair any leaks in your plumbing immediately and clean and dry any water damage with in 24-48 hours. Use fans to promote ventilation especially in the bathroom where the humidity tends to be higher and don’t use carpeting in humid areas like bathrooms and basements. any appliances that can produce moisture like clothes dryers, should be vented to the outside. There are even mold inhibitors that can be added to house plants to help control mold. Outside keep all rain gutters clean of leaves and other debris, bag up or burn any piles of leaves with in 24-48 hours after raking them. Keeping wood piles protected from the weather will help to keep it dry and reduce the amount of mold and mold spores. If you know you are sensitive to mold and mold spores wear a mask when raking or working with the wood pile to help minimize exposure.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.