When Hurricane Katrina first swept into the southern United States in 2005, many of the residents thought that the worst of it would be over in a day or two. But as the storm dragged on and the levees broke, it took more than six months before parts of New Orleans got back to normal.
Even once the waters had subsided, problems for residents continued. All that water had gotten everywhere: the streets, the sewers and the foundations of their homes. Even replacing the flooring didn’t seem to be able to totally get rid of the effects of water damage.
Before Katrina, few people had heard of the dangers of mold. But as more and more people began to suffer the ill effects, it was clear that the effects of the storm would linger on for much longer than first anticipated. Put simply, the mold in people’s homes was making them sick.
Over the last decade or so, researchers have investigated the effects of mold on the human body. To their astonishment, the fungus is responsible for dozens of different conditions and may be particularly damaging to the young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there are more than 300,000 different species of mold which could infect your home. The majority are harmless, but some can cause severe health consequences. The problem with mold is that it gives off spores. These spores are so small that more than 20 million of them could fit on a single postage stamp. They get into the air which then gets into our lungs and our digestive tracts, sometimes causing serious problems.
Mold is most common in warm, damp homes – just the kind of homes that were common after Hurricane Katrina hit. But you don’t have to be caught in a flood to suffer the ill effects of mold. Any part of your home regularly exposed to damp has the potential to harbor these tiny critters. Plug holes, sink u-bends and behind the shower are all susceptible to the buildup of mold.
So what are the consequences of a moldy home for your health? Let’s take a look.
Asthma is thought of as an unpleasant but relatively benign condition. But what few people know is that it is a leading cause of death among people under the age of 40. Some attacks can be so severe that the heart stops beating and the patient dies. So if mold plays a role, you need to know about it.
Researchers decided to test the hypothesis that mold was related to asthma attacks. They investigated three different kinds of asthmatics: those who had exposure to mold and had symptoms, those who had exposure to mold but didn’t have any symptoms, and those who had no exposure to mold at. What the researchers found was a correlation, though they stopped short of saying that there was a direct causal link. However, before any expensive trials can be run, it’s probably worth taking the results on face value and getting the mold out of your home. After all, there are no known health benefits of mold.
Companies like Restorationeze who get rid of mold warn about the many dangers of mold. It can lurk not only in foundations and in areas of the house exposed to water, but also in places you’d never expect, like cabinets, thanks to the spores. The advice from professionals is clear: get it out of your home.
Mold syndrome often called toxic mold syndrome is a condition that people seem to get after prolonged exposure to mold in the home. It’s not actually a medically defined term. Instead, it’s something lawyers came up with to categorize a whole raft of symptoms which are typically shared by people living in moldy environments.
What this actually entails in practice is not clear cut, but even authorities like the EPA recognize that some buildings are toxic. Their research has led them to believe that residents of an entire building can suffer the ill-effects of living in it, presumably because of the high mold content.
If the source of the mold isn’t clear, they recommend doing things like improving ventilation and making sure that any ventilation systems are maintained.
Can mold cause infections? It turns out that it can – though not directly. Science shows that people who are exposed to mold have, on average, a higher incidence of bronchitis and respiratory infections. Given that mold spores get into the lungs, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. There’s evidence that mold spores inhibit the ability of the lining of the lung to shuffle out bacteria and other damaging particles, rather like cigarette smoking. This could be what leads to higher rates of infection among those living in mold conditions.
There is a range of other fungus-related infections that are common in the US. Two are aspilligosis and athlete’s food. However, these are not thought to be directly associated with indoor mold. Instead, they’re believed to be the consequences of other factors.
Bleeding In The Lungs
Perhaps one of the scariest diseases ever related to indoor mold is bleeding in the lungs. This condition, though sometimes found in adults, is most common in children. It appears that some of the toxins that mold produces can get into the lungs and damage the delicate barrier between the bloodstream and the outside world. Blood then pours into the lungs, causing difficulty breathing and spluttering. Needless to say, this is a very serious condition indeed.
There is a suggestion in the medical literature that the cause is indoor mold. But the CDC concluded that more research was needed to confirm a causal mechanism. They argued that people who lived in moldy homes might be more at risk of bleeding in the lungs for another, as yet unidentified, factor.
The bottom line is clear: mold isn’t good for you. Numerous conditions are associated with it, and there are no obvious health benefits like there are from other natural compounds in plants. If possible, keep it out of your home.