Mold Exposures

Illness from mold exposure is getting more attention these days.

History: For many years it has been known that certain types of mold exposures can make people sick. The 14th chapter of the book of Leviticus in the Bible records how communities successfully handled indoor mold problems over 3000 years ago.

Cause: Water in buildings easily sets up the opportunity for mold to grow.  This can happen during initial construction, building remediation, remodeling or even routine maintenance. In contrast, clean, dry, well ventilated buildings rarely have mold problems.  Unfortunately, water leaks occur and may not be quickly repaired and exhaust fans in the bathroom or kitchen may not work or may not be used regularly.

Illnesses: While most molds really are not bad at all, some can harm us especially when the concentration is high. Molds may trigger or cause immediate allergies like runny/stuffy nose, itchy eyes, asthma, or skin rashes. They may also provoke other symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, impaired thinking, irritation of the eyes, arthritis or cough. Mold exposures may sensitize a person to things besides molds: For example mold sensitized persons may later find that they are less tolerant of foods or chemicals. Most people recover with treatment after leaving the contaminated area: A few patients can have long term problems. Be prudent.

Building studies: If your home, car, or workplace looks moldy, smells musty, or makes you sick, you may have a mold related problem.  It is not good for most people to live in highly contaminated mold spaces. Indoor air quality experts can help you learn whether your situation is likely to be a problem.

Priorities: If harmful molds are growing in your home or workplace, you need to do something about it soon. If you are really very sick, consider moving out temporarily to let you body begin to recover while you are trying to define the situation.  Always look for the water source.  Remediation of the affected building is frequently possible but not always helpful enough. Household goods can usually be cleaned up but some must be disposed of and replaced.

Treatments: Avoiding further exposure is always the first priority. Additionally allergy desensitization, eradication of infections, clearance of mold toxins and other supportive care are helpful.

Prudence: Keep calm. Do not panic.  While it is true that the more susceptible individual may experience long-term health problems from as little as several months of mold exposure, most people recover well.  Do not put off investigating the problem. Contact an indoor air quality engineer and consult with a physician familiar with environmental health issues.  Clean buildings help everyone stay healthy.