What symptoms are commonly seen with mould exposure?
Moulds produce health effects through inflammation, allergy, toxicity or, rarely - infection. Allergic reactions (often referred to as hay fever) are most common following mould exposure.
Typical symptoms that mould-exposed persons report (alone or in combination) include:
Respiratory problems, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Eye irritation (burning, watery, or reddened eyes)
- Dry, hacking cough
- Nose or throat irritation
- Skin rashes or irritation
- Headaches, memory problems, mood swings, depression
- Nosebleeds, body aches and pains, and fevers
These more serious symptoms are now widely reported as associated with mould cases and are mostly linked to mycotoxin exposure.
How much mould can make you sick?
It seems to depend largely on the individual. For some people, a relatively small number of mould spores or fragments can trigger an asthma attack or lead to other health problems. For other persons, symptoms may occur only when exposure levels are much higher.
Nonetheless, indoor mould growth is unsanitary and undesirable. Basically, if you can see or smell mould inside your home, take steps to identify and eliminate the excess moisture and to cleanup and remove the mould.
Are some moulds more hazardous than others?
Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mould, both as to the amount and the types to which they react. In addition to their allergic properties, certain types of moulds, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, may produce compounds that have toxic properties, which are called mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins are not always produced, and whether a mould produces mycotoxins while growing in a building depends on what the mould is growing on, conditions such as temperature, pH, humidity or other unknown factors.
When mycotoxins are present, they occur in both living and dead mould spores and may be present in materials that have become contaminated with moulds. While Stachybotrys is growing, a wet slime layer covers its spores, preventing them from becoming airborne.
However, when the mould dies and dries up, air currents or physical handling can cause spores to become airborne. At present there is no environmental test to determine whether Stachybotrys growth found in buildings is producing toxins. There is also no blood or urine test that can establish if an individual has been exposed to Stachybotrys chartarum spores or its toxins.
Who is at greater risk when exposed to mould?
Exposure to mould is not healthy for anyone inside buildings. Therefore, it is always best to identify and correct high moisture conditions quickly before mould grows and health problems develop.
Some people may have more severe symptoms or become ill more rapidly than others:
- Individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, or asthma.
- Persons with weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy patients, and so forth)
- Infants and young children
- The elderly
Anyone with health problems, believed due to moulds should consult a medical professional.