Unfortunately, mold is a big problem in most homes, but even worse, many people are unaware of the problem. Of course, everyone looks at the shower curtain, under the sink, or in the basement for mold, but really, mold can grow anywhere. As a result, mold illness shows up, too. (1)
Other than the obvious sources, you can find mold in drywall, in a leaky attic, and even on your Christmas tree. Yes, your Christmas tree. For example, one study found that even Christmas trees can breed mold, quietly releasing millions of spores into the room and causing mold illness, such as winter allergies and asthma attacks. The study found that indoor air quality dropped six-fold over the 14 days a Christmas tree typically decorates a room. (2)
Types of Mold
While there are over a million types of mold, there are about 1,000 types of mold that you’ll find growing in the modern American home. Scientists classify these molds based on the effect they have on humans and other living things. (3)
First, allergenic molds are on the low end of the danger scale. They only cause problems for those with asthma or a predisposed allergy to the specific mold. And children are more likely to have mold allergies than adults.
Next, pathogenic molds will cause some infection. This is a big problem for those with a suppressed immune system. More specifically, an acute response resembling bacterial pneumonia is commonly found with those exposed to these types of mold.
Lastly, as the name implies, these molds produce mycotoxins that can cause serious health effects. They have been tied to immunosuppression and cancer. The toxic chemicals found in these types of molds can be absorbed into the body when one inhales them, eats them, or even touches them.
Five Most Common Indoor Molds (4)
- Alternaria: Commonly found in your nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract; can cause allergic responses.
- Aspergillus: Usually found in warm, extremely damp climates, and a common occupant of house dust; produces mycotoxins; can cause lung infections.
- Cladosporium: This very common outdoor fungus can find its way indoors to grow on textiles, wood, and other damp, porous materials; triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms.
- Penicillium: Very common species found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation; known for causing allergies and asthma; some species produce mycotoxins, one being the common antibiotic penicillin.
- Stachybotrys: Extremely toxic “black mold” that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs, among other health problems. Thankfully, less common in homes than the other four, but not rare; found on wood or paper (cellulose products), but NOT on concrete, linoleum or tile.
What is Mold Illness?
Mold illness is the variety of health problems that can occur from any type of mold exposure. “Although a mold allergy is the most common problem caused by exposure to mold, mold can cause illness without an allergic reaction. Mold can also cause infections or irritant and toxic reactions. Infections caused by mold can lead to a variety of problems from flu-like symptoms to skin infections and even pneumonia.” (5)
Mold toxicity is also an issue, and it is considered a Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, author of Surviving Mold: Life in the Era of Dangerous Buildings, defines CIRS as:
“an acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic organisms, including, but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, and Mycobacterium as well as inflammagens…” (6)
11 Signs of Mold Illness (7, 8)
- Brain Fog, Memory Problems, Trouble Focusing, Headaches
- Fatigue and Weakness
- Unexplained Muscle Cramping, Aches and Joint Pain, Persistent Nerve Pain
- Numbness and Tingling
- Eye Irritation like Red Eyes or Blurred Vision
- Asthma and Sinus Problems like Cough or Shortness of Breath
- Tremors and Vertigo
- Digestive Issues like Change in Appetite, Diarrhea, Nausea, Abdominal Pain
- Metallic Taste in the Mouth or Sore Throat
- Temperature Regulation or Night Sweats
- Excessive Thirst and Increased Urination
How has mold impacted your life?
If you want to learn how to fight back against mold illness, take a look at the video below!
A Note of Caution:
Some research, encapsulated in this analysis, warns against assuming that exposure to black mold or other molds result in mold illness. Yet the CDC, the EPA, and OSHA all have websites with information concerning mold and the potential for mold illness.