Indoor Mold – Allergen, Irritant, Asthma Trigger and Potential Fungal Pathogen

Indoor mold can trigger allergies and asthma, among other health concerns. For mold to grow indoors, it needs moisture and a source of food. Unfortunately, many building materials, furnishings and personal belongings make for an excellent food source. If moisture is allowed to enter the indoor environment it can become an ideal breeding ground for mold in as little as 48 hours or so.

While mold is a natural part of the environment and people are exposed to it on a daily basis, exposure to elevated levels of mold in the air people breathe in their home, school or work environment can lead to health concerns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares the following about exposure to mold:
Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to mold. For these people, mold can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to certain types of mold.

In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.

Some types of mold can also produce mycotoxins, which are secondary metabolites that can cause toxic effects. While there is significant research about the ingestion of mycotoxins, there is less known about potential health effects from inhalation exposure.

One of the best ways to control mold growth is to control indoor moisture. This is why it is critical to control humidity levels and dry water-damaged materials as quickly as it is safe to do so.