If there is one thing about mold that I’ve heard countless times is that it’s all over the earth, so it isn’t an issue to be worried about. People have literally said to me that mold is everywhere, so what is the big deal if someone has mold in their home (sigh). They reason that you’re literally breathing in mold any time you’re outside because it’s in the trees and in the dirt. Others have commented that speaking about the harmful effects of toxic mold is only spreading fear about something that is naturally a part of our world (double sigh).
Comments like the ones I mentioned above stem from a lack of understanding of what mold is, where it should grow and how it can harm human health. So let’s dive into these topics, shall we?
For starters, mold is not our enemy, but it can wreak havoc on our health when it grows in the wrong places.
Second, God created mold as part of the fungi kingdom and its sole purpose on the planet is to help decompose dead things like fallen trees, animal carcasses, leaves, and insects. However, mold becomes a problem when it begins to take up residence inside our homes, schools, and places of business. Cue the song, “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…”.
When mold begins to grow indoors, it lacks all of the checks and balances that exist beautifully in nature, and that, my friends, is where the problems begin. With no one to keep things in check, things get ugly. Like all living things, mold needs energy to survive but unlike plants that get their energy from the light produced by the sun, mold gets its energy by eating organic materials. Houston, we have a problem!
In a house, for example, mold if kept unchecked, will begin to consume and grow on building materials, air purifier filters, food, furniture, bedding, books, and even parts of the human body. Yes, you read that right. If given the opportunity, mold can begin to feed on any part of the body where moisture or mucous exists, such as the sinuses. It basically sets up shop and begins to colonize its new territory. On top of that, many of the molds that grow indoors produce poisons that are called mycotoxins. Molds that produce mycotoxins are referred to as toxic and/or toxigenic mold, the worst being Styachybotrous.
It’s important to note that not all molds are toxic. Some people simply cannot understand that there are molds that are not harmful and they label all molds as toxic which is incorrect. What sets apart one mold from another is its ability to create toxic secondary metabolites aka mycotoxins. These poisons are so nasty they have been used as biological warfare agents.
As the poison they are, these tiny but dangerous toxins can cause damage to every single system in the body, regardless of how healthy or young a person is.
Symptoms From Toxic Mold Exposure
Symptoms from toxic mold exposure can include but are not limited to:
-Pain around the orbit of the eyes and in the eyes.
-Sudden tics like abnormal eye and face movements.
-Pain in the soles of feet.
-Severe lower back pain.
-Pain and burning sensation in one or both lungs.
-Rashes/hives that come on suddenly, without reason.
-Tingling and mild pain in sinuses and head.
-Heavy head feeling.
-Feeling like you’re head is in a vice.
-Feeling like you can’t breathe, air hunger.
-Dehydration and constant thirst.
-Bladder pain, pressure, frequent urination, especially at night.
-Sleeping and not feeling rested. Constant fatigue, in some cases, disabling.
-Extreme feelings of depression and despair.
-Alzheimer’s symptoms, extreme forgetfulness, even in children.
-Crying and constant irritability that is out of character.
-Weakness in knees and legs, inability to walk.
-TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
-Vertigo, dizziness, low/high blood pressure, migraines.
-Inability to drive, loss of coordination.
Mold, as I like to explain when I’m doing consultations with affected families, is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, how much money you have, or how healthy you are. If given the opportunity it will wreak your world, trust me on this.
Lastly, to say that mold is everywhere, and therefore it doesn’t pose a risk to human health is like saying; bears are all over Alaska so they pose no harm to humans if they get into their homes.
Research and Publications
So what effects can indoor mold exposure have on humans? Let’s look at a few published papers and articles.
Effects of Mycotoxins on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Immune Processes
Individuals exposed to mold report an extensive range of symptoms, including malaise, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, which appear to be related to the duration of exposure.
In one study, patients who had been exposed to mold were impaired on a variety of cognitive measures, including verbal learning, visuospatial learning and memory, psychomotor speed, and emotional functioning. Mold-exposed patients in other studies also displayed similar symptoms of neurologic dysfunction as compared to controls, including an inability to stand on one’s toes, inability to walk in a straight line with eyes closed, short-term memory loss, altered blink-reflex latency, verbal recall impairments, as well as issues with color discrimination and reaction time.
Severe Sequelae to Mold-Related Illness as Demonstrated in Two Finnish Cohorts
In conclusion, we present clinical evidence that poor indoor air due to mold infestation can cause severe morbidity not restricted to asthma. These sequelae are oncological, neurological, autoimmune diseases, and even death. We emphasize that scientific discussion based on facts should be pursued without intervention from biased “opinion leaders.” What is not yet known should be studied with an open mind. In conclusion, the absence of the evidence should not be construed as evidence of absence.
Mixed mold mycotoxicosis: immunological changes in humans following exposure in water-damaged buildings
The authors conclude that exposure to mixed molds and their associated mycotoxins in water-damaged buildings leads to multiple health problems involving the CNS and the immune system, in addition to pulmonary effects and allergies. Mold exposure also initiates inflammatory processes. The authors propose the term “mixed mold mycotoxicosis” for the multisystem illness observed in these patients.
Detection of Mycotoxins in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Mycotoxins can be detected in the urine in a very high percentage of patients with CFS. This is in contrast to a prior study of a healthy, non-WDB exposed control population in which no mycotoxins were found at the levels of detection. The majority of the CFS patients had prior exposure to WDB. Environmental testing in a subset of these patients confirmed mold and mycotoxin exposure. We present the hypothesis that mitochondrial dysfunction is a possible cause of the health problems of these patients. The mitochondrial dysfunction may be triggered and accentuated by exposure to mycotoxins.
Mold Exposure and Mitochondrial Antibodies
Mycotoxins and child health: The need for health risk assessment
Chronic Illness Associated with Mold and Mycotoxins: Is Naso-Sinus Fungal Biofilm the Culprit?
Cytotoxicity of occupationally and environmentally relevant mycotoxins
Health Effects of Mycotoxins in Indoor Air: A Critical Review
Concurrent sick building syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome: epidemic neuromyasthenia revisited
Trichothecene Mycotoxins Activate Inflammatory Response in Human Macrophages
Mold and Mycotoxins: Effects on the Neurological and Immune Systems in Humans
Download Research Committee Report on Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Caused by Exposure to the Interior-Environment of Water-Damaged Buildings, published in July 2010.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Toxic Mold
Mold Exposure Sets Stage for Severe Flu
Read what the EPA has published about mold toxins.
Download the American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s statement on mold toxins and the associated dangers to human health.
Neurological and Immunological Problems associated with Mold and Mycotoxin Exposure
Click here to download a research paper published by Finnish researchers in Applied and Environmental Micriobiology (May 2000) documenting the levels of mycotoxins in building materials contaminated by fungi.
Click here to download a study on the Measurements of Airborne Fungal and Endotoxin Levels in Water-Damaged Buildings
Click here to download a research paper published by government researchers in Environmental Health who found that reducing dampness and mold in residential buildings significantly reduced the number of respiratory infections (November 2010) .
Click here to download an important research paper published by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker in Bulletin of the IACFS/ME (April 2009) about moisture-damaged buildings and diagnoses of pediatric chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Click here to download an article that discusses how water-damaged building (WDB) illness is often misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Click here to download a research paper published by Texas Tech University researchers in Applied and Environmental Microbiology (Nov. 2005) documenting the levels of airborne mycotoxins in buildings with fungal contamination.
Click here to download information from the EPA on mold, toxins and health.
Click here to read an article about Aspergillus, the underrated fungi.
Click here to read an article about systemic candidiasis.
Click here to read about Candida and its role in sick-building syndrome.
Click here to read a white paper on fungal aflatoxins from the National Toxicology Program
Click here to read Crazy From the Mold?, an article by Dr. Lisa Nagy that addresses the many effects of exposure to toxigenic mold.
Click here to read Environmental Illnesses Gaining Attention from the Cleveland Plain Courier which discusses mold and multiple chemical sensitivity.
Click here for a chart of toxins and molds that produce them.
Click here to view a downloadable page explaining the types of molds: allergen, pathogen and toxin.
Click here to download chapter 34, Trichothecene Mycotoxins, from Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare by Drs. Robert Wannamacher and Stanley Wiener.
Click here to listen to a podcast episode with Erik Johnson, where he speaks about mold and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Now, can we please stop saying that mold is everywhere and that it doesn’t cause damage to human health?
Did you enjoy this article? If so, please share it far and wide so we can raise awareness about this unspoken epidemic, the epidemic of Toxic Mold Illness.
Need more information on mold, then check out my recommended reading here.
Because your health matters,
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