is a microorganism that occurs naturally in our environment. They are very small plant-like life forms that consume formerly-living
material. Mold spreads over surfaces using a fibrous root system that supports primitive-looking plant-like stems and leaves.
Molds frequently produce spores that can be carried by winds and by fans that circulate air in a home. When spores land in
humid places on warm carbon-rich surfaces, new mold grows. Many of the things that we take for granted are the result of mold,
such as leaves decaying, composting and the development of antibiotics, including penicillin. The problem is that while some molds are helpful, others are toxic and can be harmful
to our health and homes.
Most molds, when ingested
(some in antibiotics, beer, wine, cheese) are not harmful; some, when ingested (cows eating moldy hay; people eating moldy
cereal grains and peanuts) are harmful to most people. Ingestion can cause burning mouth, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Similarly, most spores produce allergic reactions in most people. Very few produce spores that are toxic to most people. The
greatest risk is in babies, elderly people, people with chronic inflammatory lung disease (including
allergies and asthma), pregnant women, people recovering from surgery, and people with weakened immune systems.
The development of health problems depends on many
factors, some of which include: Type
of mold, length of exposure time, quantity of mold in exposure area, disposition to health problems (related to general health,
age and sensitivity to other allergens).
Because susceptibility varies, even within the members of
a family living in a home, it is not possible to determine safe or unsafe levels. It is possible, however, to identify which
molds are present and to learn about the health risks known to be attributed to these molds.
The following is a summary of known health problems
related to mold: Molds produce spores that produce allergens (organic chemicals)
that can cause allergic reactions such as headaches, runny nose, red eyes, skin rashes, sinus problems, aches and pains, nosebleeds, hair
loss, sore throats, memory loss, inability to concentrate or to learn, weakness and lethargy, etc. Pathogenic molds cause serious health effects. These molds (often
called toxic molds) produce mycotoxins. A mycotoxin is a toxic secondary metabolite produced by an organism of the
fungus kingdom, including mushrooms, molds, and yeasts. The production of toxins is dependant on the surrounding intrinsic and extrinsic environments and the toxins vary
greatly in their severity, depending on the organism infected and its susceptibility, metabolism, and defense mechanisms.