Although most types of mold are benign and are innocuous to your health, some can cause great harm with prolonged exposure. You can actually use your health symptoms to discover mold if you pay close enough attention, and people who have a mold allergy are much more sensitive to the mycotoxins in the mold. In extreme cases, people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may even develop mold infections in their lungs.
So what types of mold are considered dangerous, and why?
The fungus that causes mildew is not generally harmful, although the fungi can be fowl smelling and visually unappealing. This is especially true if it’s allowed to grow uninhibited. There are also many forms of mold that are not harmful, as mentioned previously. The harmful forms of mold are quite serious though, and excessive inhalation can result in severe health effects.
There are six common types of household mold, each of which can cause different health effects when exposed.
- Alternaria is a dark green, grey or black mold with long velvety hairs. It doesn’t need as much moisture to grow as the other types of mold do, and it tends to reside in carpet, clothing, around windows, and damp areas such as flooded basements. The health detriments include respiratory problems, asthma and hay fever.
- Aspergillus is a grey, brown, yellow, green white or black mold that grows very quickly. It produces a carcinogen called aflatoxin and can cause infections in people with weak immune systems. This mold can be found on walls, insulation, soil, clothing, and in humid, moist areas like leaky basements.
- Cladosporium is a green, brown, grey or black mold that is powdery in appearance. It grows on food, dead plants, wood, insulation and dark, damp environments like basements. It can cause severe allergic reactions and is very harmful for people with asthma, allergies, and weakened immune systems.
- Memnoniella is a dark green or black mold that causes respiratory problems, headaches and coughing. This variety of mold can be found lurking on canvas, wool, cotton, ceilings, walls and damp areas (like basements).
- Penicillium can be green, white or blue and is very fuzzy in appearance. A person can experience irritation to his/her stomach if penicillium is ingested, and airborne spores can cause congestion, coughing and eye irritation.
- Stachybotrys is one of the most dangerous types of mold often referred to as “toxic black mold.” Surprisingly however, it also comes in dark green! This mold is quite slimy and may cause cancer, headaches, asthma, dizziness, and joint pain. This mold can be found in walls, ceilings, floorboards, and other moist areas.
What are some health symptoms to look out for?
Some mold has toxins called mycotoxins that can cause an allergic reaction or other illness in some people. Symptoms of a mold allergy (or sensitivity) might include headaches, asthma, coughing, skin rash, runny nose, eye irritation, and congestion. In other people, exposure to mold and mildew can produce fatigue, nausea, headaches, muscle pain, and/or respiratory, throat and eye irritation. Some other signs of mold exposure could be: difficulty swallowing, a burning in the lung and throat, bladder or kidney pain, dark or painful urine, balance problems and possibly other ailments, depending on the type of mold to which one is exposed.
Broken down, some adverse effects from mold on one’s vascular system include: blood vessel fragility and hemorrhaging from tissues or lungs. Respiratory effects include trouble breathing, asthma, and bleeding from the lungs, while digestive issues can include: diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, liver damage, fibrosis and necrosis. Lastly, mold can affect one’s neurological system, with symptoms such as tremors, loss of coordination, headaches, depression and (rarely) multiple sclerosis.
Being that some of these symptoms could also be signs of a common cold, seasonal allergies, the flu or countless other sicknesses/diseases- keep in mind if you start sneezing or coughing you don’t necessarily have mold exposure.
There are many kinds of mold and mildew that one could be exposed to in his/her life, and if you think that you may have encountered mold and are showing one or more symptoms, a good place to start looking for medical care would be with your primary or general health care provider.
If you feel that the mold needs to be tested please look into calling an Industrial Hygienist.
If you have mold growth in your home in Northern Virginia, don’t hesitate to call us for professional mold removal.