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Health Risks Associated with Mould Exposure

Health Risks Associated with Mould Exposure

 

black mould

A rapid biological amplification occurs when buildings experience water damage due to leaks, floods, or moisture penetration. Mould typically manifests within 48 hours of the structure becoming moist, yet bacteria are often the initial microorganisms to proliferate. Notably, Moulds, such as Penicillium, and bacteria are in a natural state of competition. To protect their areas, the Mould and bacteria release chemical substances. The duration of moisture exposure directly correlates with the heightened risk of human exposure to an increased concentration and variety of contaminants. This underscores the need for timely intervention to dry out affected structures and mitigate the potential health hazards of Mould and bacterial proliferation.

Mould growth within buildings typically progresses through three distinct phases: primary, secondary, and tertiary development. While all Moulds possess allergenic properties, capable of triggering asthma and various Type 1 hypersensitivity, the Moulds in the tertiary phase, characterized by their slower growth, are more prone to evolving into toxicogenic variants. These Moulds, often referred to as “Toxic Mould,” do not inherently produce toxins; environmental stressors, including competition from other Moulds, bacterial presence, or the application of fungicidal agents like bleach, usually induce such production.

In addition to Mould and bacterial contaminants, damp or water-damaged structures are likely to harbour various other pollutants. These may include chemicals emanating from the wet building materials, as well as dust and particulate matter. Particulates of concern are
those small enough to be inhaled into the lower respiratory tract, potentially carrying toxins and exacerbating health risks. Therefore, maintaining the dryness and cleanliness of building environments is crucial to mitigate the
potential health hazards associated with these contaminants.

Mould Is Everywhere.

Mould is a ubiquitous fungal organism found globally, and humans are exposed to Mould spores daily. The term “ambient” refers to the background levels of Mould spores typically present in the environment, measured in spores per cubic meter. These ambient levels comprise various species or Mold genera, reflecting these organisms’ natural diversity. The Mould species composition may deviate from these ambient conditions in environments afflicted by water damage or excessive moisture.

Certain Moulds that thrive under damp conditions are notcommonly encountered in the ambient air and, when detected within residential settings, can indicate potential health risks. Although there are over 100,000 identified Mould species, only about 30 are recognized for their potential to pose health hazards, primarily proliferating in moist indoor environments. Among these, specific Moulds are categorized as toxic, capable of producing mycotoxins under certain conditions. However, the production of toxins is not consistent across all occurrences.

Regardless, all Moulds are considered allergenic, posing risks, particularly to individuals with heightened sensitivity. Exposure to Mould levels exceeding the average ambient concentrations can exacerbate or initiate asthma in susceptible individuals.

Vulnerability to Mould-related health issues is significantly higher among specific demographics, including children under the age of 11 whose immune systems are not fully developed, individuals over 60 experiencing diminished immune function, those undergoing long-term pharmaceutical treatments, or chemotherapy, and individuals with genetic predispositions to Mould sensitivities.

Hence, the presence of elevated Mould levels, especially those species associated with water-damaged environments, necessitates caution and remediation to mitigate potential health implications.

Health Complications Arising from Exposure to Mould

Exposure to Mould can elicit allergic responses and, in instances where mycotoxins are produced, may lead to severe health consequences. The risk associated with Mould exposure is contingent upon the concentration of spores encountered in single cases or sustained exposure to lower spore counts over extended periods, such as residing in Mould-infested environments.

Mould serves an ecological role as a decomposer, breaking down cellulose-based and organic materials. These materials are prevalent in residential structures, including wallpaper, drywall, furnishings, clothing, and even household dust, which often comprises dead skin cells. Various Mould species and bacteria vie for dominance in this competitive ecosystem, digesting these organic substrates. Certain Moulds may synthesize potent mycotoxins as a defensive mechanism against competing organisms when challenged.

The generation of mycotoxins, mainly when Mould colonies are under duress from other microbes or chemical treatments, is a
critical concern. Mycotoxins are recognized for their high toxicity, serving as benchmarks for the lethality of other toxins.

Notably, Moulds have been instrumental in developing pharmaceuticals, including statins, antibiotics, and immunosuppressive drugs used in transplant surgery. However, Mould and its byproducts in residential settings pose significant health risks. Mycotoxins are predominantly produced under stress conditions, such as competition, desiccation, or chemical eradication of Mould colonies. Significantly, the health hazards may be exacerbated by dead Mould.

The fragments of dead Mould spores, coated with mycotoxins and capable of penetrating deep into the lungs, pose a significant risk. The transfer of these toxins into the bloodstream via the respiratory system can have deleterious effects, even in minimal quantities. Therefore, it is imperative to address Mould contamination cautiously, ensuring dry and clean living environments to mitigate health risks.

Moulds producing Mycoxtoxin and effects.

Aspergillus has various species, but some can produce Aflatoxin and Ochratoxin, and these are carcinogens.
Penicillium can produce ochratoxin, which is explicitly linked to damage to the kidneys and liver and the depletion of the immune system.
Stachybotrys and Fusarium can produce Trichothecenes, which are known to be used in weapons of mass destruction and the pharmaceutical industry.

Attempting to kill Mould can inadvertently lead to the dispersion of hazardous substances known as mycotoxins, against which conventional fungicides may prove ineffective. Mould spores can colonize the pulmonary systems of individuals with heightened susceptibility, and the resultant mycotoxins can adhere to surfaces or become airborne, attached to particulate remnants of dead Mould.

Typical Symptoms from mould exposure:

Itchy eyes
Flu-like symptoms
Achy joints
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Tingling lips
Skin irritation and rings
Nose and lung bleeds
Headache
Blurred vision
Vertigo
Static electric shock
Metallic taste

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