No one likes mold in their home. It looks disgusting, smells musty, and can even destroy some of the surfaces it grows on. But mold is more than just a mess—too much mold exposure can even threaten your health. Read on to get the facts about indoor mold exposure and what you need to know to protect your family from indoor mold health risks.
Risk 1: Allergies
Mold is one of the most common allergies, and indoor mold is a big problem for people who suffer from a mold allergy. You spend many hours every day breathing the atmosphere inside of your home, and a person with a mold allergy whose home has a lot of circulating mold spores is likely to suffer from symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and scratchy throat, every day. This constant state of inflammation can even leave you run down and more susceptible to catching illnesses. In short, mold in your home can make you pretty miserable and pretty sick if you’re allergic.
Risk 2: Asthma
Asthma is a condition that causes inflammation and constriction in the lungs. It leads to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. Asthma’s severity can range from relatively minor to life-threatening. According to the CDC, exposure to indoor mold can trigger asthma symptoms in some people with asthma, especially in people who are also allergic to mold. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Health, more than half of people with asthma also have respiratory allergies. According to the CDC, early mold exposure may also increase some children’s risk of developing asthma.
Risk 3: Respiratory Infection
Some people who are exposed to high levels of indoor mold can develop pneumonia-like respiratory infections. Those most at risk for these infections are people with weaker immune systems, such as the very old or very young, or people with health problems that compromise their immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients.
However, even otherwise-healthy people are at risk for certain mold-related respiratory infections. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Health, healthy people can contract the dangerous lung infection Histoplasmosis if they are exposed to an extremely large volume of mold spores, such as can occur while cleaning out a moldy environment such as a chicken coop. The CDC also reports some evidence of a connection between mold exposure and respiratory infections in otherwise healthy children.
Risk 4: Toxic Effects
Certain types of mold produce poisonous substances called mycotoxins. One mold that produces mycotoxins is the black-green mold Stachybotrys chartarum, which often grows in homes. Many families have reported illnesses related to mycotoxins, but the scientific community hasn’t come to an agreement yet on whether or not people can breathe in these mycotoxins in large enough doses to actually produce illness. In any case, the CDC recommends keeping levels of Stachybotrys chartarum and other molds to a minimum in your home.
Two More Health Risks
The CDC reports two more possible health risks for people who are exposed to too much indoor mold. The first is called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and it’s a condition in which your own immune system attacks part of your lungs and can cause flu-like symptoms such as chills, body aches and coughing in the short term, and serious consequences such as pulmonary fibrosis in long-term, chronic cases. Mold exposure can trigger hypersensitivity pneumonitis in some people.
The CDC also reports that otherwise healthy people can develop coughing and wheezing in an environment with too much mold. This is important because it can happen to anyone, even in the absence of allergies, asthma, or any other health condition.
The Solution: Keep your Mold Exposure to a Minimum
It’s impossible to completely eliminate mold from your home. But, eliminating any mold you see will help you keep airborne mold spores at a safe level. Here are some ways to keep mold levels down:
- Eliminate mold growth anywhere you see it, such as in the basement.
- If you smell a musty odor but don’t know where it’s coming from, follow your nose to the source. You could have hidden mold growth.
- Dry out any damp areas that invite mold growth, such as a wet basement.
- Don’t over-water plants; this encourages mold growth on top of the soil, and can even attract gnats.
- If you’re allergic to mold, check out these tips for beating indoor allergies.
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*Rinse all surfaces that come in contact with food such as countertops, appliances, tables and stovetops with potable water before reuse. Do not use on utensils, glassware or dishes.