Mold and your health

What is mold?

Mold, (also called fungus), is a family of organisms that are found in many places. Unlike plants, mold need food and water sources in order to thrive. This food source is often in the form of a carbohydrate like material, such as wood or cellulose. Mold grows where it can find sustenance and reproduce through the formation of spores (like seeds for plants). Spores frequently spread in the air, and like pollen for many plants, can cause allergic disease.

Can mold make humans sick?

Mold has well-known associations with human disease. People can develop fungal infections of various types, especially those with poorly functioning immune systems. Mold is also known to produce toxins, which have been blamed for causing various diseases. Molds can also cause severe immune reactions as a result of colonizing (living in, but not causing an actual infection) the lungs and the sinuses. Molds are also well known to cause various allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Which molds are known to cause allergies?

There are thousands of types of mold, however, only a few of these are currently available for allergy testing. Many Mold species that thrive outside and can thrive in your house can cause bad allergic reactions and make people who live in that environment quite sick.

When does mold allergy occur?

In colder climates, molds can be found in the outdoor air starting in the late winter, and peaking in the late summer to early fall months (July to October). While indoor molds can occur year round and are dependent on moisture levels in the home, indoor mold levels are higher when outdoor mold levels are higher. Therefore, a common source of indoor mold is from the outside environment, although can also be from indoor mold contamination.

What measures can be used to decrease indoor mold levels?

  • Prevent outdoor molds from entering the home by keeping doors and windows closed and using air conditioning equipped with allergen-grade air filters
  • Control indoor moisture with the use of dehumidifiers
  • Fix water leaks in bathrooms, kitchens and basements
  • Ensure adequate ventilation of moist areas
  • Utilize HEPA-filters on vacuums or as a stand-alone air filter
  • Limit indoor houseplants, and ensure those that are present are free of mold on leaves and in potting soil
Bush RK, Portnoy JM. The Role And Abatement of Fungal Allergens In Allergic Disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001; 107:S430-40. Eggleston PA, Bush RK. Environmental Allergen Avoidance: An Overview. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001; 107:S403-5.

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