Mold is a generic name for various (over 300,000 species) kinds of intrusive fungi which contribute to nature by breaking down dead organic matter. One can define fungi (plural for fungus) as several types of plants which have neither leaves, flowers nor roots. Molds, found both indoors (home mold) and outdoors, do require moisture to actively grow and thrive. They are fuzzy in appearance and do reproduce either sexually, or asexually through spores which after their release into air, settle and grow on surfaces with the right amount of moisture – particularly damp and poorly ventilated areas. During dry conditions, these spores are very capable of remaining in a state of dormancy until the conditions become more favorable for their growth. Molds grow in colonies which can be formed within hours. Often associated with damp environments, they are renowned for weakening the structural integrity the medium on which they reside. Sometimes, these damages could remain hidden for years.
Generally, people with weaker immune systems – the elderly (over 65 years old), babies, infants, pregnant women, compromised immune systems (chemotherapy patients), respiratory issues (asthma) and skin allergies (eczema), are more susceptible to the adverse impacts of molds, than healthy adults.
While the presence of molds whether dead or alive, are not necessarily correlational to illnesses among people within their vicinity, in abundance, molds are often indicative of excessive moisture. Molds in damp conditions, can produce allergens – substances which cause allergies, and or irritants. Additionally, they could also be toxic, producing toxic compounds – mycotoxins. Molds, although ubiquitous, are generally harmless in low levels. However, in high concentrations (indoors), the major ways in which home mold can impact on human health are –
The nasal passages of humans are lined with respiratory mucus membrane. This membrane as well as the lungs, produces mucus – a slimy substance that traps debris, irritants or bacteria which invade the nasal passage. Mucus consists of antibodies and bacteria killing enzymes which function primarily, to fight of infections. The nasal passages as well as the windpipe, and lungs do consist of adequate moisture for the growth and multiplication of mold. When mold or its spore(s) are inhaled by an individual, it immediately starts to multiply within the respiratory system. The body on detecting this intrusion, immediately proceeds to eliminate it. This may result in excessive coughs and sneezes. The body might also produce mucus (antibodies, bacteria killing enzymes) in large quantities, to fight of the toxicity, if any, of these molds and this could result in nasal congestions, inflammations, and wheezes too.
Furthermore, repeated exposure to mold or its spores through touch, can also cause itches to the eyes (making them teary and or blurry), to the skin (producing rashes), and within the respiratory system (nasal passage, windpipe, lungs).
Frequent exposure to molds can initiate (an) allergic reaction(s) such as asthmatic attacks and sneezing. Also, contact with molds or their spores, can also result in muscular aches and pains, chronic fatigue, skin issues (rashes, eczema) and even damage some organs. These exposures can impact individuals who are either sensitive or non-sensitive to molds or their spores. For non-sensitive individuals, repeated exposure to molds can make them become sensitive (less resistant) to molds.
Contact with molds can also cause Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. This is a disease which bears great similarities with bacterial pneumonia.
Exposure to molds can cause opportunistic infections for those who have either a weakened or compromised immune system.
Mycotoxins which are produced by molds, can cause food poisoning which can either be severe, or fatal.
Furthermore, molds can also cause mental fatigues such as depression.
Regardless of the impact of home mold on human health, one should note that some of these impacts do bear great similarities with the symptoms of illnesses cause by a few parasites such as bacteria and dust mite.
Some molds do feature in the production of cheese (blue cheese), and antibiotics such as Penicillin (made from Penicillium).