Children, the elderly, and people with depressed immune systems due to cancer, organ transplants, or AIDS, can become very sick when exposed to higher than normal levels of mold. Even some healthy individuals happen to be very sensitive to mold and are unable to tolerate a slight elevation of mold spores.
Mold, scientifically known as fungi (singular: fungus), is not new – it's been around since the beginning of time and is a normal occurrence. Mold spores are found everywhere, even in Antarctica. The amount of spores in the air fluctuates day to day according to geographical locations, temperature, and the weather. Mold is abundant – there are between 1.3 to 3 millions species of mold, and they come in all kinds of colors. Some are common, and some are rare. Some are known to be toxic.
Mold can be classified into three broad categories as far as health effects are concerned. The first category is allergenic molds, which cause allergic or asthmatic reactions, but do not usually cause permanent health effects in most healthy, active people. There are pathogenic molds, which can cause serious health problems in those who are more susceptible. And finally, there are toxic molds that can cause serious health problems in everyone. The severity of these problems differs depending on age, immune system, and sensitivity.
Mold becomes a problem when it is growing inside our homes. A mold problem is, above all, a water or humidity problem. Without moisture mold spores can not grow. Thus it behooves homeowners to practice mold prevention through regular maintenance and being vigilant in making prompt repairs when leaks occur. One must remember that within 24 to 48 hours following leaks, mold can start growing.
Mold serves a good purpose in life by breaking down dead organic material, because without it, we would be living in a trash heap. To reproduce itself mold ejects microscopic spores (seeds) into the air. When a spore lands in a good environment with food (dead organic material such as wood or drywall) and water, it starts to grow. It then sends a hyphae (tree-root like system) into the material and these hyphae emit enzymes that rot and digest the material it is sitting on. If anyone has tried to "clean up" mold and has seen it coming back, it is due to those hyphae that stay embedded in the material. A few weeks following the cleaning, mold reappears because the root system is still in the material, and similar to a plant, it grows back if moisture lasts to be present. Certain types of mold do not even need a leak in order to grow. If the relative humidity of the air (RH) is above 60% some mold can take the humidity from the air and start growing on walls, furniture, and personal effects.
Sometimes people have no idea that a problem has taken place until they get sick. Plumbing leaks in showers are notorious for being unnoticed for a long period of time before being discovered. If mold is suspected, call a mold inspector who will be able to detect whether a mold problem exists and if so where it is coming from. Before hiring a professional, it is important to obtain credentials and references. Mold detection is not an exact science, so experience often equal expertise.
If your child sees to have constant allergies, it might be due to mold. Collecting air samples with a corresponding outside control is the only way to assess the air quality, with respect to mold spores, inside the home.
In 2005 researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that fungi play a large role in chronic rhinosinusitis. In fact, the findings indicates that chronic rhinosinusitis is a result of a fungal driven inflammation rather than a bacterial infection.
Indoor air quality problems in schools affect both students and teachers. The following statistics were published on February 2, 2005 by the IEQ Review:
One in five schools in America has indoor air quality problems.
Asthma accounts for 14 million missed school days each year.
The rate of asthma in young children has risen by 160 percent in the past 15 years.
1 out of every 13 school-age children has asthma.
The Center for Indoor Environments and Health at the University of Connecticut states "the most common types of illnesses directly related to mold are type I responses of allergic rhinitis and asthma." They go on to say "… allergic inflammation can trigger bronchospasm, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, leading to either new sunset of asthma or asthma exacerbation in sensitized individuals."
Poor maintenance in schools and lack of money are often cited as excuses for mold problems, but little is done about it. This does not only refer to public schools; Some private schools are just as bad. Many universityorms, regardless of school prestige, are in poor condition and some harbor mold. Students accept these conditions as status quo and fail to complain. This situation does not have to be. If money can be found to modernize a gym and re-sod the school lawn, money can be found to maintain buildings properly. Air quality should be a priority of any institution, and parents and teachers should demand it.