Molds are organized into three groups according to human responses: Allergenic, Pathogenic and Toxigenic.
Allergenic molds do not usually produce life-threatening health effects and are most likely to affect those who are already allergic or asthmatic. The human system responses to allergenic molds include: hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.
Pathogenic molds usually produce some type of infection. They can cause serious health effects in persons with suppressed immune systems. Healthy people can usually resist infection by these organisms regardless of dose. In some cases, high exposure may cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis (an acute response to exposure to an organism).
Mycotoxins can cause serious health effects in almost anybody. These agents have toxic effects ranging from short-term irritation to immunosuppression and possibly cancer. Therefore, when toxigenic molds are found further evaluation is recommended.
Common Indoor Molds
The most common types of molds found indoors include:
- Stachybotrys, also known as “Black Toxic Mold.”
Some molds, including Stachybotrys, produce chemical toxins known as “mycotoxins,” which are generated and released into the air, leading to the “toxic mold” designation. Exposure to these toxins can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact, and can result in symptoms including dermatitis, cough, rhinitis, nose bleeds, cold and flu symptoms, headache, general malaise and fever.
The US EPA states that mold spores, whether dead or alive, can cause adverse health effects and allergy symptoms.
For more information about types of molds and mold-related health problems, go to the EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldbasics.html