growth can affect your Health
This year's heavy
winter snows and threatening floods could provide
fertile breeding ground for mold and mildew in
your home. Apart from the damage that mold can
cause to your household items, it is important to
be aware of the its health implications.
associate mold and ill health effects with
consuming perishable food after it loses it
freshness. But according to Andrew Streifel,
hospital environment specialist at the University
of Minnesota, the mold and mildew that grow in
damp parts of your home also can cause health
problems. "The body reacts to mold particles which
are airborne, spread and breathed into our lungs,"
When mold grows in
one area of the house, it can emit particles which
travel through the air. Generally, these particles
will settle into one area if there is little air
movement. But some of the particles will
inevitably stay airborne, so that inhabitants can
be exposed not just in the room where the mold is
growing, but throughout the entire house.
Streifel says that a
person breathing in mold particles can be at risk
for numerous illnesses. The biggest health threat
is from hypersensitive diseases, including asthma
and chronic nasal drip.
Humans can also
develop infections caused by airborne fungus.
According to Streifel, people who are
immune-suppressed are particularly susceptible.
"For example," says Streifel, "if someone with a
transplanted kidney organ were exposed to high
doses of mold particles, they could develop an
infection of the lung."
An emerging health
issue involves fungal growth which produces toxins
in spores, which can cause symptoms. But Streifel
says that knowledge on this reaction remains
limited and is being investigated.
There are various
symptoms of mold exposure, including eye
irritation, shortness of breath, running nose or
general malaise. You may notice that you suddenly
feel better when you leave an affected area. Poor
indoor air quality is associated most often with
inadequate ventilation, but investigations are
linking microbial growth with occupancy problems.
The best way to
prevent mold-related illnesses is to stop mold at
its source of growth, which means stopping
moisture. Keep the house dry, especially in
predictably damp areas like the bathroom or the
basement. If an area of your house starts smelling
like mildew, Streifel says it has already set up
shop and you will need to get the mildew under
control. Bleaching the moldy area thoroughly is
the first step. But Streifel warns that mold can
grow back even after the area is cleaned, so it is
a good idea to dehumidify damp areas.
occupants become most heavily exposed to mold
particles during the cleaning process; this is
especially true for the one doing the cleaning.
The cleaning stirs settled particles and the
ensuing air movement causes them to become
If you're going to
clean up a mold-ridden house, Streifel advises
that you wear a face mask. If you use a vacuum
cleaner to clean a moldy area, the particles that
are taken in could be reintroduced in the outflow
every time you vacuum. Use a highly filtered
vacuum and be sure to replace the used vacuum bag.
the importance of getting the moldy air out of the
house. Plan carefully to protect yourself and
others in the house when cleaning moldy areas, and
see a physician if you have persisting symptoms of