Tuesday 27 July 2021

How Mold Impacts Indoor Air Quality

Posted by at 10:14 AM in

The presence of mold and mold spores in a building can have an adverse effect on indoor air quality, severely impacting the health and well-being of those inside, particularly those with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as allergies and asthma. If, after reading about the air quality concerns related to mold, you feel it's in your best interest to have a mold assessment performed at your property, please don't hesitate to contact one of the mold specialists at DryBoston.

woman sneezing because of mold

How Does Mold Impact Health?

It’s important to note that mold is present virtually everywhere in the environment.  There are well over 100,000 species of mold identified with estimates over a million species yet to be discovered.  Because mold is present everywhere, specific, low levels of mold are considered acceptable by the EPA regarding the safety and integrity of a structure. Where mold is harming a structure and in its inhabitants, there are three main ways it can cause problems.

Spores

Spores, quite simply, are the reproductive bodies of mold.  As the mold matures, it releases spores, which, depending on the species of mold, vary in size, shape, weight and method of distribution.   Some spores are light and float easily through the air while others are wet and sticky and will cling to pretty much anything to travel.  Once spores are released, they travel and wait until they encounter an environment suitable for proliferation – that is, one that has a food source and sufficient moisture.  Excessive spores in the air, beyond the limits set by the EPA, can be indicative of a greater mold problem somewhere else in the structure and can cause respiratory problems for the inhabitants of the building who are breathing the air contaminated with the spores.

VOCs

A less talked-about problem from mold is volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.  VOCs are produced as a primary metabolite of mold and are considered volatile because they evaporate easily at room temperature and pressure.  The musty smell often associated with mold is generally caused by VOCs.  VOCs can irritate the mucus membranes and can cause both long- and short-term health problems.

Toxins

In addition to VOCs, many molds produce compounds called mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins are toxic to other organisms, including people, and are believed to be a defense mechanism for mold.  They are not produced all the time or by all species of mold, and, unlike VOCs, are not volatile.  Data surrounding mycotoxins is unfortunately limited, but they have been shown to cause mild to severe symptoms in animals and humans, so it’s recommended to minimize exposure as much as possible.

Symptoms of Exposure

Symptoms of mold exposure are typically mild and usually caused by excessive spores in the air as opposed to the mold itself.  Mold spores are respiratory irritants.  Additionally, some people are allergic to spores, so they will experience more severe symptoms.  Common symptoms of mold exposure are runny and blocked nose, watery eyes, dry coughs, skin rashes, sore throats, and wheezing.  These symptoms will be more severe in those with mold allergies or pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD and may include shortness of breath.  Because mold releases VOCs, buildings contaminated with large amounts of mold can also cause health issues related to VOC exposure such as headache, nausea, nose and throat discomfort, fatigue, dizziness, and skin irritation.  If the mold found in the structure is one of the few molds that produces mycotoxins that are toxic to humans, symptoms can become more severe ranging from chronic fatigue to cancer.  It’s especially important to note that these kinds of reactions are extremely rare, and not something to typically be concerned about if you think you have mold in your home. 

Mold spores are present virtually everywhere, inside and outside, and aren’t a cause for concern unless they are given the chance to proliferate.  In the presence of a food source and moisture, mold can grow, and with it the potential for health problems.  Most health issues related to mold growth are caused by the spores themselves and are very mild allergy symptoms, but recognizing the more severe symptoms that are possible for certain kinds of mold can help you protect yourself and your family. 

DryBoston is dedicated to helping Boston-area families and businesses have a healthy, safe environment. Please contact us today to schedule a mold assessment!