Effects of Mold: Allergens
The most common health issues attributed to biological pollutants are allergies. 41 million people in the United States alone complain of conventional allergies. The symptoms are easy to identify and can leave a person with a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, cough, aggravated asthma and headache.
An allergic reaction is triggered when the body recognizes a particle as being foreign. So, any symptoms that arise from this interaction is your body's way of telling you to get rid of the problem.
Persisting allergy problems can leave the immune system in a weakened state causing an individual to become susceptible to other infections if it is left untreated for extended periods of time. It is clear that mold (fungi) produces highly allergenic reactions that contribute to allergic symptoms, including asthma and hay fever.
Pathogenic Effects of Mold
Mold can also cause pathogenic effects, often consisting of skin infections. These very rarely pose a serious threat to healthy individuals, but severe reactions can be experienced by those with a suppressed immune systems such as AIDS patients or burn victims. It is important for people that are immunocompromised to be aware of the risks involved with exposure to opportunistic fungal spores.
These infections infect the nails, hair, and mucous membranes. Some common infections may be athlete's foot or ringworm.
Pathogenic molds can also affect pulmonary disease and respiratory infections.
Toxic Effects of Mold
The toxic effects of fungi are perhaps some of the most serious. All fungi release chemical substances called mycotoxins that vary in toxicity. These chemicals produce a variety of health effects including mucous membrane irritation, rashes, dizziness, nausea, and birth defects. Cancer has also recently been associated with mycotoxins, however, the only association that has been reported has been in heavily contaminated environments. Individuals are exposed to mycotoxins via ingestion, skin contact or inhalation. Although it is not yet clear how much exposure to mycotoxins is needed to produce these symptoms or to become detrimental to one's health, scientists from the CDC have taken the conservative approach by recommending very limited exposures.
The thing that you have to remember is that fungi exist everywhere. They can be found outside, in your home, and on your food. We are continuously exposed to fungi through both inhalation and ingestion and suffer none of the ill effects. Some fungi are even used as sources of drugs like antibiotics and anti-cancer agents. The majority of fungi that are commonly encountered are unlikely to cause disease unless the person being exposed has a severely deficient immune system resulting from HIV, diabetes, alcoholism, or chemotherapy. It has been found that even in these individuals, only fungi that can grow at the increased temperatures and reduced oxygen levels that are seen in the human body will cause infection. While immunocompromised individuals should know what risks are involved for them, healthy individuals should also take steps to avoid continuous or elevated exposure to airborne fungal spores until more research is done on what ill effects, if any, are produced by mold and its allergenic, pathogenic and toxic components.