How Do I Know If I Have Harmful Mold?
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Living in the South, mold is simply a fact a of life. When you walk outside, you will see various fungal growths everywhere you look. The growth of concern over mold portrayed in the media leaves many homeowners pondering whether mold is dangerous and if it is in their home. This article aims to educate homeowners on whether or not mold is harmful and when to be concerned over mold.
When looking at various media outlet's coverage of mold, many words and phrases get casually thrown around describing how "dangerous" and "deadly" mold can be. Some of the popular phrases are: black mold, mold sickness, toxic mold, or mycotoxins. All of these phrases have an origin and while there is validity to them at times, many factors go into whether these terms actually apply.
Let us begin with the most common question, "Do I have black mold?" Inspectors are constantly receiving calls from homeowners where the caller is worried about some type of black growth in their home. They want to know if it is safe to be around and if it could be the dreaded "black mold". This can be a difficult question to answer without testing, as mold is a complicated and diverse form of life. Black mold is a specific species of mold known as Stachybotrys chartarum, and while it is usually black in color, it is certainly not the only mold that is black. There are thousands of types of mold, and many are impossible to distinguish without the use of a microscope. Therefore, inspection and testing must be done in order to establish if you have black mold.
What if tests ensure it is not stachybotrys chartarum? This brings about another issue that the "black mold" notoriety has caused. Many people assume if they do not have black mold, they do not have a problem. In reality, there are many types of mold that can have nefarious effects on your body. Some of these effects are as subtle as allergies, while others can be more severe and akin to flu-like symptoms or worse. Mold being linked to the more dangerous end of the medical symptoms spectrum is what gave rise to the terms "mold sickness" and "toxic mold". So, how can you know if mold is slowly causing your demise? It is most likely not.
Mold does not affect everyone the same way. In fact, most people are unaffected by mold for the most part. A large list of variables determines how severely someone reacts to mold, and chief amongst these variables is genetic predisposition. Another group that is strongly affected by mold is those who have a preexisting medical condition. Mold can wreak havoc on an already compromised immune system, further exacerbating symptoms or possibly leading to new ones. Because of these factors, there is no designated safe or unsafe level of fungal contamination. In most cases, mold usually affects people in the same way any allergen does, and those not allergic do not usually develop the same symptoms as someone who does. It is not uncommon for one person in a household of five to constantly be the only one sick because they are the one affected by mold. It is generally accepted that one in four people are predisposed to these issues. This does not mean that those not allergic are totally safe from mold. Constant exposure to any foreign substance can always lead to problems.
While allergies are annoying and unpleasant, they are not the worst of what mold can bring to people. A small percentage of molds have the ability to present a chemical known as a mycotoxin. Mycotoxins are a secondary metabolite of fungi, meaning they are not always being produced. It is impossible to know if a fungus is actively producing mycotoxins without in-depth testing in a lab setting. Simply knowing the mold is capable of producing does not indicate that the mold is producing at that time. Mycotoxins are a toxic compound that fungi likely release into the air to eliminate the surrounding competition for resources. Being that the nature of mycotoxins is to kill other organisms, they can have serious consequences on human health. In theory, symptoms of mycotoxins, or mycotoxicosis, can range from mostly benign allergies to causing life threatening complications. It is largely thought that mycotoxins do not directly cause these issues but instead slowly weaken the immune system or organ systems which in turn lead to more devastating complications. If you suspect you have an issue with mycotoxicosis, you should consult a physician. Even with knowledge of what's behind your symptoms, your health will not get better until the cause is taken away.
The last question to answer here is "How are these toxins spread?" The answer is the same that applies to allergens, spores. Mold spores are their own form of reproductive units that they release to repopulate, which is a basic function of life. Mold usually only releases spores when there is a form of active disturbance or the source of water it needs is lessening. In a sense, spores can be considered a fungal defense mechanism to ensure its survival elsewhere when threatened. Unfortunately, these spores are what we inhale, and they are what can attribute to all of the negative health issues. Mold, itself, can be dangerous to ingest, but it is extremely unlikely you are unknowingly ingesting it. If you are experiencing health related mold problems, it is likely due to an inhalation issue with the spores. Spores are always a good indicator to the inspector of the the severity of the mold issue and where it is originating from.
Overall, mold can be extremely harmful to certain individuals, but the hype makes it out to be a lot worse of an epidemic than it actually is. If you do have mold in your home, it is still best to have it tested by a professional and removed if needed. You can reach MS Mold Investigators at (601) 201-4051, and have a local and trained professional come and examine your commercial or residential property today. MS Mold Investigators always provides post remediation testing to insure the job was done correctly and the house is at safe levels to breathe.