Mold Types And Causes
Toxic mold contamination is a serious issue that may cause a variety of physical, emotional and financial hardships for many. Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you understand what toxic mold is, as well as how it may effect you and your family.
Mold is a fungus that exists both indoors and outdoors, but not all molds are toxic. Many are harmful, but only a few types of mold can cause potentially serious injury. Most simply cause symptoms similar to those of seasonal allergies. Some, however, can cause more serious illnesses, such as pulmonary edema, brain damage, and emphysema. In some case of prolonged exposure, death may result. The common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Alternaria.
Stachybotrys, or black mold, is commonly recognized as the most dangerous of the mold species Stachybotrys chartarum. Spores from this particular mold produce mycotoxins, which are toxic to humans if inhaled, eaten, or touched. Stachybotrys appears black and velvety or slimy, and is found in areas that have been exposed to standing water for a lengthy time period. It grows on materials that are rich in cellulose, such as sheet rock, wall paper, insulation, ceiling tiles, and wallpaper. Most of time when it is found indoors there has already been considerable water damage because it's gone unnoticed or ignored. This is because it is a type of mold that needs long periods of time with persistent and increased levels of moisture.
Cladosporium, Fusarium, Alternaria and Penicillium
All of these dangerous mold families can be found in soil, on dead plants, on cellulose rich materials such as sheet rock, insulation or fabric, on water-damaged carpets, humidifiers, and in grain—among other things. These types of mold are very dangerous if allowed to colonize in a home. Fusarium and Cladosporium can also grow in ductwork that is lined with fiberglass.
The most serious symptom of excessive Fusarium exposure is something called hemorrhagic syndrome, which can be extensive internal bleeding, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and dermatitis. The can produce trichothecene toxins, which are dangerous to humans because they target alimentary, skin, circulatory, and nervous systems. They are the cause many times for outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illness. They also produce Zearalenone, which is a type of mycotoxin produced by Fusarium, and is similar to the estrogen hormone and targets reproductive organs.
Penicillium can cause asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and allergic alveolitis. There are many different species, the most common of which are Penicillium chrysogenum, Penicillium citrinum, Penicillium janthinellum, Penicillium purpurogenum, and Penicillium marneffei. It is isolated from cases of people with pneumonia, ear infections, keratitis, endocarditis, peritonitis, and urinary tract infections. The infection may appear as papules that look like acne on extremities and the face and trunk. It also can product mycotoxins that can cause kidney and liver damage.
Aspergillus grows in the same type of environment as the other four mold families. It is the most common of the black mold group. It feeds on many of the same materials as the rest of the common indoor mold group. There are three categories of Aspergillus. The Aspergillus niger is the 3rd most common to be associated with disease, though it is the most common in nature because it can grow on a large variety of items. It can cause "fungal ball", where the fungus multiplies quickly in the human lung while forming a ball, though it does not invade the lung tissue itself. The Aspergillus flavus is the 2nd most common fungi when it comes to cases of Aspergillus infection, which produces mycotoxin aflatoxin, the one of most potent carcinogen. The Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common species that causes infection, and can be seen in decomposing organic material. People who are exposed to it too much develop a hypersensitivity to the spores and can suffer from relentless allergic reactions.
All of these species are found naturally, either indoors or outdoors. To avoid contracting illness from any of these black molds, you must take precautions. Eliminate any standing water, and get rid of any old building materials and dead plants. Also, never try to test any mold. Call the local health department or a licensed professional if you suspect a mold problem.