Mould, Water Damage and Health
Mould spores are everywhere. They are a vital part of life on earth as they play the important role of breaking things down. However, like most “pests,” within our homes, they can wreak havoc, in two ways.
Before examining these, the following are important points to note.
Mould Doesn’t Have To Be Obvious To Be Present
You may not be able to see or smell mould for it to be present.
Mould can grow in between the walls, under tiles, behind the kickboards in the kitchen, and it can even be growing on the wall without being visible to the naked eye.
Oft times, when you can see is it, it is just the tip of the iceberg, where there is so much more that is out of sight, and the patch you can see is just an indication that it is there.
Mould Doesn’t Have To Be Growing To Be A Problem
Mould releases spores and hyphae (branches) can break off it and circulate in your home. Spores and hyphae both pose risks to human and animal health due to the mycotoxins that they contain.
Firstly, mould can structurally damage your home. Building materials that are wet for more than 48 hours can create a perfect habitat for mould, primarily as there is both water and source of food.
As well, water-damaged insulation is less effective, and therefore can increase energy consumption.
The presence of moisture can be attractive for vermin and termites, both of which are problematic in terms of the former being capable of carrying disease, and the latter being able to seriously damage the integrity of a building.
Modern building design is centralised around the notion of being energy efficient, this generally means “well-sealed,” which results in a building losing its ability to breathe. A result of this is that moisture cannot escape, and thus building materials, even without being affected by a leak or flood, can become “water-damaged.”
Secondly, mould can wreak havoc with regards to health. For most people, they are able to mount a healthy immune response and fight off the effects of mould.
But for around 24% of people who are genetically susceptibility, the immune response is mounted and is never shut down. This results in chronic inflammation, and the work of US researcher Dr Ritchie Shoemaker has dubbed this Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
Mould Can Be Problematic
Clearly, the presence of mould, mould spores and/or hyphae can have life changing consequences, particularly in a genetically susceptible person.
What follows is a list of signs and symptoms identified that may be related to mould exposure. This is for your information and is not intended to diagnose or to replace the advice or care of your registered health care professional.
Symptoms Associated with a Water-Damaged Building
Of three systematic reviews on the adverse health effects associated with water-damaged buildings, the following signs and symptoms were consistent: cough, wheeze and asthma.
Other symptoms include upper respiratory tract symptoms, respiratory infections, bronchitis, allergic sensitisation and hayfever. This set of symptoms is also recognised by New York State (2010),
Meta analyses by Shoemaker and House (2004, 2) found acceptance of “allergic and irritant effects on pulmonary function,” asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and inflammation. Headaches and tiredness have also been associated with mould exposure (Bornehag et al, in New York State, 2010, 27; IICRC, 2008, 74), as has cause skin reactions (National Institute of Medicine, 2004, 170).
Children and those with preexisting conditions are recognised as being at great risk (New York State, 2010, 27).
Other health effects
Neuropsychological effects, impaired energy production pathways, changes to hormonal functions, alterations to visuo-spatial learning and memory, migraine, pain, balance problems, autonomic nervous system abnormalities, and respiratory problems were all noted in research analysed by the Mold Research Committee (2010).
The National Institute of Medicine acknowledges that there are a group of mycotoxins that “selectively or specifically target the nervous system” resulting in neurotoxic effects, some of which include interfering with neurotransmitters or receptors (2004, 157, 160).
Many sources correlate mould-exposure to sick building syndrome, this is discussed at length in IICRC, 2008). By removing a person from a mouldy environment, it has been noted that their symptoms dissipate (New York State, 2010, 27).
Looking deeper, there is a growing body of research that implicates mould in inflammation (as discussed by the Mold Research Committee, 2010).
Dr Shoemaker’s research has found that inflammation is a large part of the pathologies associated with mould and other biotoxins, such as those from fish kills. He has found that there are specific genotypes that predispose a person to being unable to effectively deal with the resultant inflammation from a biotoxin exposure, and as such chronic inflammation results.
According to Shoemaker (2014), signs and symptoms of CIRS are as follows:
Muscles, Bones and Skin
- Muscle cramps
- Unusual pain
- Ice pick pain
- Joint pain
- Morning stiffness
- Skin sensitivity
Head and Eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Positive VCS test
- Sinus problems
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Appetite swings
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Sweats (especially night sweats)
- Temperature regulation or dysregulation problems
- Memory issues
- Focus/concentration issues
- Word recollection issues
- Decreased learning of new knowledge
- Mood swings
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Static shocks
Wise Acre (2014) includes the following signs and symptoms:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Sensitivity to environment
- Night blindness
- Ringing in the ears
- Hearing loss
- Nose bleeds
- Sensitive to odours
- Eyes puffy/dark circles
- Vocal cord polyps
- Nasal polyps
- Laryngitis or raspy voice
- Burning in throat/sore throat
- Shooting pains
- Fleeting and moving pains
- Swelling or oedema
- Bile reflux
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Poor short-term memory
- Lack of sex drive
- Thickened skin
- Skin reacts to the sun
- Cold hands and/or feet
- Discoloured hands and/or feet
- an area has been wet for more than 48 hours;
- there is a history of water damage; or
- you have any concerns
… it is worth getting your home or built environment assessed.
#mould #waterdamage #health
IICRC S520. (2008).Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mould Remediation. (2nd ed). ANSI/IICRCS520-2008. Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Vancouver, Washington. USA.
Mold Research Committee (27 July 2010) “Research Committee Report on Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Caused by Exposure to the Interior Environment of Water-Damaged Buildings” Policyholders of America (Online) Available: http://courses.aces.edu.au/pluginfile.php/720/mod_resource/content/1/Policy%20Holders%20of%20America%20%282011%29%20CIRS.pdf
National Institute of Medicine (2004). Damp indoor spaces and health. National Academies Press. (Online). Available: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309091934
New York State. (2010). Toxic Mould Task Force. Final report to the governor and legislature. (Online). Available: https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/mould/task_force/docs/final_ toxic_mould_task_force_report.pdf
Shoemaker RC and House DE. (2004). A time series study of sick building syndrome: chronic biotoxin-associated illness from exposure to water damaged building. Neurotoxicology and Teratology
Shoemaker, RC (2014) Symptoms of Mold Exposure. (Online). Available: http://www.survivingmold.com/mold-symptoms
Wise Acres (2014) Signs & Symptoms of CIRS/Mold/Biotoxin Illness (Online) Available: http://herbaltransitions.com/SignsAndSymptomsOfChronicInflammatoryResponseSyndrome.html