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Human bodies can tolerate mold in small quantities. At what point they constitute a health hazard depends on each individual. Immune system reactions vary; the health effects of mold exposure include chronic fatigue and irritability, flu-like symptoms, respiratory problems, headaches, cognitive problems, and skin problems. A stressed immune system results in a weakened individual.
Another serious health threat from mold exposure is systemic fungal infection. Immunocompromised individuals exposed to high levels of mold, or individuals with chronic exposure paired with mycotoxin exposure may become infected. Sinuses and digestive tract infections are most common; lung and skin infections are also possible. Alcohol and mycotoxin production may result from the fungal growth, leading to myriad symptoms. Sudden food allergies and digestive problems can mislead diagnosis. Treatment can be long-term (many years). Systemic infection may be of the environmental mold itself, or by other common food-related molds consumed under a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system may also give rise to opportunistic infections, for example bacterial infection.
Environmental illnesses can be difficult for healthcare practitioners to diagnose. Those who are living in houses contaminated by the mold may not be able to smell any odor and may be unaware that the problem exists.
Molds exist everywhere in nature, and mold spores are a common component of household dust.
Molds excrete liquids or gases as defecatory matter; not all can be detected by smell. Some molds generate toxic liquid or gaseous compounds, called mycotoxins. Of these molds, some only produce mycotoxins under specific growing conditions. Mycotoxins are harmful or lethal to humans and animals when exposure is high enough.
Exposure to significant quantities of mold spores can cause toxic/allergic reactions.
Molds reproduce by very tiny particles called spores. Spores are very light and can travel on air currents. They need moisture, food, and a surface to grow on and can be seen throughout the house, mostly in bathrooms. Mold growth can often be seen in the form of discoloration, and can appear in many colors, i.e. white, orange, pink, blue, green, black or brown.
The first course of action in getting rid of mold is to determine why it is growing. Investigate any areas that are moist, and repair the source of the moisture. There could be a roof or plumbing leak, or groundwater leaking into the basement. Air duct systems could be contaminated with mold. Clothes dryers generate humidity and should never be vented inside the house. Substances that are porous can trap molds and if contaminated should be thrown out, i.e. paper, rags, wallboard and wood.
After making repairs, it is time to clean. For those who are extremely sensitive to molds it is advisable to call professionals in to rid their homes of molds. For those who can do their own cleaning, do the following:
Mix a household cleaner without ammonia in hot water and scrub affected areas before sanitizing with the bleach solution that is 10% bleach and 90% water.
Wear gloves when handling moldy materials and also wear a particulate-removing respirator or facemask. Also wear protective clothing that is easily cleaned or may be discarded.
Hard, non-porous materials can be cleaned with a solution of bleach and water, 10% bleach to 90% water. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe the area clean. Never mix bleach with other cleaning products; it can produce a toxic gas! It is important to clean thoroughly. If you leave some mold behind the spores will be easily released back into the air when the material dries out.
Remove porous materials such as ceiling tiles, drywall, and carpeting, and dispose of them. They are nearly impossible to clean and will produce more spores when dry.
Get an ozone generator and treat your contaminated space and objects.