Thursday, September 25, 2008

Health Care and Mold

More and more Americans are dealing with an ever increasing health issue concerning mold. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), molds are living organisms that grow in damp places in your home. They stain or discolor surfaces and smell musty. There are hundreds of thousands of different types of mold. Mold can grow almost anywhere: on walls, ceilings, carpets, or furniture. Humidity or wetness, caused by water leaks, spills from bathtubs or showers, or condensation, can cause mold to grow in your home. Mold spores are tiny particles that float through the air. These can sometimes cause health problems, and according to HUD, mold does not affect everyone, and different people are affected differently when mold is breathed or inhaled.

The Mold Help Organization reports that molds can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and something to feed on. In the fall, they grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, especially in moist, shady areas. In gardens, they can be found in compost piles and on certain grasses and weeds. Molds grow in our homes in moist warm areas like damp basements, closets, and bathrooms, even after the moisture has dried up. Also, molds can grow in places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, or foam rubber pillows. The worst place that molds can grow, however, is inside wall cavities and flooring of our homes, wherever there may be cellulose materials they can feed on, such as wood, ceiling tiles, or plasterboard, even if they are not visible, and they have sustained water damage at one time or another. This is very common if there has been a plumbing leak or an inadequate roof. Actually, any type of water damage can cause a mold problem.

The Center for Disease Control indicates that molds are fungi that are found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Mold can cause or worsen certain illnesses (e.g., some allergic and occupation-related diseases and infections in health care settings). No conclusive evidence exists, however, to associate mold exposure with a multitude of other health problems, such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. The CDC conducts and supports activities to investigate the effect of mold on human health, to assist states in responding to concerns about mold, and to investigate concerns of employees and employers.

According to HUD, people with allergies to mold may get:
--Watery eyes
--Runny or stuffed noses
--Itching
--Headaches
--Difficulty breathing

Mold can also trigger asthma attacks as also reported by HUD. Some molds produce toxins (poisons) that may be hazardous if people are exposed to large amounts of these molds. Mold spores and related mycotoxins can also pose a serious health threat to individuals who have compromised immune systems.

The organization Mold Help reports that mold has certainly made its way into people's homes as well as the headlines on a regular basis. Many people still don't fully understand the health hazards of fungal exposure. The term toxic mold is somewhat misleading as it exudes an idea that certain molds are toxic, when actually certain types of molds produce secondary metabolites that produce toxins. The correct term is mycotoxins. Airborne mycotoxins from can definitely destroy one's health. Sometimes, people are unaware that they are breathing mold spores and mycotoxins until they are very sick. Certain people have a minor allergic reactions to the non-toxic mold, but once you leave the affected area they most likely recover with few serious side effects. However, if they have been exposed to the dangerous molds such as Stachybotrys or Chaetomium, they could suffer from a myriad of serious symptoms and illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, learning disabilities, mental deficiencies, heart problems, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple chemical sensitivity, bleeding lungs, and much more.

The Mold Help Organization also reports that as most know, many molds can cause allergens that can affect some of the population, but some molds can also cause toxins, which can affect everyone, depending on the length of exposure. Approximately 25 million Americans suffer from allergic reactions to molds yet most of them don't even realize that when they're sneezing and sniffling the cause could be from fungi. The molds that produce airborne toxins that can cause serious symptoms, such as breathing difficulties, memory and hearing loss, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, and acid reflux. Common ailments from toxigenic mold---including allergies (hypersensitivity after initial toxicity), and excessive bruising---usually can be treated and reduced after people leave their contaminated environment. Often medication, diet, and other treatment protocols are necessary. But other health problems may remain permanently, such as brain damage and weakened immune systems. Eyesight, memory, coordination/balance, and hearing are generally the most common residual effects that often do not improve after treatment in most cases.

According to HUD, here are some tips to prevent and get rid of mold:
--Keep your house clean and dry.
--Fix water problems such as roof leaks, wet basements, and leaking pipes or faucets.
--Make sure your home is well ventilated and always use ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens.
--If possible, keep humidity in your house below 50% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
--Avoid using carpeting in areas of the home that may become wet, such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
--Dry floor mats regularly.

HUD also reports how to find mold that might be growing in your home:
--Search for moisture in areas that have a damp or moldy smell, especially in basements, kitchens and bathrooms.
--Look for water stains or colored, fuzzy growth on and around ceilings, walls, floors, windowsills and pipes.
--If you smell a musty odor, search behind and underneath materials such as carpeting, furniture or stored items.
--Inspect kitchens, bathrooms and basements for standing water, water stains and patches of out-of-place color.

HUD indicates how to control moisture problems and mold:
--Fix any water problems immediately and clean or remove wet materials, furnishings or mold.
--Clean up spills or floods within one day. If practical, take furniture that has been wet outside to dry and clean. Direct sunlight prevents mold growth.
--Dry all surfaces and fix the problem or leak to prevent further damage.
--Install a dehumidifier when a moisture problem is evident or when the humidity is high.

The Mold Help Organization reports also that the disturbing factor about airborne mycotoxins is that it is impossible to know how much damage they have caused to one's health until it is too late. Therefore, it is imperative to not knowingly expose oneself even for brief periods of time in any place that smells moldy or has an appearance of mold or mildew. If you suspect that the air quality in your home is being compromised by mold spores you can have the air tested, but it can be quite expensive in some instances. It's worth it if it helps save your health. Mycotoxicosis, often mistakenly called "Toxic Mold Syndrome" out of ignorance, has reached epidemic proportions at a national level in the United States due to defective construction, lack of regular maintenance, shoddy and inappropriate building materials, ignorance, and lack of government involvement; all or in part due to the high costs of standard and substandard remediation. This illness has been so misunderstood; and some who profit from the misfortunes of these poor individuals even go so low as to claim that there is no evidence to back up the fact that mold can cause permanent neurological, psychological, immunological and pathological damage, despite the medical data from well respected physicians all over the world.

If you suffer from any immune deficiencies, allergies, or other health related issues that may be more susceptible to the ill effects caused by mold, take the precautions as outlined in this information to heart. Don't let mold creep up on you.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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