Have you experienced headaches, tiredness, allergies or other unexplained symptoms associated with the amount of time spent in a specific building or room? You might have “Sick Building Syndrome” which is associated with mold exposure .
What is Mold?
Molds are fungi. The harmful effects of mold can be caused by exposure to mold directly, mold odor, mold byproducts, or dampness.
Harmful Effects of Mold
1) Mold Causes Respiratory Damage
Breathing mold or mold-derived byproducts into your lungs can be harmful in a variety of ways.
A meta-analysis showed that building dampness and mold increase the risk of respiratory infections and asthma by 30 – 50% .
A similar study on residential home dampness and mold showed an 8 – 20% increase in risk for respiratory infections and bronchitis .
In children, exposure to indoor mold was associated with an up to 50% increased risk for coughing. Moreover, stronger effects were seen for asthma in more crowded households .
A study on infants showed lung iron overload and lung bleeding disorders were significantly more abundant if they lived in homes with higher levels of fungi in the air and surfaces .
In buildings with water damage, respiratory illness was significantly associated with the presence of fungi and fungal metabolites .
Mold odor at home or work was associated with reduced lung function, especially in women .
2. Mold Can Induce or Worsen Asthma
Asthmatic children living in mold-contaminated homes had a higher proportion of blood neutrophils compared to people who are not exposed to mold .
In patients with asthma, exposure to mold odor is associated with significantly reduced lung function .
In people who are allergic to mold, asthma is more common and much more severe .
3. Mold Reduces Quality of Life
The presence of visible mold in the home was associated with a worse quality of life, as measured by having more sick days – both physical and mental .
Also, in patients with asthma, exposure to workplace dampness and mold was associated with a reduced quality of life .
4. Mold Can Damage the Kidneys and Liver
Mold produces toxic byproducts including aflatoxin, ochratoxin, orellanine, and zearalenone.
Ochratoxins damage kidneys and the immune system .
5. Mold Can Cause Eye, Nose, Throat, and Skin Inflammation
A questionnaire study was performed with 36,541 randomized parents. It found that moldy homes were associated with inflammation in the eyes, nose, throat, and skin .
A study was done measuring reported symptoms and indoor air quality by teachers in New York State .
Reported mold or mold odors was associated with a 70% increase in reporting one of the following symptoms :
- Sinus problems
- Throat irritation
In another school study, mold or water damage was associated with respiratory infections, eye irritation (~2.1X), nasal congestion (~2.4X), and sore throat (~2.7X) .
6. Mold May Cause Headaches and Fatigue
In a questionnaire study performed with 36,541 randomized parents, it found that moldy homes were with headache and fatigue .
7. Mold May Contribute to Autoimmunity and a Chronic Inflammatory State
In one study with 209 people, abnormally high levels of antibodies were found (ANA and antibodies against myelin). This means that mold may increase the risk for Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis . However, this study has a poor design and selection bias.
Shoemaker has coined the condition “CIRS”, which is a chronic inflammatory state that is induced after mold. It is characterized by high levels of inflammatory markers (C4a, MMP9, TGF-b1) .
One study in Sweden with 7.5k participants found that people were up to 2X more likely to have eczema in buildings with mold odor (2X), dampness and humid air .
Another study in the US with 8.4k people also found that people were close to 2X more likely to have eczema in building with a musty odor .
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a strain of yeast found in baker’s and brewer’s yeast. While not a mold, it is a Fungi. One study mentions that this is the closest evidence we have linking fungi to autoimmune disease .
A growing number of studies have detected high levels of Anti-S. cerevisiae autoantibodies (ASCAs) mainly in patients with Crohn’s, but also antiphospholipid syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and rheumatoid arthritis .
Antibodies against S. cerevisiae are found in 60–70% of patients with Crohn’s disease, and 10-15% in ulcerative colitis compared to 0-5% in healthy people .
It is thought that a protein in yeast mannan is similar to proteins in our body, and the body gets confused and starts attacking our own bodily proteins .
8. Mold May Have Some Alzheimer’s Link
One study brought down 7 case reports of people who had Alzheimer’s or Alzheimer’s like symptoms and there were various strains of mold found in their houses .
People Susceptible to Fungal Infections
Exposure to fungi or spores can lead to systemic fungal infection, also known as mycosis .
This is more common in people with compromised immune systems, for example, systemic lupus erythematosus, who are more likely to get certain fungi infections .
One study showed an increased risk of mycosis in alcoholic liver disease patients and this risk was also associated with an increased risk of death .
The use of antibiotics, pregnancy, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections, whereas clothing and personal hygiene do not appear to .
Both athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are more prevalent with increasing age, male gender, and type 2 diabetes .
If your home or office has taken on water or flooded, remediation should be rapid and complete. Everything should be thoroughly dried and may need to be removed if mold is already present . Mold can develop within 48 hours of taking on water .
Is Your Health Issue From Mold?
It’s very hard to pinpoint whether a certain health issue started as a result of mold. There are other possibilities, such as air pollution, VOCs, carbon dioxide, environmental chemicals, radon, tobacco smoke, and airborne infections that could also cause someone to be sick.