Long & Short Term Effects of Mold

The type and severity of health effects that result from mold exposure is widely variable among different locations, from person to person and over time. Although difficult to predict, exposure to molds growing indoors is most often associated with the following allergy symptoms:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Cough/sore throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Dyspnea (breathing difficulty)
  • Asthma (or exacerbation of it)
  • Epistaxis (nosebleed)
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Headache
  • Skin and eye irritation

Long-term exposure to indoor molds is certainly unhealthy to anyone, but some groups will develop more severe symptoms sooner than others, including:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • Individuals with respiratory conditions, allergies and/or asthma

Some indoor molds are capable of producing extremely potent toxins (mycotoxins) that are lipid-soluble and readily absorbed by the intestinal lining, airways, and skin. These agents, usually contained in the fungal spores, have toxic effects ranging from short-term irritation to immunosuppression and cancer.

More severe symptoms that could result from continuous human exposure to indoor mycotoxigenic molds include:

  • Cancer (aflatoxin best characterized as potential human carcinogen)
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pulmonary injury/hemosiderosis (bleeding)
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Hematologic and immunologic disorders
  • Hepatic, endocrine and/or renal toxicities
  • Pregnancy, gastrointestinal and/or cardiac conditions

It is important to notice that the clinical relevance of mycotoxins under realistic airborne exposure levels is not fully established. Further, some or much of the supporting evidence for these other health effects is based on case studies rather than controlled studies, studies that have not yet been reproduced or involve symptoms that are subjective.

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