Can Mold Make You Sick?
Fear of Mold - Mycophobia - Can Lead to Unnecessary Expense
FEAR of MOLD - MYCOPHOBIA - CONTENTS: public worry about "toxic black mold" and mold related illness: Can Mold Make You Sick? Comparing mold-related illness, or pathogenic mold exposure with mold related allergies and mold as an asthma trigger. Mycophobia - Can Lead to Unnecessary Expense. BBMS - Basketball Mold Syndrome: sudden attention to pre-existing clues in buildings. The normal pattern of rise and fall of public fear for most environmental hazards, real or imagined. Mold Allergies and Mold Exposure Impact on People with Mold Allergy or Asthma: common, can be serious
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Fear of indoor mold & mold contamination: this article discusses mycophobia - fear of mold and its effects on individual health, stress, and expenses. We live in a sea of mold, and other stuff in the air we breathe, on cushions
we sit on, clothes we wear, pools we swim-in, and so on. Most mold is not
hurting anyone, and some of it makes us well when we're sick (Penicillium
notatum, for example).
Nevertheless, a combination of mold allergies and asthma sensitivities of some individuals mean that the exposure of some individuals to mold in buildings can be quite serious. More details about
mold related illness, building related illness, and what to do about mold in buildings can be read in the articles listed below.
What is Mycophobia and What Causes Fear of Mold? When is Mold Fear Justified?
A healthy person walking through a room of moldy air is not likely to die or even get very sick from mold exposure.
On the other hand, nearly 30 years of field and lab investigations of buildings with environmental illness and occupant health complaints
has provided a wealth of less rigorous empirical data matching occupant
complaints with indoor mold and allergens, particularly where there is chronic exposure to problematic mold.
Some people may have a genetic predisposition to mold related illness just as some do to allergies and many other health issues.
Short term very high exposure to toxic mold (one client killed
her dogs by tearing down moldy drywall), or for people who are particularly sensitive or vulnerable,
protracted toxic or allergenic mold exposure, even at what we consider rather low levels, can be a serious problem.
It's probably an overstatement by some experts who assert that "... there are no
proven links between mold and illness."
Comparing the Appearance of Cosmetic Mold versus Potentially Harmful Mold
First, if this had been a problem mold it could have been
cleaned from these framing surfaces.
Second, our test showed that the scary-looking black mold on this framing was a member of the
Ceratocystis/Ophistoma group of blue-stain fungi which often is found on framing lumber. This is only a
cosmetic mold, which is not harmful to humans nor to the lumber.
Black mold in the laundry room may look like this extensive case. In cases of large areas of visible mold, unless
the mold proves to be only cosmetic mold, professional cleaning would be needed.
Black mold in this laundry room also required demolition. But although the visible mold was Stachybotrys chartarum
and Cladosporium sphaerospermum and Ulocladium on these walls, the airborne and dust mold levels
were dominated by Aspergillus sp. which was not so easy to see by visual inspection.
reservoir in this building was in the fiberglass insulation in several areas.
While large areas of problem mold indeed need proper cleanup,
fear of mold (mycophobia) and in our opinion
the ENVIRO-SCARE - PUBLIC FEAR CYCLES which in some cases (such as the moldy framing shown at left) risks leading to price gouging of consumers.
Mold Allergies and Mold Exposure Impact on People with Mold Allergy or Asthma: common, can be serious
Kopf and Fillhart reported that the focus of indoor mold contamination investigation strategies, a procedure that usually focuses on water-intrusion-related molds in buildings and perceived health risks to occupants should consider re-focusing their attention to include mold as a cause of [or trigger for or contributor to] allergies. Both water intrusion-related mold species and [many] other mold species may be allergenic. 
In fact the authors agree that building occupant complaints of allergic reactions to buildings and the experience of asthma attacks in buildings are the instigators for mold investigations in many cases. 3 to 10 percent of people suffer from mold allergies  or from mold-related asthma attacks . Interesting in Kopf/Fillhart's report is that they point out that
Reactions to mold, including water intrusion species considered to be the most dangerous, are limited to rhinitis or asthma in most individuals who are allergic. ... Allergic individuals may respond to airborne spores of water intrusion species in a manner that is indistinguishable from other molds.
The authors continue to point out that individual health risks from mold exposure cannot be stated precisely from airborne mold levels, and they add that in some circumstances certain molds can produce high levels of mycotoxins. That is consistent with our own field and lab experience. The same fungus, growing on two different substrates, can behave quite differently.
The authors also note, and we agree emphatically, that [for these reasons] a building can have a water-intrusion mold problem even though its occupants are asymptomatic.
In our own experience as a field and laboratory investigator of indoor air quality & mold related health complaints there is no question that we have encountered
occasional individuals who were highly sensitive to very low levels of airborne Aspergillus sp. in homes, at less than 500 spores/M3 of air
occasional individual whose mold-exposure symptoms included skin irritation, hives-like response, particularly in homes where Stachybotrys chartarum was disturbed by demolition and sent airborne at high levels - a condition that is not normal for this sticky, large spore
individuals in whom a very severe asthma attack was triggered by mold exposure - this symptom has been observed to increase in severity and in sensitivity in individuals who are either chronically exposed to airborne mold of a variety of species at moderate but higher than outdoor levels, or who suffer one or more individual exposures to very high concentrations of indoor mold
More significantly, airborne levels of mold spores produced the same fungus, Aspergillus sp., for example, growing in the same building on the same surface, vary enormously from time to time as a function of
changes in the indoor environment such as in temperature and moisture level
mechanical disturbance such as during demolition or cleaning efforts, or by the operation of a building HVAC system, fans, or even local dehumidifiers or heaters.
Making a series of airborne mold level measurements in a college library basement where we observed a very large reservoir of mold growing on books that had been exposed to high moisture and some wet conditions, it was Aspergillus sp., not Stachybotrys chartarum (both were present) that became airborne at very high levels after a mold remediator placed multiple commercial dehumidifiers into the space. It was quite apparent that the Aspergillus colony responded to the drop in humidity by releasing its spores.
Because of these variations, and because of variations in spore trap use and procedures among individuals, we argue at AIRBORNE MOLD SPORE COUNT ACCURACY that reliance on air tests of spore levels, used alone to characterize mold exposure risk in a building is so unreliable as to be nonsensical in the case of apparently-negative mold test results.
What to Do About Mold and Other Indoor Environment Worries
Action:The Mold Action Guide - will help you discover if you have a costly mold problem or not.
Also see the FEAR-O-METER a promotion theory to convert risk of hidden defects & hazards into action thresholds, for a discussion of how an accumulation of inspection evidence leads to a rational decision to perform invasive or desctructive inspection measures.
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 "Consider Allergies in Mold Investigations", Richard F. Kopp & Ronald C. Fillhart, The Synergist, July 2004, The American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2700 Prosperity Ave., Suite 250, Fairfax VA 22031, 703-849-8888, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
 "Mycotoxin production by indoor molds.", K.F. Nielsen, Fungal Genet Biol 39:103-117, 2003
 "Isolation and identification of Aspergillus fumigatus mytoxins on growth medium and some building materials", S.M. Nieminen, R. Karki, S. Auriola, M. Toviola, H. Laatsch, R. Laatikainen, et als., Appl Environ Microbiol 68: 4871-4875, 2002
 "Stachylysin may be a cause of hemorrhaging in humans exposed to Stachybotrys chartarum", S.J. Vesper & M.J. Vesper, Infect Immun 70:2065-2069, 2002
 "Indoor health: background levels of fungi", R.E. Gots, N.J. Layton, S.W. Pirages, Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 64:427-438, 2003
 "Fungal fragments as indoor air biocontaminants", R.L. Gorny, T. Reponen, K. Willeke, D. Schmechel, E. Robine, M. Boissier, et al., Appl Environ Microbiol 68:3522-3531, 2002
"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home",
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
US EPA - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Building [Copy on file at /sickhouse/EPA_Mold_Remediation_in_Schools.pdf ] - US EPA
US EPA - Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf - en Espanol
Atlas of Clinical Fungi, 2nd Ed., GS deHoog, J Guarro, J Gene, & MJ Figueras, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, 2000, ISBN 90-70351-43-9 (you can buy this book at Amazon) - The Atlas of Clinical Fungi is also available on CD ROM
"Disease Prevention in Home Vegetable Gardens,"
Department of Plant Microbiology and Pathology,
Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri Extension - extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6202
Fifth Kingdom, Bryce Kendrick, ISBN13: 9781585100224, is available from the InspectAPedia online bookstore - we recommend the CD-ROM version of this book. This 3rd/edition is a compact but comprehensive encyclopedia of all things mycological. Every aspect of the fungi, from aflatoxin to zppspores, with an accessible blend of verve and wit. The 24 chapters are filled with up-to-date information of classification, yeast, lichens, spore dispersal, allergies, ecology, genetics, plant pathology, predatory fungi, biological control, mutualistic symbioses with animals and plants, fungi as food, food spoilage and mycotoxins.
Kansas State University, department of plant pathology, extension plant pathology web page on wheat rust fungus: see http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/path-ext/factSheets/Wheat/Wheat%20Leaf%20Rust.asp
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