Mold is very common in homes. It can grow on tiles, fabrics, carpets, wood and other materials in the presence of moisture. Key points are around window frames, in bathrooms, anywhere condensation forms, and where leaks and rising damp cause wet spots on ceilings and walls. Two black molds that are commonly found in homes are Cladosporium and Alternaria fungi. Another black mold is Stachybotrys chartarum, which can release specific toxins that are harmful to humans.
What health problems does black mold cause?
Damp and moldy environments in general can cause a host of medical problems, especially for people who are sensitive to the allergens produced by molds. Common ailments are sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and rashes, but mold can also affect the immune system and trigger more serious issues such as asthma attacks. Cladosporium and Alternaria can cause severe and even fatal asthma attacks, and long-term exposure exacerbates the risk. Stachybotrys chartarum causes sick building syndrome, where toxins released by the fungus cause discomfort. The fungus has also been linked to a life-threatening condition called acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants, but a firm link has not been established.
Who is most vulnerable?
Babies and young children are particularly at risk from the health effects of mould, particularly due to the small size of their airways. People with respiratory conditions, such as asthma and certain allergies, tend to be more affected, as do people with skin conditions, such as atopic eczema, and those with weakened immune systems. A weaker immune system makes people more susceptible to fungal infections from spores breathed into the lungs.
How to treat mold?
Buildings should be regularly inspected for water damage and mold. Any source of moisture should be addressed by sealing leaks and dampness, controlling humidity, cleaning and drying flooded areas, and providing good ventilation. Keeping homes warm and well ventilated helps because mold thrives in cooler, humid conditions. Small amounts of mold can be treated relatively easily, but when mold grows in carpets, ceiling tiles, and on walls, professional services are often needed to remove contaminated materials. Painting over mold is unlikely to be effective.