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Health Implications Of Mold

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This issue of News For A Healthier You looks at the health implications of mold and the reasons and ways of getting rid of it.
  1. Should You Worry About Mold?
  2. What Is Mold Allergy?
  3. What Is Allergic Fungal Sinusitis?
  4. Getting Rid Of Mold
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Health Implications Of Mold

Should You Worry About Mold?
A little bathroom mold that is cleaned off the tub is usually not cause for great concern, but repeated exposure to any allergen can lead to an allergic reaction. Therefore, avoiding mold is important for everyone, but especially for those with a known mold allergy or sensitivity. According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, about 10% of the American population is allergic to mold and about half of those people have some illness as a result of mold allergy. That is a lot of people, but it is surprising that the number isn't larger when you consider that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are between 50,000 and 250,000 species of fungi and nearly 200 of them can cause infections. Interestingly, there are some occupations - including farmers, dairymen, loggers, bakers, mill workers, carpenters, greenhouse employees, wine makers and furniture repairers - which involve more exposure to mold and workers are at greater risk of developing symptoms of mold allergy.

While mold is not something to lay awake nights worrying about, the possible effects of repeated exposure should raise enough concern to avoid mold whenever possible. That is where environmental controls come in. There are ways for you to easily decrease the amount of mold you come in contact with on a day-to-day basis.

What Is Mold Allergy?
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies: congestion, stuffiness, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and itching. The Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America says, "It is common for people to get mold allergy if they or other family members are allergic to substances such as pollen or animal dander." Therefore, if other allergies exist in your family, avoiding mold has added importance. A family history of allergies and exposure to allergens are two key factors that determine if you are going to have allergies, although you may have different allergies than other family members.

In addition, the medical community agrees that mold can trigger asthma attacks. However, not all doctors agree that asthma can be caused by mold. Although it is not conclusive, a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2005 found that children who grew up in homes with a mold odor had a greatly increased chance of developing asthma in the following six years.

What Is Allergic Fungal Sinusitis?
In 1983, a type of chronic sinusitis involving the growth of mold in the sinuses was recognized and given the name allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS). Much research has been done and many theories and opinions have been given, some of them conflicting.

A Mayo Clinic study conducted in 1994 found a link between allergic fungal sinusitis and both nasal polyps and asthma. It is generally accepted that AFS represents a small percentage of total chronic sinusitis - around 5% to 20%. Doctors and researchers also agree that AFS is under diagnosed and is on the increase. While you can have sinusitis and have fungus present in your sinuses, you do not necessarily have allergic fungal sinusitis. People with mold allergy, sensitivity to mold, or immuno-compromised systems are most likely to develop AFS. Symptoms include thick mucus that ranges from tan and yellow to brown and green and obstructed breathing. Often people think they are having pollen allergy attacks, but if the symptoms occur year round, it could be AFS. Usually there is no pain. Polyps, small sack-like growths, are also associated with AFS. You may be able to see them inside your nose or feel them by gently palpating your nose.

If you suspect you have AFS, you need to see a doctor. If left untreated, fungal growth can spread to other parts of the body. Ask your doctor about sinus irrigation to keep debris, fungus, and bacteria rinsed out of your sinuses. Using an anti-fungal in the sinus irrigator solution may also be recommended.

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Getting Rid Of Mold
You may need to see a doctor to get your allergy or sinusitis under control, but there are many steps you can take yourself to control mold in your environment. Getting rid of moisture is the first step in getting rid of mold. Unless you get rid of moisture first, the mold will just grow back.

First, look for persistent problems that may be causing mold.
  • Check for leaks under sinks and in basements.
  • Check places prone to condensation like air conditioning systems, windows, refrigerators, and dishwashers.
  • Check areas where water collects like the pan under the refrigerator and the pan under the air conditioning system.
  • Check for leaks in the roof.
  • Check areas where steam exists like kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Check houseplants for mold in the dirt.
Next, once you have taken care of the source, take care of the mold. Get rid of the problem by disposing of the moldy item or cleaning it. Applying a mold preventative like No More Mildew or Vital Oxide kills mold spores and prevents re-growth of mold for months or even years.

Even if you do not see mold growing in your home, it could be present; plus mold is going to be in the outdoor air that comes into your home. The quality of your indoor air and the level of mold spores in your home's air can be improved by taking these measures.
  • Use air filtration such as room air purifiers to capture mold spores circulating in the room.
  • Use allergen reduction furnace filters and vent covers to capture mold spores pulled through your home's HVAC systems and ductwork. (Spraying the vent cover with Good Morning Spray, a natural mold eliminator, gives added protection.
  • Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to pick up mold spores that have settled to the floor and trap them in the filter.
  • Use devices specifically designed for airborne mold removal.
  • Use a special laundry detergent to fight mold in bedding, towels, and clothing.
  • Use a humidity gauge to keep tabs on the moisture in your home.
  • Use a dehumidifier if your humidity is over 50% to lower the humidity to a healthy 40-50%.
  • Use your air conditioning during hot, humid weather to help reduce humidity.
  • Use a fan or open a window to dissipate steam in the bathroom.
  • Use the hood fan on the stove to control cooking steam.
If you have extensive mold growth, be sure to wear protective gear when doing the remediation including non-vented eye goggles, gloves, and an N95-rated mask. If you are sensitive to mold or it is a really big problem, you may want to call in a mold remediation expert. Be careful if you do. Ask them to describe their methods. Ask for credentials such as affiliation with a professional association. Ask for references and call the former customers to see how the company handled their mold problem. Getting rid of mold for the person with mold allergy or sensitivity is much too important to let just anyone handle.

Margie Bullock, Newsletter Editor
Closing Thoughts
Although mold may not affect a large percentage of the general population, I am confident in saying that a much larger percentage of our customers are allergic to mold or have allergic fungal sinusitis. My son is one - he knows immediately if mold is present by how he feels. So I understand how difficult it is to deal with mold because it's everywhere! Let us know if you have some good tips to share. (You can find us on Facebook.)


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