Mold is a tenacious substance that can take root in the presence of moisture. According to Toxic-black-mold-info.com, molds can grow on many substances, including Sheetrock and insulation. If you have mold in your home, your health and that of any small children or infants is at risk. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic in 1999, nearly all chronic sinus infections are a result of molds. Talk to you doctor if you or your family has been exposed to mold spores.
While many types of mold can contribute to health problems, black molds such as Stachybotrys atra have been linked to serious conditions in infants. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website, this mold is a greenish black and can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust and lint. As with all molds, adequate moisture is the limiting factor for its growth. It needs a constant supply in order to maintain itself. The website also states that other types of molds are more commonly found in households and workplaces than black mold.
It is not the mold that you see that is the danger, it is the microscopic spores that are released. The spores of molds contain toxic substances called mycotoxins. In particular, Stachybotrys atra produces macrocyclic trichothecenes, according to a study published in Allergy and Asthma Proceedings in January 2003. These compounds can cause irritation in the cells lining the lungs. In July 1997, the National Institute of Environmental Health released an article about toxic mold exposure in infants. Dr. Dorr G. Dearborn was quoted in the article saying that the spores of black mold "contain very potent mycotoxins-toxins produced by fungi ,which appear to be particularly toxic to the rapidly growing lungs of young infants."
Pulmonary hemosiderosis is the medical term for the bleeding of the lungs of infants, which has been associated with black mold exposure. According to Dearborn, symptoms are coughing up blood or nose bleeds, particularly in infants under 6 months of age, as well as chronic cough and congestion, with anemia. The disorder requires immediate medical attention. In 1997, the Cleveland, Ohio, area reported 34 cases of the disorder because of black mold, sparking national concern and the resultant funding of clinical studies.
Effects on Lungs
Research suggests that exposure to the mold's mycotoxins can damage lung cells. The journal Pediatric Pulmonology released a study in July 2007 investigating Stachybotrys atra's effects on fetal rat lung cells. Dr. KC McCrae and colleagues discovered that after exposure to the mold, the cells showed DNA fragmentation, or damage. The researchers also observed that after 24 hours of exposure, the cells were able to repair some of the damage, leading to the possibility that the developing lung cells might be able to heal themselves over time.
Another study found that black mold's toxins had negative effects on the lungs. According to a study in Mycopathologia in 2003, exposure to Stachybotrys led to red blood cell accumulation in the alveoli, or hollow air sacs, dilated capillaries engorged with red blood cells, and restricted alveolar space in the lungs.
Dangers to Infants
In general, exposure to mold spores can be damaging to the lungs. Because an infant is smaller, they are at greater risk for health issues from mold exposure. The CDC states that black mold in the household is a potential health risk, and may be linked to pulmonary hemorrhage, or lung bleeding, deaths in infants.
According to the CDC's Healthy Housing Assessment Manual, the most important way to prevent mold growth is to control moisture. The CDC recommends indoor humidity to be between 40 percent and 60 percent. Fix all leaks, check all ventilation, use exhaust fans, limit the amount of indoor plants, and use dehumidifiers to keep moisture out of your house. Nonporous materials can be cleaned with bleach and water solutions, however, fabrics and books exposed to mold might have to be removed.