The hazardous health effects of black mold are due to a toxic substance called mycotoxin, which is a byproduct. Mycotoxin is a light weight spore and is often termed as a secondary growth of black mold. These toxic substances enter human body through skin contact or via breathing. Open cuts or sores also provide an entry point to the mycotoxin. It is also circulated throughout the house by means of air conditioning systems, fans, etc. The health hazards are dependent upon the severity of infestation and the type of individual. However, the group of individuals most prone to serious effects includes:
- Infants and children.
- Elderly people
- People with weak immune system.
- Pregnant women.
- Individuals with medical history of allergic reactions or respiratory disorders.
Irritation of Mucous Membrane
Primary or secondary metabolisms of fungus produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are released in the air for humans to inhale. The inhalation of VOCs results in the accumulation of mycotoxins in the lungs, which circulate throughout the body. The typical moldy smell is often the resultant of these byproducts. These compounds cause irritation of mucous membrane and induce effects, such as headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness. VOCs also affect the central nervous system of the human beings.
Mold often causes severe allergic response, amongst individuals who have a weak immune system. Though the allergic symptoms may not be threatening, they are sufficient to ruin the quality of life of an individual. The allergic symptoms range from runny nose, itchy-watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, throat irritation, etc., to more severe chronic conditions, such as sinusitis and asthma. The severity of allergic symptoms depend upon the amount of infestation as well as the immune system of an individual.
The diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer often render a weak immune system amongst the individuals. These individuals then become a soft target for various diseases. Black mold causes opportunistic infection, among the individuals with weak immune systems. Opportunistic infection is the infection caused due to micro-organisms, which are capable of infecting people with suppressed immune system only, but are unable to do so in healthy individuals. Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Mucor, and Rhizopus are some common fungi that cause invasive disease.
A number of tests are conducted to affirm the exposure to this substance. These tests include:
- The measurement of white blood cell counts: If the number of T-lymphocytes in the body exceeds the normal count, there is a chance of possible mold exposure. More number of T- lymphocytes indicate the hyperactivity of immune system to combat the exposure.
- The Spirometric test: This test is conducted to detect the exposure of mold by examining the lung function. Decreased capacity to function in a normal manner indicates the same.
- The skin prick tests: Involves a series of tests conducted by skin pricking the patient with a sample of various molds to detect which of the molds induces allergic reaction. This test is not always conclusive.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.