Dampness is one of the most common causes of rampant mold growth. Recent flooding in Mid-Michigan has made many homeowners and business owners seek restoration work, and it is essential to keep mold sickness in mind during these jobs. Health problems caused by mold can be serious and it is up to restorers to make sure a building is safe before re-entry.
Is mold sickness real?
Detrimental health effects caused by mold are acknowledged by the EPA, WHO, CDC, and other global, national, and local health and regulatory entities. The production of mycotoxins, which can cause severe neurological disorders and even death, by so-called “toxic mold” is documented. Health problems caused by exposure to other types of mold over an extended period are also documented.
What is mold sickness? Mold sickness has only recently received the attention it deserves. Not until the 1990’s were symptoms caused by mold acknowledged. The World Health Organization first called this “Sick Building Syndrome,” which included other causes such as improper ventilation or air filtration. Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is often a result of mold exposure and is now a term frequently associated with mold exposure.
What is CIRS? CIRS is the result of a defective auto-immune response in some individuals where the body does not properly filter out toxins produced by mold. CIRS is characterized by a range of symptoms which include respiratory and potential neurological effects of mold toxins. These include coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and trouble breathing, as well as stiffness, pain, vertigo, confusion, blurred vision, and fatigue, among others.
How many are affected? Mold sickness can be difficult to diagnose because those who live or work in the same building will be affected differently. Some may exhibit no symptoms, while others will suffer significantly. Research shows about 25% of the population will get sick. Those with pre-existing respiratory conditions or compromised immune systems, as well as babies and seniors, are generally more susceptible.
What can be done? If a customer suffers from CIRS and a health professional cites mold as the cause, restorers know what to look for. While eliminating visible mold can make improvements, mold may also be lingering in the HVAC system, attic, basement, crawl space, or other hard-to-reach places. Without eliminating these sources as well, CIRS will persist. An ERMI test or HERTSMI-2 test can be used to measure the mold spores in the building, though it is important to take samples properly and understand that scores will not change immediately, even after the mold is removed, since it takes time for residual mold spores to filter out of the area.
Most homeowners, business owners, and almost all restoration experts recognize mold and know that it is a problem in a home or business. However, many don’t recognize how big this problem can be. Knowing what to look for and being aware of health problems will help restorers properly protect themselves and their customers.