Mold is a type of fungus that grows in wet, humid areas. Most of its species are of no threat to people. Molds that produce myotoxins, however, are very harmful. The most dangerous species is stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as black mold. Long term exposure to it can cause a variety of health problems, some of them are even life-threatening.
Black mold myotoxins can be absorbed through direct or indirect contact. Direct contact is less dangerous because it only occurs when your skin touches the mold, which usually means you have discovered the infestation. Despite this, when you remove black mold you should be cautious; direct contact can cause blisters, rashes and itchiness.
Indirect contact with black mold myotoxins occurs through inhalation, which may take place for years before you discover it in your home. Black mold can have a devastating effect on the respiratory system and can cause asthma attacks, shortness of breath, and even result in swollen or bleeding lungs. None of these symptoms should be ignored, as they are all life- threatening; in the early 1990s, several infants died after exposure to it.
Together the heart and lungs provide the body with oxygen, meaning that when lungs become damaged, the heart is affected as well. Lungs damaged by black mold take in less oxygen, meaning that the heart has to pump harder and faster to get oxygenated to the body. This can result in heart palpitations, blood pressure issues and even an enlarged heart. Myotoxins can also do direct damage to the heart and even cause parts of it to stop functioning altogether. When the heart pumps blood containing myotoxins, it spreads via the circulatory system and can cause widespread organ damage and even internal hemorrhaging.
Black mold contains trichothecenemycotoxins that attack the nervous system and have the same effect as long term exposure to neurotoxins such as mercury or botulism. Symptoms of trichothecene poisoning include dizziness, confusion and seizures. It can also cause mental health issues such as personality changes, anxiety or depression. Trichothecene can either impair or destroy nerve cells; when nerve cells are impaired, symptoms usually disappear a few days after exposure ends (i.e. when black mold is removed). Nerve cells destroyed by trichothecene do not grow back, meaning the effects of the neurotoxin are permanent.
Myotoxins in black mold also effect protein synthesis, which is essential to cell division. This disruption can result in mutated cells that don’t provide any benefit to the body. Over time, these mutated cells accumulate and can cause tumors or even full blown cancer.
These are the most dangerous results of exposure to black mold, but it can also cause problems such as infertility and hair loss. In the short-term, exposure to black mold causes symptoms mirroring those of the common cold such as runny nose, fatigue and fever. These symptoms usually occur chronically and go away a few days after the exposure to it ends.
If not early discovered and removed, it can do a lot of damage to your family. Because black mold grows on materials containing cellulose like paper, wood, and drywall, it can occur anywhere in your home. This makes it difficult to spot and means you have to constantly be aware of any leaks or other possible wet areas where it can grow. If you suspect that you have a black mold problem, inspect your house thoroughly or call a professional service to do it for you. If you do find it, be sure to eliminate it as quickly as possible to avoid the danger black mold presents to you and your family.