How Does Exposure to Mold Impact the Health of Individuals?
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Currently, there are no federal standards or guidelines specifying safe levels of exposure for occupants of a building contaminated with mold.
Understanding health impacts of exposure to mold is a developing and ongoing science. Based on research available so far, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, n.d.), the agency under U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for protecting the health of U.S. population, has found that exposure to mold may or may not lead to adverse health impacts in exposed individuals. However, “There is sufficient evidence to conclude that there is an association betwen dampness and mold in buildings and an increased risk of adverse health effects for building occupants” (Mudarri and Fisk, 2007). Certain individuals are prone to a quicker and higher degree of impact, upon exposure, than others. These individuals are the ones with vulnerable or compromised immune systems i.e. elderly, pregnant women, infants, children, and those with existing respiratory conditions of asthma or other allergies (AIHA, n.d.; WHO, 2009).The health effect of exposure seems to depend upon how sensitivity an individual is to the mold. People with some sensitivity might develop stuffiness of nose, cough, eye and skin irritation, while others with higher sensitivity can suffer from fever and shortness of breath (CDC, n.d.). Individuals suffering from a chronic lung disease can develop as serious a health issue as their lungs getting infected with mold (ibid).
Generally speaking, the respiratory system tends to have the most common health effect. World Health Organization has linked mold exposure to higher risk of respiratory infections as well as asthma (WHO, 2009). Studies done by Institute of Medicine (IOM) (2004) indicate that people, who are otherwise healthy, can develop problems such as upper respiratory tract infections, coughing and wheezing when their indoor living environments are infested with mold.
Further, it also seems if the conditions leading to growth and development of mold in a home i.e. excessive presence of moisture and water are remediated, then the associated health problems decrease in their severity (ibid). Studies are however still needed to link the specific health impacts (such as lethargy and memory loss) with mold exposure.
In short, yes- mold exposure leads to health issues even in healthy individuals and hence mold should be cleaned and expunged from a home as soon as it is detected.
AIHA. (n.d.). Facts About Mold. American Industrial Hygiene Association. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from https://www.aiha.org/about-ih/Pages/Facts-About-Mold.aspx
CDC. (n.d.). Mold and Your Health. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 02, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm
IOM. (2004). Mudarri, D., & Fisk, W.J. (2007). Public health and economic impacts of dampness and mold. Indoor Air Journal, 17, 226-235.
As cited in CDC. n.d. WHO, 2009. World Health Organization guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mould. Retrieved February 02, 2015, from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf