Mold Toxicity in the Home: An Often Overlooked Health Issue
An unsuspected but common cause of chronic health issues may be lurking in your home. Toxic mold based illness is a very prevalent and under diagnosed condition that many people suffer from. A wide range of symptoms can arise from mold toxicity, often making it difficult to realize the underlying cause. Mold toxicity can even manifest symptoms that are exclusively psychiatric, such as depression, anxiety, attentional problems, brain fog and insomnia.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that thrives on moisture and reproduces through lightweight spores that travel through the air, and it is something that we are actually all exposed to every day. In small amounts mold spores are usually harmless, but when they land on a damp spot in your home, they can start to grow. As they grow, they release more spores that you might breathe in. If you're sensitive to mold and inhale a lot of mold spores, it could cause you to become sick.
What Are Mycotoxins?
A mycotoxin is defined as “a toxic secondary metabolite produced by organisms of the fungus kingdom and is capable of causing disease and death in both humans and other animals.” Essentially, mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by certain fungi, and most commonly types of mold. They can be found in food, in the air, on damp surfaces, and also grow on a variety of different crops and foods including cereals, nuts, spices, dried fruits, apples and coffee beans, often under warm and humid conditions.
Mold Toxicity is More Common Than You Think
1 in every 4 people are vulnerable to mold toxicity, and in most cases, this is due to a genetic predisposition which inhibits the clearance of biotoxins. A family can all be living in the same house with mold growth, but only one family member may become ill because of this genetic predisposition.
Mold and Mycotoxins can have a serious impact on your health. 7 million deaths per year are linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and much of this is caused by mold toxicity. Of the 21.8 million people reported to have asthma in the U.S., approximately 4.6 million cases are estimated to be attributable to dampness and mold exposure in the home.
According to a study published by the Mayo Clinic, up to 93% of chronic sinus infections have been attributed to mold. Another study published by Goa University, mycotoxins can spread and affect the immune system severely. These lead to health conditions like allergies, hypersensitivity, respiratory problems (asthma, wheezing, coughing); and some other severe ones like those of memory loss, depression, anxiety and reproductive problems among several others.
Different Types of Mold
There are over 100,000 different types of mold, however, not all types of mold are a threat. Of the types of mold that are toxic, 6 are commonly found in homes and indoor spaces.
Stachybotrys – Commonly referred to as “black mold,” stachybotrys is one of the most dangerous types of mold and can cause flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, headaches, memory loss and severe respiratory damage. Because their lungs are still developing, children are most at risk for health problems associated with exposure to black mold. As its nickname suggests, black mold is dark in color, although it can also be grey or dark green. It typically has a very musty or mildew-like odor and is found in very damp areas of homes and other buildings.
Black mold symptoms are most commonly related to the respiratory system, and resemble mild to severe allergic reactions. Chronic coughing and sneezing, irritation to the eyes, mucus membranes of the nose and throat, rashes, chronic fatigue and persistent headaches can all be symptoms of black mold exposure or black mold poisoning.
Chaetomium—Chaetomium thrives in wet, dark environments such as drywall, wallpaper, baseboards and carpets. It is most commonly found in homes that have water damage. This type of mold is similar to black mold and sometimes even shares the same environments. Common symptopms of chaetomium exposure include general signs of allergies—such as red, watery eyes and trouble breathing—but chaetomium spores can also cause neurological damage and certain autoimmune diseases.
Aspergillus—Aspergillus spores are present in the air that many of us breathe every day, and for many, it is actually quite harmless. However, this type of mold can be dangerous to people with comprised immune systems. Exposure to aspergillus may cause allergic reactions, lung infections and a specific type of infection known as aspergillosis.
Penicillium—This type of mold is abundant in many environments that we are exposed to everyday. If it becomes trapped inside your home, it can cause asthmatic symptoms, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
Fusarium—Fusarium is a type of mold that is most commonly found in plant debris and soil, although it can also be found in very damp areas of your home such as underneath carpeting, inside drywall or foam insulation and in humidifier pans and HVAC systems. Though it is extremely rare, a serious eye infection called fusarium keratitis can result from exposure to fusarium spores.
Alternaria—This is a well-known allergy-causing mold that is present in high amounts in many climate zones during the spring and summer. Although this type of mold is usually not found in building materials, it is can be present in the air inside your home and may also be found in electric cables, cardboard, canvas and other textiles.
Common Symptoms of Mold Toxicity
Diagnosing mold toxicity is not always easy, as many medical professionals are not trained in identifying the symptoms of mold exposure, and the symptoms themselves are diverse, making accurate diagnosis more challenging. That being said, here are some of the common symptoms associated with toxic mold exposure:
- Chronic cough
- Chronic fatigue
- Dry cough
- Irritated mucous membranes (commonly nose and throat)
- Irritation of the eyes; watery, red eyes
- Lung infections
- Neurological disorders
- Persistent headaches
- Runny or blocked nose
- Skin rashes
- Sore throat
- Runny or blocked nose
What to Do If You Suspect Your Home Has Toxic Mold
Toxic mold exposure can be a serious threat to health. It is important to get professional help if you think you might have dangerous mold in your home. The first step is to have your home professionally tested for mold. This should involve a thorough inspection for any water damage or mold growth found on materials in your home, as well as an air quality test to check for airborne spores. This entire process typically takes an hour or less to perform.
Next, samples will be sent to an environmental testing laboratory to determine if there are harmful species of mold in your home. If needed, you can then call in a mold remediation company to remove the toxic mold in your home and get to the bottom of any remaining sources of water damage. Once the mold has been remediated, a clearance air test can be performed to ensure that the mold levels in your home are safe.
A professional is recommended to ensure safety, however there are some do-it-yourself methods of preventing and removing mold toxicity from your home.
How to Remove Toxic Mold from Your Home:
- Make sure all leaks and water incursion are fixed. Dry the area completely.
- If removing mold from an area, avoid getting mold or mold spores in your lungs by wearing an N-95 respirator. These are available at hardware stores and online. They will help trap spores in a disposable cartridge, so you can eliminate them safely. Also wear long gloves (especially if using bleach and water to destroy mold) and wear goggles to avoid getting bleach — or mold spores — in your eyes.
- Often, people use a bleach solution to kill mold on surfaces, this is effective, but the chemicals in bleach are a bit harsh. Undiluted white vinegar is an alternative and less toxic solution to bleach that often works just as well. Whichever detergent you use, scrub the mold with detergent and water, and dry completely.
- Throw away porous or absorbent materials like carpets if they’re moldy.
- Regular cleaning of your house including floors and surfaces is helpful for keeping your home environment mold-free.
- Indoor air purifiers can also help to remove mold spores from the air, preventing them from landing in places they can repopulate, and more importantly, preventing you from inhaling them and negatively effecting your health.
- One of the best things you can do is take a proactive approach and ensure that you don’t have any environments in your home that allow mold to grow. Mold thrives in damp, wet, and warm environments, so ensure there are no water leakages or damp areas in your home to prevent mold growth.
Common Places Mold Can Hide in Your Home
While you may not think you have a mold problem, there are many places in your home that are a perfect breeding ground for mold spores, such as:
- Near heating and cooling appliances
If you’ve had any water incursion into your home, such as a leaky roof or flood basement, your home is at high risk for developing mold.
What to Do If You Suspect You’ve Been Exposed to Toxic Mold
If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to toxic mold, it is recommended to see your medical care provider as soon as possible. Toxic mold exposure can have very serious and negative impacts on health so it is important to take it seriously.
Unfortunately, not all health professionals are well-educated in toxic mold exposure, testing for exposure, identifying symptoms of toxic mold exposure, or knowing how to treat those who have been exposed to toxic mold. Many who have been exposed to toxic mold have met this challenge in the medical field, and have been forced to find their own solutions for eliminating toxic mold from the body.
Detoxifying Toxic Mold from the Body
It must be understood that ridding the body of toxic mold is rather pointless if one does not fix the environment in which they were exposed to the toxic mold in the first place (unless of course it is an environment you do not plan on returning to). It is important to remove toxic mold from your home so that you do not become re-infected with it, and have to repeatedly detoxify it from your system.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of mold toxicity, you’ll want to treat them quickly and naturally before they do damage to your respiratory and immune systems. Detoxing the body of mold is actually not very difficult, and there are a few natural treatments that give good results.
Activated Charcoal—Activated charcoal is a fine, odorless, black powder that is produced by superheating natural sources of carbon, such as wood. It is often used in emergency rooms to treat overdoses and its toxin-absorbing properties have a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic uses. The black powder stops toxins from being absorbed in the stomach by binding to them. The body is unable to absorb charcoal, and so the toxins that bind to the charcoal leave the body in the feces.
Studies show that activated charcoal is successful in treating patients with mold-related toxicity symptoms. To use activated charcoal, take capsules by mouth with water as directed. Do not take with drugs for constipation or with tricyclic antidepressants, digoxin, theophylline, or acetaminophen.
Probiotics—Probiotics are strains of bacteria that have a beneficial effect on gut health by changing the terrain of bacteria in the gut microbiome—the community of bacteria in the gut. They have many positive health benefits and they are also a natural way to detox your body from toxic mold. Research shows that many strains of probiotics directly attack mycotoxins and remove them safely from your system.
Zeolite and Bentonite Clay—These are natural clays of the earth that are extremely useful for detoxifying the body from a wide range of toxins—including mycotoxins. They work by adsorbing materials and sticking to their molecules or ions. As the clay leaves the body, it takes the toxin or other molecules with it. A series of studies showed that clay safely and effectively removed mycotoxins without inhibiting micronutrient absorption or interaction with other substances.
Healing the Body After Toxic Mold Exposure
After detoxing your body from mold toxins, you still need to repair the damage that may have been caused from the mycotoxins. It is best to take a holistic approach to this and to ensure that you consume a nutritious, whole foods diet to give your body the nutrients it needs to best repair any damage that was caused by the mold exposure. There are also certain foods that can help restore your gut microbiome and bolster your immune system back to good health after being exposed to mold and mycotoxins.
Collagen—Mycotoxins in the body have been linked to the reduction of type II collagen, as well as overall collagen production. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It offers support and strength to cell structures including bones, organs, vascular system, connective tissue, hair, skin, nails—the list is endless. Collagen is often sold in capsules and supplements; however, this is actually a bad way of increasing collagen levels in the body. Collagen sold in most supplements comes from animal tissue and is in its whole molecule form. The collagen molecule is very large, and also very difficult for the body to process, so most collagen supplements actually provide little to no benefit. The body naturally produces its own collagen, but it requires certain nutrients to do so—the amino acids L-Lysine and L-Proline, Vitamin C, and B-Vitamins. These can all be found in food, but to receive the right dosages needed to produce collagen are difficult to obtain from the daily diet. Therefore, one of the best ways to promote collagen production is to take a Collagen Precursor.
Probiotics—Certain probiotics have been linked to binding with mycotoxins and removing them from our systems. But more than just removing mycotoxins, probiotics can help heal the damage that was inflicted onto the gut from mycotoxin exposure, and can help restore the gut microbiota and gut lining.
Celery Juice—Another food that greatly helps to heal the gut is celery juice. Celery Juice heals and activates the gut by restoring hydrochloric acid which helps us digest things faster and more efficiently. Celery juice helps raise stomach acid, which is necessary to help break down food, especially protein.
Mold toxicity is a common and under diagnosed health issue that many people suffer from. It is often an unsuspected cause of health issues, but it may result in a wide range of symptoms, some of which are very severe.
We are all exposed to mold every day. Microscopic mold spores float through the very air we breathe, but thankfully, not all mold is toxic. There are, however, six types of mold that are highly toxic, and are commonly found in homes and indoor environments.
Mold thrives in damp, wet, and warm conditions, so it is important to ensure you regularly clean your house and eliminate any environments where mold could potentially form. There are many DIY ways to remove mold from the home, but with serious mold infestations, a professional is recommended.
If you suspect you’ve been exposed to toxic mold, it is recommended to seek medical care as soon as possible. There are also many ways to eliminate mold from the body naturally in the comfort of your own home. Just be sure that your home is free of toxic mold so that you don’t become continually exposed to it.
Once the body is cleansed of toxic mold, it is necessary to do some repair of any of the damage that may have been caused. This can be accomplished with a healthy diet and by focusing on key foods and nutrients.
Toxic mold exposure is much more common than you think, and it is something that is not very commonly discussed by the general population—or even by medical professionals. Now that you are aware of mold, take proactive steps to ensure that your home is not contaminated, so you can protect your health and the health of your family.