We encounter mold much more frequently on a daily basis than you may think; it’s not only the unfortunate blemish on old bread or that slime on the shower tiles you keep forgetting to clean, it’s also in the air and on many surfaces around us.[1] While many molds are not poisonous, there are toxigenic types that can cause serious harm to our health if we are exposed to them. If you have a client who claims a health condition caused by mold in their home or workplace, how should you assess their symptoms and situation? In order to better understand the effects of mold on health, common myths in circulation, and what to do when mold is located, here is a breakdown of the primary facts.

 

What health concerns are associated with mold?

            Certain molds are toxigenic, which means they can produce toxins that can have harmful effects on humans.[2] Indoor exposure to mold can result in upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, and skin irritation in otherwise healthy people.[3] Severe reactions include fever and shortness of breath, and those with compromised immune systems from chronic lung diseases are at an increased risk for what may develop into fungal lung infections or hypersensitivity pneumonitis.[4] Mold exposure can also cause otherwise healthy children to develop respiratory illness.[5]

Additionally, people who suffer from asthma may be triggered by exposure to mold spores, potentially leading to severe asthma attacks.[6] Research has also been done to prove a correlation between mold spore levels and asthma-related death; it was determined in Chicago that death from asthma was about twice as common on days with a high total mold spore count as on days with lower spore counts.[7]

Allergies to mold are also common; the estimated range of mold sensitization in the general population is from 3% to 10%.[8] As is the case with all allergies, mold allergies are triggered by an overactive immune system, which recognizes inhaled mold spores as foreign invaders and triggers the release of antibodies to fight them.[9] This is the cause for the symptoms, such as those listed in the previous paragraph, that drive many people to seek medical help.

 

What are some myths to be wary of?

One deceptive phrase you may encounter from an internet search for “consequences of mold exposure” is “toxic mold” that might be growing in one’s home or workplace. This term, as explained by the CDC, is inaccurate; certain molds can produce toxins, but they themselves are not poisonous.[10] Additionally, there is very little evidence linking toxigenic molds found inside homes to rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss – the case reports that do exist are rare, and no significant proof exists that the presence of mold is the direct cause of such conditions.[11]

 

What should you do if you determine there’s mold in your home?

Mold growing on hard surfaces can be removed with commercial products, and removing carpet is likely required if mold is growing underneath it. However, if there is mold growing in insulation or wallboard, the only way to solve the problem is to remove and replace the infected materials, which can require much more work.

If an individual’s health is suffering after being exposed to mold, a general health care provider should be consulted to decide whether or not a referral to a specialist is needed.[12] If the mold has caused an infection in the lungs, a pulmonary physician might be recommended, and if the exposure occurred in the workplace, an occupational physician might be referred.[13] Additionally, if it is suspected the prior owner of a home, contractor, building material provider, or landlord is responsible and is refusing to take responsibility of the mold causing serious harm, legal action may be recommended.

If you need assistance with the legitimacy of someone’s claims of health problems related to mold, look no further; we at Legal Nurse Consulting can help you to determine what proof you’ll need and how best to proceed from a medical perspective. Mold can have very serious consequences, and if your client is not to blame, we strive to give them – and you – well-deserved help.

[1] “Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum and Other Molds,” CDC.gov, Sept. 18, 2012, https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6]“Mold Allergy; Symptoms and causes,” Mayoclinic.org, n.d., http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mold-allergy/symptoms-causes/dxc-20200846

[7] Twaroch, Teresa E, Mirela Curin, Rudolf Valenta, and Ines Swoboda, “Mold Allergens in Respiratory Allergy: From Structure to Therapy,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, Mar 11, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397360/

[8] Ibid

[9] “Mold Allergy”

[10] “Facts about Stachybotrys”

[11] Ibid

[12] “Basic Facts; Molds in the Environment,” CDC.gov, May 22, 2014, https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm

[13] Ibid