Black mold or commonly called as mildew or mold is a type of fungus that generates a powder-like or fluffy growth on various surfaces. It is important to note that black mold is capable of growing on various household surfaces such as cloth, carpets, wood, leather, food and insulation. Being exposed to black mold can cause a number of health issues that tends to vary based on the mode of contact. The signs and symptoms of black mold exposure can be categorized into four – allergy, irritation, infection and toxicity.
The most common symptom of black mold exposure is an allergic reaction. Individuals who are highly sensitive or allergic to black mold can experience the following:
- Red and itchy skin
- Sneezing episodes
- Watery eyes
The irritation due to exposure to black mold can occur once the fungus degrades certain substances in order to live and consequently generates volatile organic compounds. These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can trigger irritation of the mucous membranes and central nervous system. The symptoms of this type of exposure include the following:
- Coughing up black-colored sputum
- Constant headaches
- Diminished attention span
- Difficulty in concentrating
The infections due to black mold exposure are extremely rare, but can occur. Individuals who have weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy might face a higher risk to infection due to black mold.
An infection of the lungs known as aspergillosis can develop if substantial amounts of Aspergillus niger are inhaled. Take note that Aspergillus niger is the scientific name for the fungus that causes black mold. The symptoms of this condition include coughing up blood, fever and wheezing. In addition, if the black mold spores enter the ear canal, a fungal ear infection can develop. The symptoms linked with this ear infection include momentary hearing loss and ear pain. Remember that it is also possible for the infection to cause damage to the ear canal.
The black mold can also generate a poisonous substance called mycotoxins. Always bear in mind that black mold does not constantly produce mycotoxins. They only produce in areas with constant moisture such as in ceilings, behind wall panels or under carpets.
The toxicity can occur once an individual comes in contact with these mycotoxins either by skin exposure or ingestion. Black mold toxicity can cause life-changing or life-threatening health conditions. Take note that toxicity from black mold is considered uncommon and the severity tends to vary from one individual to another. Nevertheless, toxicity can eventually lead to blindness, permanent memory loss, brain damage, bleeding lungs, cancer and even death.
If possible, any areas where mold is likely to thrive should be checked for any growth. Once mold are present, the area should be cleaned using a bleach solution to effectively eliminate them. Professional cleaning services can be hired for effective elimination of all mold sources in the house.