Household Mold | Adverse Health Effects of Indoor Molds | Mold Mycotoxins | Mold Assessment
Household mold: Toxin? Infection? Allergy?

We are seeing a large population of mold-exposed and mold-injured patients at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. We hope to educate you, our readers, that mold exposure and mold toxicity are very serious issues but can be effectively identified and remediated.

Health officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the dangers of mold in our homes and offices. It is understood that mold (fungi) is capable of causing allergy, infection, and even toxicity in humans. Doctors who are members of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine have known for some time that specific molds, in sufficient concentration over a sustained period of time, are potentially detrimental to our health.
These doctors have become expert in the diagnosis and treatment of mold-induced medical problems.

Molds have been present for billions of years and comprise 25 percent of the earth’s biomass. They are everywhere! Most of these molds are harmless and don’t affect our health. But indoor fungi such as aspergillus, penicillium, stachybotrys, cladosporium, and alternaria are capable of creating health issues when at sufficient levels. Odors that we smell associated with molds are solvents, especially alcohols.

Many molds reproduce by making spores. When the spores come into contact with a moist ‘food’ source, they germinate and commence the production of a branching network of cells called hyphae. The hyphae secrete mycotoxins and digestive enzymes that work on cellulose in our house walls. Moisture is a key requirement.

Studies have shown that visible mold and/or water damage are commonly found in 23 to 98 percent of all homes examined. And while there is no official level of indoor fungus that is dangerous, four studies indicate that over 150 colony-forming units per cubic meter of air are sufficient to affect humans.

What are some of the health problems mold can cause? Dr. Vojdani lists seven categories of health affects:
  1. Allergy--immediate reaction
  2. Allergy--delayed reaction, hours to days after exposure
  3. Infection--mainly in susceptible people
  4. Adverse reactions to odor---becoming sensitive to many chemicals
  5. Neurotoxicity---headaches, fatigue, nosebleeds, memory loss
  6. Immunotoxicity---frequent infections, especially of the sinus and lungs; rashes; autoimmune diseases
  7. Mucous membrane irritation

Dr Allan Lieberman, in his paper “Explosion of Mold Cases in Homes, Workplaces and Occupational Medicine Practice,” examined 48 patients who were heavily exposed to mold. The results were as follows:

  1. Muscle and joint pain (71%)
  2. Fatigue and weakness (70%)
  3. Neurocognitive dysfunction (67%)
  4. Sinusitis (65%)
  5. Headache (65%)
  6. Gastrointestinal problems (58%)
  7. Shortness of breath (54%)
  8. Anxiety/depression/irritability (54%)
  9. Chest tightness (42%)
  10. Insomnia (40%)
  11. Dizziness (38%)
  12. Numbness/tingling (35%)
  13. Laryngitis (35%)
  14. Tremors (25%)
  15. Heart palpitations (21%)

In a review paper entitled “Adverse Health Effects of Indoor Molds,” the authors cite the study by Rea et al of 150 heavily indoor mold-exposed patients, which found similar health problems in similar percentages as Lieberman’s study.

The Mayo Clinic noted that 96% of chronic sinusitis patients were infected with fungus. This fact is alarming since antibiotics are repeatedly given to treat the bacteria, but anti-fungals are not given to treat the fungus.

Lebowitz et al reported that 56 percent of 45 patients having sinus surgery had positive fungi cultures.

These potential health affects from mold are significant. How should a patient be evaluated for a mold-related symptom? Environmental sampling could be performed to check for spores and mycotoxins. Perhaps the easiest way to sample is to put out simple mold dishes and count the colonies that form. One study implies more than four colonies could be a problem, especially for those with recurrent sinusitis.

Evaluation by an environmental physician, including a comprehensive history and physical examination, would be helpful. Laboratory testing, according to Curtis et al could include:

  1. Mold and mycotoxin antibody levels
  2. Immune markers---T and B cells/natural killer cells
  3. Vision contrast sensitivity
  4. SPECT brain scans
  5. Antimyelin auto-antibodies

Treatment is individualized and might include: anti-fungal medications, allergy/immunotherapy, nutritional/herbal support, intravenous vitamin and mineral supplementation, and/or biodetoxification.

For further information about mold injury:
Please see the article, The Effects of Toxic Molds on Personality and Brain Functioning, by a Licensed Neuropsychologist, or call our Center at (843) 572-1600.

For information about mold assessment of homes or businesses:
Please see the article in this issue, “Assessment of Mold in Indoor Environments,” by a Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC). In addition, mold plates for household sampling of molds are available for our patients at The Center.

Curtis L, Lieberman A, Stark M, Rea M, Vetter M. Adverse health effects of indoor molds. Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (Sept 2004) 14(3) 261-274.

Lieberman, A. Explosion of mold cases in homes, workplaces and occupational medicine practices. Presented at the 21st Annual Symposium on Man and His Environment in Health and Disease, Dallas, Texas, 19-22 June 2003.

Liebowitz, R, Waltzman M, Jacobs J, Pearlman A, Tierro P. Isolation of fungi by standard laboratory methods in patients with chornic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope 2002:112(12):2189-91.

Vodjani A, Campbell A, Kashanian A, Vodjani E. Antibodies against molds and mycotoxins following exposure to toxigenic fungi in water-damaged building. Archives of Environmental Health 2003; 58(^):324-36.

Vodjani, A, Thrasher J. Madison M, Gray M, Heuser G, Campbell A. Antibodies to molds and satratoxin individuals in a water-damaged building. Archives of Environmental Health 2003; 58(7)421-32.

Vodjani, A. Health effects and immunotoxicology of toxigenic molds and mycotoxins. Presented at the 21st International Symposium of Man and His Environment in Health and Disease, Dallas, Texas, 20 June 2003.

All material provided on the Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine web site is for educational purposes only. Access to the web site does not create a doctor-patient relationship nor should the information contained on the web site be considered specific medical advice for any person, patient and/or medical condition. Consult a physician regarding the application of any opinions or recommendations from this website, for any symptom or medical condition. Dr. Lieberman specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, that is or may be incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, resulting from use or application pertaining to any of the information provided on the web site.