What is Toxic Mold?
Mold is a fungus found in the natural environment. In most cases, it is useful, breaking down materials like dead trees and leaf matter in forests. Mold can also grow in homes where it is not natural and where breaking down materials is not ideal.
Any type of mold can potentially be harmful to health in large enough quantities. Most mold in a building will not cause health problems unless you have a mold allergy.
In fact, the mold itself is not really toxic, but it can become toxigenic under the right circumstances. This means they produce mycotoxins, substances that spread through the air with spores. Two types of mold are more likely to produce mycotoxins that cause harm:
- Aspergillis. This is a large family of molds with just a few types that are potentially toxigenic. Aspergillis molds are among the most common types found in homes.
- Stachybotrys chartarum. S. chartarum is the main culprit in causing mold-related health problems. Also referred to as black mold, develops most often in buildings damaged by flood and in fibrous materials like paper, gypsum board, and fiber board.
Because mold may or may not produce mycotoxins and health problems, treat any sign of mold in your home or other building as a potential health threat. It’s important to prevent mold growth and to remove it when found.
What Causes Mold to Grow in Buildings?
Mold thrives in damp, warm environments. Mold spores are everywhere. They are in the air and on surfaces. They enter homes through windows and doors and when carried in by people and pets. If the conditions in the home are right—moisture and humidity, warmth, inadequate cleaning, leaks—these spores may thrive and grow into a mold infestation.
What Are the Symptoms of Health Problems Caused by Mold?
Studies have found that indoor mold can cause several symptoms, which range from mild to severe. Some people are more sensitive than others and have worse reactions. Symptoms include:
- Red, itchy eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Worsening asthma in those who have it
- Sore throat
- Skin rash
- Fever and flu-like symptoms
People more vulnerable to mold-related health problems include those with asthma, mold allergies, or suppressed immune systems. There is also evidence that children exposed to indoor mold may have a greater risk of developing asthma.
Can Toxic Mold Cause More Serious Health Problems?
The evidence for illness caused by indoor mold is mixed but compelling. Studies have connected mold exposure and damp buildings to:
- Sick building syndrome
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
- Chronic respiratory infections
- Inhalation fever
- Chronic rhinosinusitis
What Are Signs of Mold in a Building?
Large infestations of mold are obvious. You can see it covering surfaces and materials. Other warning signs include:
- Water stains or discoloration on walls and ceilings
- Leaks anywhere in the building, around plumbing, in basements, or around windows and doors
- Standing water or condensation
- Past flooding not properly remediated
- A musty smell
How Do I Know I Have Toxic Mold in My Home?
The only way to know what type of mold is growing in your home or another building is to have it tested. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends treating every mold infestation as a potential hazard.
If you have significant mold growth, assume it is harmful and have it professionally removed. However, getting a test of the mold can help with any legal action you take.
What Should I Do if I Find Mold in My Home?
Take immediate steps to keep yourself and your family safe, even leaving the home to live somewhere else until you can remove the mold. Assume that it is a health hazard and call remediators to clean or remove materials covered in mold.
As you go through this process, document everything. This includes symptoms and medical bills, efforts to remove the mold and its costs, results of mold tests, and photos of the mold. If you or anyone in your family has health problems characteristic of mold, contact a toxic mold lawyer.
What if I Find Mold at Work?
If you discover a troubling mold infestation in the workplace, notify your boss or supervisor immediately. Provide as many details as you can and put it in writing or in an email. Make note of any conditions you suspect violate safe working guidelines as set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), such as an ongoing leak that your employer has not fixed.
Your employer should take immediate steps to remediate the mold. If they do not, contact your local OSHA office to report the conditions. You may already have symptoms related to mold, which means you should contact a lawyer to find out what to do next. They can help you file a workers’ compensation claim, push for remediation, or file a lawsuit if you discover gross negligence.
Toxic mold in a building can trigger serious health problems. If you suspect mold has caused symptoms for you or a loved one, talk to a toxic mold lawyer. They can help clarify your options, conduct an investigation, and get you compensation if someone is liable for your exposure.