Many of you have heard of the black mold scare. The media has created an incredible monster relate to black mold and health issues! There is a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding this issue which has resulted in a multitude of opinions, on this subject. I’ve heard things as various as “mold causes cancer” to mold doesn’t cause any health issues at all. Usually its attorney’s from insurance companies spouting that line of claptrap and balderdash, (remember how they used to claim smoking did not cause lung cancer?).
So if your reading this it is likely that you have experienced some type of symptom and observed something that you believe to be mold which may or may not be related. There a several ways that mold can make a person sick who is being exposed. When i first started my mold remediation business, I had no idea just how many sick people I would meet!
I would estimate that almost 70% of my customers have health issues related to mold that they are aware of and i am willing to bet that a percentage more are affected but unaware of it. Molds can affect the body in multiple ways. The ones that are most understood are from mycotoxin exposure and direct infections. Mycotoxin are literal poisons that mold makes in a attempt to kill off competitors. Mycotoxins can make a person very sick and the more potent of these have been linked to cancers. Stachybotrys a black mold which is the mold the media has hyped as “the black” makes these powerful poisons.
Unfortunately the label of black mold has led many custumers with very toxic molds to have a false sense of security because the mold in their home or office is white or green or red or gray etc, not black. Another commonly understood way that mold can affect ones health is from direct exposure. Many molds under the right conditions can directly colonize people! This means that they can grow in or on the human body. Gross! Common examples are athletes foot, jock itch, thrush and candida which is technically a yeast infection. Other molds can live inside of the body. They usually attack when the body is very stressed or fighing other invaders. People who have auto immune disorders are particularly at risk, as well as anyone rcovering from major surgery.
These two basic ways mold can affect a person are commonly and widely understood. This article is about MVOC’s, which are not nearly as commonly understood. MVOC stands for microbial volatile organic compound. When you enter a home with a mold problem and you smell that musty odor, you are likely smelling the MVOC’s that the mold is producing. Mold off gasses powerful chemicals like benzenes, tulolenes, aldehydes and many others. While research is still being conducted on the effects on humans, much research has already been completed on VOC’s their man-made cousins which are often the result of the off-gassing of manufacured petro-chemical goods!
You may not realize it – but you and your family can be exposed to thousands of volatile organic compounds on a daily basis. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate into potentially harmful gases at room temperature and may or may not exude an odor. VOCs include a variety of chemicals which can cause short- and long-term health problems.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), concentrations of many VOCs are up to ten times higher indoors that outdoors – regardless of whether the home is located in rural or highly industrialized area, when the home is suffering from mold, that number is likely to be far higher.
VOCs can be produced by a number of common household activities or including:
– Paints, paint thinners, varnishes and other solvents
– Aerosol sprays
– Air fresheners, candles and incense
– Cleaning supplies and disinfectants
– Stored fuels and automotive products
– Hobby supplies
– Glues, adhesives and sealing caulks
– Dry-cleaned clothing
– New carpeting
– Secondhand smoke
– Pressed wood furniture
– Moth repellants
– Wood preservatives
Exposure to VOCs or mold basedMVOC’s can result in many adverse health effects depending on the type, level and length of exposure. Health problems can range from minor ailments to major, long-term health complications including:
– Eye, nose and throat irritation
– Nausea and vomiting
– Asthma exacerbation
– Allergic skin reaction
– Memory impairment and loss of coordination
– Liver damage
– Kidney damage
– Central Nevrous System damage
The EPA reports that high pollutant levels and elevated concentrations of VOCs and MVOC’s linger in the air long after an activity such as dusting has been completed. Young children, the elderly and persons with respiratory problems may be more affected by VOC exposure than others.]
MVOC’s caused by molds are nearly identical with the only difference being their production is caused by microbes, usually mold and bacteria! Mold odors are also made of volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds produced by mold again include chemicals similar to alcohols, aldehydes, amines, ketones and many more. When volatile organic compounds are produced by mold or bacteria we stop calling them volatile organic compounds and refer to them as microbial volatile organic compounds. (mVOCs).
Mold odors or mVOC’s are often over looked as a source of health complaints by many mold inspectors who look for spores or mycotoxins as the only sources of potential health problems. Often times, other inspectors are concerned about the health effects of toxins produced by only toxic black mold, or stachybotrys. Frequently during mold inspections because copius flowering visible mold was not obvious and the lab report you receive states that spore levels indoors are low, inspectors will tell you that you do not have a mold problem, and many times that your health problems are not related to mold in your home! This inspector has investigated numerous cases where mold odors were produced inside AC units, behind wall paper, in crawl spaces, or inside walls in many such cases spores were trapped or simply not released by the mold and yet people became ill, in fact I have been a mold victim, and so have many of my men due to occupational exposure!
For many years I have noticed a correlation between the occurrence of mold odor and allergy and asthma like health complaints. Recent studies cunducted with VOC’S support these observations. Please note that the legal and health implications can be powerful, even when the lack of elevated spore levels are present building occupants can still become ill from mold!
Samples of indoor odor can be taken for quantitative and qualitative analysis by accredited labs using proven and advanced methods of analysis, Aerotech Labs is one of the few labs that specialize in not just voc analysis but also mVOC or microbial volatile compound analysis.
Don’t take my word for it, research what academic and government mold experts say about this often overlooked issue. Do a search for mold odor VOC’s and health for yourself and you shall discover that even if spore levels are low in your home there is no guarantee that you are free of mold problems.
Tere is goods! There is hope, simply never rely on spore levels and lab tests alone, always hire an experienced inspector who does much more than take samples, he or she should know something about building construction or home inspections, AC systems, science, indoor air quality, and industrial hygiene, and overall water drying and restoration issues. The mold inspector must do a very detailed investigation using his or her knowledge and experience and should not just take a few samples, because ulimately, the best inspectors draw on a vast personal databank gathered from thousnads of investigations!
If you do have a mold health problem, after it has been professionally corrected it is usually a good idea to seek the care of a competent Naturopathic Doctor. Natural Doctors are often far more experienced at removing the remaining health issues and mycotoxin from the body after the mold has been removed from the home!