Many homes, especially in the southeastern United States, have crawl spaces that can lead to moisture control issues. Mold and other organisms such as bacteria, fungi, dust mites and insects thrive in and under buildings with excessive moisture. Of these organisms, mold is usally the most prevalent and problematic. Mold has been linked to a myriad of health problems; some are well documented and others are still unproven. According to a 1999 Mayo Clinic study, nearly all chronic sinus infections are a result of mold. The terms mold and mildew are often used interchangeably. Molds and mildews are types of fungi that grow on the surfaces of objects and in deteriorated materials. Mold and dust mites flourlish in moist, humid environments that have a constant moisture supply. Molds reproduce by spores and mold begins to grow when the spores land on damp indoor surfaces. They are visible to the naked eye when they start forming colonies.
Mold is ubiquitous in our natural environment. There are over 100,000 different types of mold, with only a handful being dangerous. In fact, there are some molds that have proven beneficial, such as penicillin. Although most of us have dealt with mold in our lives as mostly a nuisance, further examination revels that mold in your home can have serious health consequences for you and your family.
Biological airborne contaminants such as mold, pollen spores and dust mites are classified as "bioaerosols". These bioaerosols are extremely tiny living organisms suspended in the air. Bioaerosols can cause many health problems; from the severe, like bacteria and viruses that cause infection, to mild cases of allergies. Bioaerosols may also cause allergic reactions in the respiratory tract or on the skin. Common allergic reactions include: rashes, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, watery eyes and running noses. Mold related illnesses could result from both high level/short-term exposures and low level/long-term exposures.
One of the most health effects of mold is irritation. For many individuals, the odor that mold produces as it degrades organic substances can irritate mucus membranes, itchy, watery eyes, headaches and other symptoms. Mold spores can also create discomfort for allergy sufferers with some people experiencing allergic reactions. Allergens are foreign proteins that cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Allergic reaction symptoms include: difficulty breathing, sinus congestion, nose and throat irritation, burning/watery eyes, fever, headache, aches and pains. A serious threat to health is the possibility of being afflicted with toxicosis. Many mold species produce mycotoxins (fungus poisons) which may cause toxicosis. Some types of mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, are highly potent carcinogens. Toxicosis from mold symptoms include headache, fatigue, nosebleeds, memory loss and immune system suppression.
Another health problem brought about by mold is hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This disease causes the air sacs of the lungs to become inflamed when certain mold spores are inhaled by individuals who are sensitive or allergic to the spores. Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They can also reach the lungs, causing breathing difficulties for those with asthma. Some mold spores are able to grow for years after they are produced. The allergens in and on them remain allergenic for years, whether the spores are alive or not. Among the most harmful types of indoor molds are stachybotrys, alternaria, mucor, chaetomium, cladosporium and fusarium.
How your health is affected by mold is dependant on the amount of exposure and your individual susceptibility. People most vulnerable are those with allergies, asthmatics, the elderly, infants and children, those with existing respiratory problems and individuals with weakened immune systems. Controlling the moisture in your environment is the key to successful mold remediation.
Even through mold is a nasty substance to have invade your home, you can usually see it or smell it when it becomes problematic. This is not the case with an even more disgusting pest, the dust mite. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that feed on human and animal dander and are the most common allergen found in indoor air. Dust mites are found in carpets, mattresses, sheets, pillows and upholstered furniture. They feed on dander, which is skin and hair particles shed by humans and animals. We provide dust mites quite a feast as the average person sheds nearly 7 million skin cells per minute.
Dust mites belong to the same arachnid family as spiders. They thrive when the humidity is between 70-80% and the temperature between 75-80 degrees. Dust mites cannot survive if the humidity is below 40%. Even though you can’t see dust mites, there can be as many as 30,000 of these minute creatures in one ounce of dust. As disgusting as it seems, the average bed may house over 1.5 million dust mites! Dust mites themselves are not allergenic, but their waste products and disintegrating body parts cause problems. Research shows that feces deposited on our skin by dust mites may make the skin more susceptible to allergens and irritants. The mites shed enzymes in their feces that are used to break down the human skin cells they feed on. These emitted molecules can cause dramatic allergic reactions in some people. Dust mites are among the most common causes of asthma.
Whether the problem in your home is mold, mildew, dust mites, or all three, the underlying reason they exist is excessive moisture somewhere in your home. Besides preventing allergen issues, excessive moisture can also aggravate arthritis and rheumatism conditions. Moisture control can be achieved by constructing a vapor barrier in your crawlspace and by using a quality crawl space dehumidifier. Our expert dehumidifier team at OscarAir, Inc. has developed what we consider to be the best value available in crawlspace dehumidification. Go to our Home page and find out why no other unit on the market can match its value.