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EP2: Inspire Health Podcast with Dr. Stuart Shanker

Listen To The Latest Podcast Episode:EP2: Inspire Health Podcast with Dr. Stuart Shanker

Toxic Mold Exposure & Sick Building Syndrome

In 1984, the World Health Organization reported the following cluster of symptoms occurring “with increased frequency in buildings with indoor climate problems” – a collection of symptoms that later became known as “Sick Building Syndrome.”

These include:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • Dry, red mucous membranes and skin
  • Headache
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Lower airway symptoms
  • Abnormal taste, odour
  • General fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome are associated with a particular building – a home, office building or other workplace. They affect people when in the building, and decrease or disappear when those people leave the building. As with many environmental illnesses, women are more likely than men to report having these symptoms.

“Problem buildings” can cause occupants to develop symptoms because of inadequate ventilation, contamination entering from outside, or inside contamination from bacteria, moulds and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the building materials, furnishings, cleaning agents and personal care products used by the occupants.

Some people seem to be more at risk for Sick Building Syndrome than others. Risk factors include having a history of allergies, being female, being under psychological or social stress, handling paper, doing video display terminal work, and being in a building with mechanical ventilation and air conditioning and a low intake of fresh outdoor air.

One of the biggest contributors to sick building syndrome is toxic mold also known as black mold or Stachybotrys Chartarum. This mold is found worldwide and colonizes particularly well in materials such as straw, hay, wet leaves, dry wall, carpet, wall paper, fiber-board, ceiling tiles, thermal insulation, etc.

If you are living in an area where the relative humidity is above 55%, you are susceptible to much higher health risks caused by toxic molds.

Black mold needs nutrition to grow, which it obtains by degrading the surface it is growing on. During the process of degrading surface for nutrition, mold causes formation of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These VOCs are harmful to human respiratory and nervous systems.

If a person is exposed to high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) formed by mold, it can have adverse affects on their respiratory and central nervous systems and cause irritation to mucous membranes.

Some of the key symptoms of toxic mold exposure are the following:

  • Uneasiness in respiration.
  • Headaches.
  • Cough.
  • Red eyes.
  • Chronic sinus infections and congestion.
  • Development of rashes and hives on skin.
  • Nausea.
  • Memory loss.
  • In some cases, people experience bleeding in lungs.
  • Lethargy.
  • Dizziness.
  • Lack in concentration.
  • Problem caused due to irritation in mucous membranes.
  • Asthma.
  • Allergic reactions (such as itching of nose, runny nose etc.) of respiratory and/or nervous system, etc.
  • Irregularity in blood pressure.
  • Damaged digestion and respiratory system.
  • Infections of urinary track, problems in urination etc.
  • Pain in liver and other internal organs.
  • High level or prolonged exposure to mold can lead to infertility in the patient.

How can mold be controlled?

  • Moisture is one of the most important factors for the growth of mold. By making it sure that the level of moisture is under check you can keep molds at bay. (Relative humidity i.e. RH can help in finding out when you need to dehumidify your building/house).
  • If there is any water leakage/intrusion, pipe leak, roof leak, condensation problem etc; it should be prevented first.
  • Ensure the air conditioners, HVAC systems, and air/ventilation ducts are clean. Normally mold formed in these systems are more dangerous as it easily escapes the human eye inspection.
  • Bathrooms are the most prone places for mold formation and growth. The tiles, curtains and appliances inside the bathrooms should be properly cleaned/removed in order to avoid mold formation.
  • If possible, use air purifiers to cleanse the air inside your house. Air purifiers can help in reducing the airborne particles of mold spores.

Now a day, there are many paints/anti mold products available in market that can resist moisture and/or mold at certain level. Using such products can also help in prevention of mold.

How do I heal my body after toxic mold exposure?

  1. Avoid entering the exposed building until the mold has been properly taken care of and it is safe to go back.
  2. Get outside and get lots of fresh air daily.
  3. Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water/day. This will help to filter harmful chemicals through your kidneys and get them out of your body.
  4. Squeeze ½ to ¼ lemon in your water/day. Lemon helps to stimulate your liver, your primary organ of elimination and detoxification in your body.
  5. Take key supplements to kill off existing mold, replenish nutrients that have been depleted due to the mold and boost your immune system to prevent subsequent infections.