In recent years the presence and health impact of mold problems in a home has entered cultural consciousness. Finding out that it’s invaded and colonized inside your home can be particularly distressing, as there are many stories in the media related to its ability to cause serious health problems.
Health problems related to mold are widespread, with some appearing in the national media news cycle. The type of mold in a home can vary, and certain individuals might be more susceptible to mold problems than others. Children and the elderly are most likely to have an adverse reaction to an interior space that has been colonized by mold. There are also some individuals with a genetic predisposition to suffer from chronic inflammation issues related to the presence of mycotoxins.
Common health problems related to mold problems in a home can range from minor to chronically significant. This includes things like wheezing, skin irritation, sneezing, shortness of breath, and chronic headaches. It can also cause people with respiratory allergies and asthma to have more incidents or respiratory distress. For some individuals, the presence of indoor mold can also lead to more persistent medical conditions like chronic inflammatory response syndrome.
With this bevy of health problems, it’s perfectly natural to wonder just how much mold can affect other medical conditions. This includes concerns about whether or not mold can increase a person’s risk of suffering from cancer.
New and continuing research seems to point to mold’s ability to increase a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer. This includes liver cancer and the potential risk of developing cancer in the respiratory system.
What Is Mold And How Does It Hurt You?
Mold has existed in nature since long before humans walked the Earth. It is very diverse and there are thought to be thousands of different strains of mold floating freely in the air. They can differ in appearance and impact. Some look green, gray, white and even orange. The feared “Toxic” mold typically looks dark black in color. However, there are other forms of mold that are black, yet don’t have the same kind of toxic component.
Mold spores that enter your home on the breeze that land in moist, warm conditions, that are out of direct sunlight, have the chance to grow and colonize. Some can even do this with alacrity, establishing a presence in a little more than a day.
Once mold infests your home, it starts to produce spores and other potential byproducts which can be harmful to your health or cause your body to respond in an adverse way. The higher the density of mold spores in your home, the more likely you and others are to react to them. This is especially true for people with asthma, respiratory allergies, and other respiratory health conditions.
Can Mold Increase Your Risk For Lung Cancer?
It doesn’t take a giant leap of the imagination to go from the obvious respiratory distressed that can be caused by mold to wonder if it can also contribute to one’s risk of developing lung cancer. After all tobacco smoke, even secondhand smoke has been known to increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.
At this time, there is no definitive research that proves a direct link between the presence of indoor mold and increased risk for lung cancer. However, this field of research is relatively new and there simply hasn’t been a lot done to investigate the topic one way or the other.
Yet we do know that long-term exposure to mold can increase the chances of developing several lung diseases, some of which can be potentially life-threatening in the long term. So, for now, those diseases are the primary concern and include things like increased asthma attacks, heightened risk for pneumonia, and chronic inflammation disorders.
Can Mold Increase Your Risk For Liver Cancer?
While there is no current research that proves a link between mold and increased risk for lung cancer, there is research that shows a link between the presence of certain types of mold and liver cancer. This is primarily related to strains of mold that produce substances known as aflatoxins. This includes the strains Aspergillus parasiticus and Aspergillus flavus.
These two types of mold are primarily found on agricultural crops like rice, corn, and certain types of tree nuts. They have the ability to contaminate the crops before, during or after they are harvested. Mold colonization after the crops have been harvested is often related to improper storage procedures. Individuals who are exposed to increased doses of these aflatoxins have shown an increased risk of developing various medical problems. In some cases, the exposure occurred in a little over a two-day period.
It’s believed that there are two different modes of exposure at work here. One is through inhalation of the aflatoxins while harvesting, hauling, loading, processing or preparing for shipping. The other is through consuming the plant material when the mold is present on the exterior.
There is some speculation of a third method by which aflatoxins caused by mold can affect human beings while increasing the risk for liver cancer. That is through consuming meat and dairy products from animals who consume contaminated feed.
Fortunately, the United States government is aware of these potential links and there are regulations in place that test for aflatoxins in the foods before they are offered to consumers.
What Should I Do If I Suspect There Is Mold In My Home?
When it comes down to it, the mold in your home isn’t likely to increase your risk of developing lung or liver cancer. Not unless you are growing moldy crops in your basement!
Yet it’s hard to turn away from the mounds of research that proves a direct link between the presence of mold in your home and many other respiratory and inflammation conditions. The longer you go without addressing a suspected mold problem, the more likely you are to suffer adverse health reactions to it and its byproducts.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that mold can cause structural damage to your home, which leads to costly repairs. If you want to sell your home in the future, inspectors and appraisers are increasingly likely to notice any signs of a past or present mold problem, which may require further testing.
The bottom line is, the longer you wait to deal with a suspected mold problem, the more likely you are to experience costly and significant problems.
The first step is to seek out a professional mold testing service. They can assess the quality and mold spore content of your home to determine how at risk your indoor environment is. In many of these cases, they might perform swab and other physical surface tests.
If an active mold problem is found, you shouldn’t try to deal with it yourself. Disturbing a large mold colony can potentially make the problem much worse. A professional mold remediation company can come in, eliminate the mold presence from your home with minimal impact. Then they can help you understand the things you need to do to prevent it from occurring again.