You have probably reached this point because you feel your home may contain harmful levels of mold or because you have a chronic respiratory illness that appears to be worse in your home. This tool has been designed to assist you in determining the general healthiness level of your home and what your next steps are towards understanding the environmental condition of your home pertaining to levels of mold and dampness.
Building Related Illness
It is recognized that between 20-50% of North American homes have damp or moldy environments (Verhoeff & Burge 1997, Zock 2002). Poor maintenance and substandard construction practices lead to high levels of moisture and the proliferation of toxic molds (Singh 2010). Toxic mold development from dampness has been identified as a major contributor to poor health as evidenced by the improvement of health upon relocation (Lawrence & Martin 2001, Shaw et al. 1997), upon removal of molds and dampness (Bernstein et al. 2008, Kercsmar et al 2006), and by ultraviolet (UV) irradiation remediation (Burr et al 2007).
Molds are microscopic fungi that are highly adapted to grow and reproduce rapidly in damp to semi- damp environments. Fungal colonies produce spores and hyphae that generate allergens, microbial toxins (mycotoxins Or biotoxins), and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC) through the mold lifecycle. Specific molds cause allergenic reactions in some humans and pathogenic (a significant health concern) reactions in others. Strong evidence exists that indoor molds in buildings increase the risk and severity of asthma (Jaakkola & Jaakkola, 2004). High levels of airborne mold affect most Of the population to varying degrees (EPA 2012); but those who are more seriously affected are the environmentally sensitized, immune compromised, or those with underdeveloped immune systems, particularly the elderly and children (Antova et al. 2008, Tischer et al. 2011, Simoni et al. 2005). A higher level of exposure to living molds or a higher concentration of allergens on spores and mycelia results in a greater likelihood of illness, although levels and limits that cause illness are not known (Brandt et al. 2006).
In general, poor health from mold exposure Can include sore throat, nasal congestion or chronic runny nose, cough, wheezing, and increased asthmatic and allergic symptoms which can be misdiagnosed as flu-like effects (Bornehag et al. 2004 , Health Canada 2007, Mendell et al 2011, Palaty 2009, Wu et al. 2007). Inhalation of fungal spores or their toxins can also cause infections such as aspergillosis. MVOCs are capable of causing irritation to the eyes and upper respiratory tract, ABPA (allergic broncho-pulmonary spergillosis) and sinusitis. Colonizing fungi such as aspergillus fumigatus can cause bronchial inflammation and constant allergic response in asthmatics (Srikanth et al. 2008). Depending on the type and amount of mold present in a home, the amount and degree of exposure, and the health condition of the occupant, health effects can range from insignificant short term effects to significant allergic reaction and illness (CMHC 2011). Damp indoor environments and mold are associated with coughing, wheezing, and upper respiratory tract symptoms in Otherwise healthy people (Fisk et al 2007, IOM 2004, WHO 2009). Symptoms of asthma and rhinitis improved and medication use declined following removal of indoor mold in homes (Burr et al. 2007).
The process of evaluation requires not only a good understanding of your home conditions, but how they relate to your health concerns. Take this information to your doctor for the human health side of this analysis. You may or may not be environmentally sensitive to molds and dampness. In any event, knowing the type of home you live in and its level of indoor environmental quality will help you understand the opportunity to improve your indoor environment with helpful and sometimes easy solutions.