INDOOR AIR MATTERS
The average American spends more than 90% of their time indoors, breathing air that is potentially bad for their health. In fact, the EPA estimates that concentrations of some pollutants in an indoor environment are often 2-5 times higher – even up to 100 times higher – than outdoor concentrations.
Many indoor pollutants are odorless, colorless, and invisible to the naked eye making them difficult to identify and remedy. As a result, they are often overlooked as potential triggers behind a wide range of health conditions.
WHY FOCUS ON MOLD AND WATER-DAMAGED BUILDINGS?
The EPA found that nearly 50% of buildings were experiencing ongoing problems with leaks causing water damage. In reality, this number is likely to be much higher. The unfortunate truth is that where there is moisture, there is the opportunity for mold and other microbial growth.
While there are a number of indoor pollutants that can make us sick, living and working in mold and water-damaged homes and buildings has been shown to affect us from conception to grave.
To learn more, click through our interactive “Conception to Grave” slideshow.
Due to an epidemic of water damage, toxin-producing molds have taken up residence in the majority of our homes, schools, municipal and commercial buildings. Exposure to contaminates from water-damaged building materials and contents presents a serious health risk from…
"Conception to Grave”
Related Conditions – Infertility;
Fetal Mycotoxin Exposure; Miscarriage
Though not currently tracked as a risk factor by the CDC, exposure to mold toxins has been shown to affect fertility in both animals and humans.
It is estimated that one in four pregnancies in the U.S. currently results in miscarriage. Indoor air pollution, including mycotoxins, is consistently overlooked and not communicated as a risk factor.
It’s well-known that animals that consume moldy food can end up with mold toxins in their milk, eggs, and meat. The same holds true for expectant mothers living in water damaged homes with toxic mold.
Related Conditions – Low Birth Weight; Birth Defects; Spina Bifida; Autism; Childhood Cancers
Exposure to molds, mycotoxins, and other contaminates in water-damaged buildings increases the risk of low birth weight and birth defects, such as spina bifida.
Children with autism have been shown to have problems with detoxification, making them particularly susceptible to negative health effects from exposure to toxins - and should be protected from any such exposure.
Billions of donor dollars are spent each year trying to “cure” childhood cancer. Yet, we’re failing to study the major impact IAQ, mold, and carcinogenic mycotoxins have on cancer risk.
Related Conditions – PANS/PANDAS; Attention Deficit Disorder; Asthma; Sinus Infections
Exposure to mold and mycotoxins presents a significant risk of several childhood developmental disorders, including PANS/PANDAS, ADHD, and anxiety.
Numerous studies have shown mold exposure significantly increases asthma risk. Investigating and remediating water damage is essential to managing this serious, costly condition.
Studies have repeatedly shown exposure to water damaged environments significantly increases risk of sinusitis and rhinitis. In one study of chronic sinus infection, 93% were cases of allergic fungal sinusitis. Reducing mold exposure reduces sinusitis symptoms.
Related Conditions – Premature Puberty;
ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
Indoor exposure to the mycotoxin zearalenone - a chemical mimic of the hormone estrogen - has been linked to premature puberty.
Exposure to water damaged environments increases the risk of chronic, post-infectious, inflammatory diseases, like ME/CFS. One study showed as many as 90% of cases of ME/CFS were associated with mold exposure.
With the onset of Long COVID the population meeting the criteria for ME/CFS has more than quadrupled to an estimated 9M Americans. Current estimates of the annual economic impact now results in $149 to $362 billion in medical expenses and lost income.
The CDC states that about 90% of people with ME/CFS have NOT been diagnosed, due to limited access to healthcare, and a lack of education among healthcare providers. Simple math shows the impacts of mold-related ME/CFS and Long-COVID - could be in the TRILLIONS of dollars annually.
Related Conditions – Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS); Anxiety; Depression; Inflammatory GI Diseases (IBD, Crohn’s)
Adults, young and old, need to be keenly aware of the health risks posed by water damage, mold and mycotoxins. Be on the lookout for changes in symptoms with a change in environment. This often manifests as a condition called CIRS - a complex, multisystem, multi-symptom, inflammatory illness.
Indoor air quality has significant potential to impact our mental health. Exposure to mold has been proven to cause changes in behavior and cognitive function, leading to anxiety, depression, and problems with memory and mental processing. Living in a home with moderate mold contamination, increased risk of depression by 34-44%.
Mycotoxins damage our gut lining – leading to leaky gut, food sensitivities, and inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, such as IBD, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Exposure to mycotoxins has been shown to reduce the diversity in our microbiome, disrupting our metabolism and allowing opportunistic pathogens to thrive.
Related Conditions – Multiple Sclerosis;
Chronic Kidney Disease; COVID-19; Cancers
Compelling evidence links MS to a combination of fungal infection and damage from associated toxins. Any abnormal neurological symptoms – numbness, tingling, body temperature dysregulation, dizziness, brain fog – may indicate exposure to toxigenic mold.
Several toxins produced by molds are known to be toxic to the kidneys. The risks of indoor and food-borne mold and mycotoxins – is a problem plainly visible in our pets, as well.
Some mold toxins are known to suppress the immune system. MPA, a chemical produced by a mold found in nearly 9 out of 10 US homes, is a pharmaceutical-grade immune suppressant. Clearly, this sort of exposure should be considered as a risk factor for serious infectious illnesses such as COVID-19.
Some common indoor mold toxins are known or are suspected to be human carcinogens. However, we do not currently track indoor air quality, mold, and mycotoxins in our cancer risk factors.
Related Conditions – Alzheimer’s; Parkinson’s Disease; ALS
Many seniors have been living in the same home for decades. The ever-increasing maintenance burden leads inevitably to significant chronic water damage, posing an extremely high risk of mold and mycotoxin exposure.
One of the primary forms of Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to inhalational exposure to toxins, such as mold toxins. Addressing this one underlying cause could prevent a significant portion of the population from ever having to suffer.
Parkinson’s disease is primarily a neuro-inflammatory condition. Many toxins produced by indoor molds are known to be neurotoxic and inflammatory. It has also been shown that the gut biomes of Parkinson’s patients are significantly altered.
There is strong evidence connecting fungal sinus infection and exposure to resulting mold toxins to the development of ALS.
Related Conditions – Fungal Infection; Cancers; COVID-19; Alzheimer’s;
Chronic Liver/Kidney Disease
Between 2001 and 2020, seven infants died from Aspergillus fungal infections, acquired at a single hospital in the Pacific Northwest with a long history of water damage.
Aflatoxin - a mycotoxin made by a mold found in an estimated 50% of U.S. homes, is a known liver carcinogen. The CDC’s page on Aflatoxin and cancer risk speaks only of food-borne exposure – and nothing of indoor, inhalational exposure. Given our water damaged building statistics, this is clearly a significant risk.
There are credible associations between mold and mycotoxin exposure and 6 of the CDC’s 10 leading causes of death, as of 2021, including: cancer, COVID-19, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic liver disease, and kidney disease. However, we still lack effective research into these connections.
This is NOT an exhaustive list, and some conditions – like cancers and ME/CFS – can strike at most any stage of life.
New research is regularly uncovering new connections between IAQ, mold, mycotoxins, and our health.
Download a PDF version of "Conception to Grave" here.
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