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Mold and Illness

By Ben Hermsen

Molds and fungus are nearby virtually everywhere we go. For the most part these molds are relatively innocuous. Certain molds, however, do pose substantial health risks. According to Berlin D. Nelson, Ph.D., department of plant pathology, North Dakota State University, Stachybotrys Chartarum or "black mold is the most prominent and notorious of the toxic molds (1).

Black mold is a heavy producer of mycotoxins (toxins created by a fungus). These mycotoxins cause a wide range of symptoms from headaches to flu-like symptoms, and chronic illnesses. The mycotoxins created by black mold are numerous, but fall into 3 main categories: Macrocyclic Trichothecenes, which inhibit protein synthesis; Phenylspirodrimanes and Cyclsporine, which are strong immunosuppressive agents; and Stachylysin, which can lyse erythrocytes (destroy red blood cells). With all three groups present there is little wonder why mycotoxicosis (mycotoxin poisoning) caused by black mold can lead to severe degradation in human health.

Black mold has also been linked to "sick building syndrome", which describes situations in which the health and comfort of people is effected by time spent in a certain building or room, where there is no obvious cause.

Unless you experience symptoms that seem to be location dependant you probably don't need to worry too much for the time being. However, mold spores, which are benign by themselves and found practically everywhere, can propogate wildly active colonies when exposed to an amply moist environment.

This effect is very common with flooding, which is why it is of pressing importance to ensure that a flooded house is cleaned up and dried out thoroughly before mold is allowed to proliferate. In the case that you are experiencing chronic symptoms in your home or work environment, the best course of action is to contact a professional that knows how to seek and eliminate fungal growth.

Another health concern with mold and fungus stems from foam. Polyurethane foam, which is the type of foam commonly used in cushion and bedding applications, can be broken down by mold into volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic.

Dr T. James Sprott, OBE, Msc, PhD, FNZIC, In New Zealand, discovered that this was a major contributor to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), where used crib mattresses were the culprits (2). Though the effects in adults usually go unidentified you may find that you feel better when you aren't exposed to them.

The solution for crib mattresses was a simple layer of plastic completely covering the entire thing, not so practical for adults. This is a major reason not to buy used mattresses, which often have mold already growing in them, besides the other obvious factors (what did those previous owners do in that bed?).

To prevent mold from building up in your mattress it is good to use a mattress pad which is washable and will absorb most of the moisture that would be going to perpetuate mold growth. It is best, however, to simply buy a mattress that doesn't create a suitable environment for mold or other microbes, such as latex.

Latex is a natural product that provides a superb sleep system that will keep your bed free of mold and other harmful microbes. Mold will always be around, and will always be a health concern. It is by familiarizing ourselves with mold, it's indications, and it's environment that we are able to minimize the risk that it will effect our lives.

Resources:

(1) http://www.apsnet.org/online/feature/stachybotrys/

(2) http://www.pnc.com.au/~cafmr/sprott/

About The Author

Ben Hermsen is a research engineer for http://www.foamsource.com where he champions the benefits of natural latex bedding for the health of our families and our environment.


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