All molds are not harmful. Some are even beneficial, like the ones used in the making of cheese and antibiotics. It is mainly structural mold ? molds growing on the walls and roofs of our homes and offices – that adversely affects our health.?Stachybotrys chartarum, a black mold commonly found indoors, produces highly toxic spores that can cause a host of symptoms of black mold sickness. The long-term study conducted by Dr. Gray from 1994 onwards helps us understand the health symptoms black mold can cause.
Most mycotoxins produced by black mold cause symptoms of severe immune reactions. It is interesting to note that, while the inhaled spores of black mold trigger immune responses causing allergic reactions and asthma, the mycotoxins contained in the spores act as immunosuppressants. Reduced immunity makes the patient susceptible to a host of other infections.
Pneumonitis resulting from the obstruction of small airways is a typical symptom of black mold spore inhalation. Hemorrhagic pneumonitis in nine infants in Ohio had been linked to black mold exposure in their homes. Farmer’s Lung and Brown Lung Disease respond to anti-fungal medication, confirming the role of mold spores in respiratory illnesses.
Black mold spores that reach the lungs can pass through the thin walls of the alveoli and release ?mycotoxins into the blood stream. Many mycotoxins are neurotoxic meaning that ?they affect the central nervous system causing temporary or permanent damage and producing symptoms of black mold neurotoxicity that can manifest as multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis and blindness. In patients with toxic encephalopathy due to black mold, tests have shown the occurrence of several seizures in a day. This results in episodes of cognitive impairment, including dyslexia, ADDs and dementia, which can all be symptoms of black mold sickness. Dr. Iris Bell of the University of Arizona has demonstrated the effects of black mold mycotoxins on the brain. It is hardly surprising, as lysergic acid from mold and psilocybin from mushrooms are well known hallucinogens.
Challenges in Diagnosis and Treatment
Lab tests on spore samples taken from suspected sources often give false results. Sporulation and increased mycotoxin synthesis in molds is essentially a survival mechanism triggered by adverse growing conditions. They are entirely different from the ideal cultural conditions in a lab. A typical example is the plentiful growth of mold in Tucson during the rains. However, it is after the return of the dry desert climate that a sudden explosion in the atmospheric spore count gets reported.
Exposure to structural mold causes a wide variety of non-specific symptoms similar to radiation damage. Mycotoxins may contain ‘adduct formers’ – chemicals that can bond with DNA or RNA, disrupting protein synthesis and suppressing bone marrow production. They may cause bleeding from the nose and bruising of the skin, weight loss, and general weakness, which are all common black mold symptoms. Insufficient awareness among physicians about the symptoms of black mold exposure may cause it to be misdiagnosed as psychosomatic illness. The possibility of victim-initiated litigation and the costly measures to be taken on confirmation often makes concerned agencies defensive. Their stubborn denial can come in the way of proper diagnosis and treatment.
The treatment for black mold-induced illnesses starts with the removal of the source. Further treatment has to be customized for each individual. Antibiotic use should be limited, as it may actually promote fungal infections that can again trigger the immune system and exacerbate the patient’s condition.