You don’t need to be allergic to get sick from mold
There is no doubt that exposure to mold growth and/or water damage can cause symptoms in individuals, and it clear from the medical literature that one does NOT have to be allergic to suffer symptoms from exposure. It is a common misconception (especially among insurance adjusters and defense attorneys) that one must be allergic to mold in order to get sick from mold. To the contrary, mold exposure can cause health effects in a variety of ways and in addition to an allergic response, including irritation/irritant response, toxic symptoms, and other types of immune responses. At LaFave & Rice, part of our job is to keep updated on the medical literature, including peer reviewed studies, regarding mold exposure so that we know exactly what can and cannot be proven. We use up-to-date medical literature, including studies and treatises on mold exposure to help prove our clients cases. Literature can be used for impeachment of defense medical experts who take misguided positions to protect insurance companies and defendants.
The State of California has confirmed the hazards of mold
Possibly the most important document regarding the health effects of mold exposure at present is a position statement from the California State government and their Department of Public Health. In September of 2011, the State of California’s Health and Human Service Agency/Department of Public Health issued an extremely important position paper entitled “Statement on Building Dampness, Mold, and Health.” This document reflects recognition by the California Department of Public Health that there is a “consensus among scientists and medical experts” that the presence of water damage, damp building materials, visible mold growth, or mold odors in buildings creates an increased risk of a variety of health problems for human beings. The Department of Public Health Services concluded that “known health risks include: the development of asthma, allergies and respiratory infections; the triggering of asthma; an increased wheeze, cough, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms.”
This statement is a landmark document because it is a pronouncement from the State of California regarding the health effects of mold, but also because it confirms the modern scientific consensus regarding the hazards of mold and water damage. The document is also important because it reflects that mold is not the key focus when evaluating health effects of water-damaged building environment; the real issue is simply, “is there water damage that leads to the person living in a damp home environment?” The document indicates that such an environment is unhealthy for humans if there is any one of four criteria present: water damage, damp building materials, visible mold growth, or mold odors. This document is important for tenants who are trying to understand and/or enforce their rights, and for tenants who are concerned about health hazards in a water-damaged building environment. The document is also important because it recognizes the current scientific literature confirming that water damage is the key concern from a health standpoint, and that mold by itself is not the only problem. Further, the document recognizes the importance of mold odors and musty smells (which are microbial volatile organic compounds) and how just a moldy smell by itself can be a health hazard and cause a variety of health symptoms on an irritant basis.
The effect of mold on your health
While every individual reacts differently, whether symptomology might be provable depends on the facts of a certain case. Certain symptoms have been recognized as being common or potentially a response when an individual is exposed to mold or to a water-damaged building environment. For instance, the California Department of Public Health has published an information sheet entitled “Mold in My Home—What Do I Do?” In that document, the California Department of Public Health lists a variety of common health concerns which CAN be the result of mold exposure. Indeed, they state, “Molds produce health effects through inflammation, allergy or infection. Allergic reactions…are the most common responses following mold exposure.” In discussing particular symptomology and types of symptoms from mold exposure, the California Department of Public Health pamphlet stated, “Known health risks from mold exposure include: the development of asthma, allergies, and respiratory infections; the triggering of asthma attacks; an increased wheeze, cough, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms.
What health effects occur in a given individual can also depend on whether that person falls within a particular risk category. The medical literature and position statements on the health effects of mold are clear that certain people tend to be at a greater risk of suffering health problems simply because of categories into which they fall. For instance, the California Department of Public Health recognizes that people who are more susceptible to health effects from an exposure include: (a) individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, or asthma; (b) persons with weakened immune systems (such as HIV infected persons, cancer chemotherapy patients, and so forth) ; and (c) infants, young children, and older persons. Further, people that have a particular susceptibility can sometimes suffer unusual or different types of reactions than a healthy person would. For instance, someone who has an impaired immune system is likely to suffer drastically different symptomology than someone with a healthy, functioning immune system given the same exposure.
Are Some Molds More Hazardous Than Others?
Many people think that there are certain types of mold which are much more hazardous than others, and that some molds are not harmful at all. To the contrary, the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Public Health, and other important authorities recognize that all molds have the potential to make people sick. Indeed, these authorities recognize that any mold can make anyone sick, whether they are allergic to mold or not.
However, certain molds may potentially be more dangerous because of their toxic potential and their ability to produce mycotoxins. For instance, the California Department of Public Health indicates that “perhaps” some molds are more hazardous than others because certain types of molds (such as Stachybotrys chartarum) may produce compounds with toxics known as mycotoxins. While a mold may not always be producing mycotoxins because of factors that affect its growth cycle, mycotoxins can be a concern for many reasons when they are being produced, including being a potential health hazard. As the California Department of Public Health notes, “When produced, mycotoxins may be present in both living and dead spores, as well as materials that were contaminated with mold.”
Do you have a mold problem?
Read our step-by-step instructions of what to do if you have a mold problem in your residence. If you believe your health has suffered or you have incurred other damages, contact our mold attorneys for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.