HOW MUCH MOLD EXPOSURE IS HARMFUL?
No one knows for sure. Any amount from one invisible molecule to TNTC (Too Numerous To Count) spores can have adverse effects on those sensitive to that particular species whether its toxic or just allergenic. For example, someone allergic to peanuts could go into anaphylactic shock from just smelling a jar of peanut butter or kissing someone who recently ate peanuts or peanut butter. Young children, elderly, and those with immune compromised conditions can all experience more pronounced health effects than perfectly healthy individuals.
Inhalation of fungal spores, fragments (parts), or metabolites (e.g. mycotoxins and volatile organic compounds) from a wide variety of fungi may lead to or exacerbate immunologic (allergic) reactions, cause toxic effects, or cause infections. Illnesses can result from both: high-levels, short term exposures and lower level, long-term exposures. The most common symptoms reported from exposures in indoor environments are runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, aggravation of asthma, headache, and fatigue.
In order for humans to be exposed indoors; fungal spores, fragments, or metabolites must be released into the air and inhaled, physically contacted (dermal exposure), or ingested. Whether symptoms develop in people exposed to fungi depends on the nature of the fungi material (e.g. allergenic, toxic, or infectious), the amount of exposure, and the susceptibility of exposed persons. Susceptibility varies with the genetic predisposition (e.g. allergic reactions do not always occur in all individuals), age, state of health, and concurrent exposures. For these reasons, and because measurements of exposure are not standardized and biological markers of exposure to fungi are largely unknown, it is not possible to determine “safe” or “unsafe” levels of exposure for people in general.
As such, there currently are no formal governmental standards or guidelines regarding test results of mold/fungal samples. There are no levels, which are typical or permissible. New York City has spent over 30 years compiling data on the effects of mold on one of the worlds largest rental populations into their guidelines, which I use as my mold bible.
All of my test reports are developed in accordance with the New York City Department of Health Bureau of Environmental & Occupational Disease Epidemiology “Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments”. Their guidelines state: “Many fungi (e.g. species of Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, Trichoderma, and Memnoniella) in addition to Stachybotrys can produce potent mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are metabolites that have been identified toxic agents. Even low levels of these species should be remediated.” Based on my professional experience, I would also add Cladosporium to this list.
For example, the New York City Guidelines recommend mold remediation if 1 CFU/m3 (Colony Forming Unit per cubic meter) of Stachybotrys is found in the indoor air. If 1000+ CFU/m3 of Stachybotrys is found in the indoor air, the guidelines recommend immediate evacuation.
So if you have a professional air quality test conducted and your environment contains 1000+ CFU/m3 total count of any of the above mentioned species, I highly recommend you evacuate and seek professional mold remediation services. If your in the New England area, I recommend a1moldpro.com for all your air testing, inspecting, and mold removal services.