Molds are common fungi types (chaetomium, yeasts, mildews, cladosporium) that are ubiquitous. Most mold spores reproduce via spore formation: something that contributes to its omnipresence. We inhale these spores daily as we breathe.
While regulating indoor air quality falls under their regulation, most employees are helpless when it comes to mold contamination at the workplace. The fact that mold spores usually do not trigger symptoms until it’s too late is also something that adds to employee concerns.
The environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers sound advice on mold and air quality controls in commercial and school spaces. However, mold growth could be overlooked on most occasions, especially in areas like crawlspaces and other less accessed areas.
Mold spores landing on an organic surface start thriving by consuming the surface and eventually destroys it. As the mold colony flourishes, the spores start spreading from room to room in your office, especially with the help of air conditioning or other temperature regulators.
Prolonged employee exposure to mold triggers several health concerns. Depending on the health statistics, an employee could start showing symptoms immediately or in the long run.
Building related illness
Building Related Illness (BRI) is any health concern due to particular exposure to the indoor environment. More often, a health care professional monitors the signs and symptoms to diagnose the actual illness.
Mold contamination in commercial buildings is a common trigger of BRIs. The BRI concern can be normally addressed by eliminating mold contamination.
Some people exhibit symptoms only when they are in the commercial building, and the health concerns disappear once they leave the building. This could be Sick Building Syndrome and differs from BRI as it is linked to the time spent in the contaminated space.
Mold in a commercial indoor environment can trigger allergic, infection, and toxin medicated related health concerns. Major health concerns related to these are as follows:
Itchy or watery eyes, irritating nose and throat, headache, and fatigue could be allergic rhinitis. The condition tends to elevate in hot and humid climatic conditions. Continuous exposure to mold and pollen within closed office spaces can aggravate the symptoms.
Allergic asthma is a chronic lung disease that usually takes its time to develop and is caused by prolonged exposure to allergens, including mold, pollen, and dust mites. The allergic reaction causes airway inflammation, which in turn contracts or tightens the neighboring muscles.
Symptoms of asthma are:
- Tightness in chest
- Breathing difficulties
Mold is a common trigger to asthma attacks. The variety of compounds released by mold spores like proteins can trigger allergies that can lead to asthma.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP)
Mold spores consume organic surfaces to thrive, and these spores become airborne to spread from room to room. Inhaling the antigens in organic dust can trigger lung-related allergic reactions called Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP).
The antigen particles up to the size of 5 micrometers find their way into the lung to cause inflammation. Continuous exposure to dust antigens can trigger cough, muscle aches, breathing difficulties, and tightness in the chest.
Prolonged exposure to antigens can cause scarring in the lung, leading to fibrosis condition. For any business, the sources of concern that could trigger an HP includes air conditioning systems, humidifiers, and ventilation.
Ventilation pneumonitis is a health condition triggered by both fungal and microbial growth in commercial ventilation systems. The disease affects the lungs, and staff is vulnerable to it during ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Systemic fungal infections
Fungi types, namely Histoplasma capsulatum, and Cryptococcus neoformans can trigger infections. These fungi variants are predominantly observed in bird droppings and roosts.
Office buildings with bird nests or droppings near the ventilation system can be a strong contender for spreading this disease. These fungal infections are mainly observed in immunocompromised individuals.
Mycotoxins are a major metabolic byproduct of some molds. This fungus type finds its way to the human’s respiratory tract via inhalation, contact, or ingestion and can trigger toxic reactions.
Aflatoxin, a mycotoxin variant, is a liver carcinogen. Mycotoxins are not aggressive when it comes to triggering major health concerns in humans. Most mold types can produce different mycotoxins under favorable conditions, including humidity, temperature, light, and air supply.
Unaddressed mold contamination can be a significant headache equally for both the business and its employees. While the business could face a substantial financial loss in terms of mold remediation and shut down period, the employees have to deal with economic and health hardship.
Keeping a close eye on your commercial space indoor environment is always an ideal option. Enforcing strict and regular inspections via a certified mold remediation specialist is a must.