Mold Illness Overview
What is Mold Illness?
There have been lots of names for the illness over the years, including “Mold illness.” “Mold Sickness” Let start with some basic information, this illness is not an allergy or allergic reaction. It is an inflammation of the body, caused by an immune system that has gone on the defensive. The term “mold illness” is a sub-category of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). The definition of CIRS is:
“An acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building (symptoms/what-is-a-water-damaged-building) with resident toxigenic organisms, including, but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and mycobacteria as well as inflammagens such as endotoxins, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases, mannans and possibly spirocyclic drimanes; as well as volatile organic compounds.
What Happens in the Body with Mold Illness?
Many people may “not look that sick.” But people are having great difficulties with an illness that causes them to lose their quality of life. These people don’t know that the inflammation that makes them ill comes from within: it is due to an assault by their own unregulated innate immune system responses. Because of exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building, these patients will have a series of abnormalities in innate immune responses that will not self heal; will not abate in severity [actually increase!] and will continue to cause illness from blood- and tissue- based inflammation.
When the body is faced with a foreign substance, it immediately begins to process that substance – recognize it, determine if it is good or bad, a friend or a foe, and throw it into the antigen presenting machinery that will normally generate an effective antibody response. If the body determines the substance is a enemy, it will develop antibodies to bind these substances, called antigens.
These antigens stay in the body, and our own defenses bombard our body in response to those antigens. What you now have is a person who is defenseless against new exposures and is suffering daily from inflammation.
It is a vicious cycle – the foreign antigens stay in the body, causing the immune system to constantly fight back. This causes so much inflammation in the body that it leads to chronic illness, and the occurrence of many symptoms. Our entire body suffers from our own innate immune system.
How Did I Get Sick With Mold Illness?
There are many ways buildings become home to a toxic mix of microbes, and harmful chemicals. Buildings can host fungi, bacteria, mycobacteria, and actinomycetes as a result of construction defects like inappropriate ventilation, faulty construction of crawl spaces, inadequate building design, flat roofs, fake stucco cladding without adequate caulking, basements exposed to saturated ground water conditions, not correcting water leaks and more.
Mold illness reflects a growing societal problem: dangerous buildings. Inhaling these dangerous inflammagens is making people sick.
We live in the Era of Dangerous Buildings with 50% of our buildings (NIOSH, 2011) having water damage so the likelihood that you will be exposed to dangerous buildings is quite high.