… MOLD … certainly out of sight … hidden … something we truly do not choose to evaluate though its effect upon human health is quite devastating …
The "New" Hidden Pandemic Sweeping Across America
Dr. Jack Thrasher has a PhD in cell biology from the UCLA School of Medicine, and is an expert on the impact of mold on human health. Here, he discusses the health effects of toxic molds and bacteria, as well as his recommendations for remediation.
Jack Thrasher, PhD, is extremely knowledgeable on the topic of mold and how it impacts your health. Interestingly, from a toxicity point of view, some mycotoxins that molds produce are actually far more toxic than heavy metals, in terms of concentration. Mold mycotoxins also tend to affect more biological systems in your body than pesticides or heavy metals do.
"For example, stachybotrys produces mycotoxins referred to as trichothecene. They inhibit protein synthesis. It infects every organ of your body from your toes to the top of your head,"Dr. Thrasher says. "I really think that the molds are much more dangerous from that point of view."
This flies in the face of what is commonly appreciated about toxic contaminants. Most would assume that pesticides or heavy metals would be far more dangerous. However, mold is a very significant health issue. And despite the fact that molds have been around forever, mankind has not developed greater tolerance against them than more modern chemical toxins. Part of that is because they tend to rapidly mutate.
"Let’s take a look at Cryptococcus for example," Dr. Thrasher says. "Cryptococcus used to be endemic to the desserts of southwest United States. Now there is a new species… that was accidentally released up in Vancouver, Canada. It’s spreading from the northwest throughout the country. It’s a mutated form, [and] highly pathogenic to humans. About 25 to 30 percent of the humans who have become infected with it die… When they mutate they avoid our immune system.
The other thing they can do is produce chemicals that suppress your immune system at the same time. So therefore, I don’t think we’ll ever become resistant to these organisms."
Mold—A Hidden Pandemic in America?
According to Dr. Thrasher, the prevalence of mold in America is so great, he refers to it as pandemic. As many as 40 percent of all American schools and at least 25 percent or more of all homes are believed to be affected by mold and microbial growth due to water intrusion. A large portion of the problem stems from shoddy construction.
"One thing that I have seen and observed by working with individuals in the field who understand construction, is that construction is extremely poor in the homes we have today. Plus, they’re using building materials that are tremendous good food material for the microbes.
When I was a child… all the homes were built with genuine lath and plaster on the inside. [Now] you walk in and knock on any wall and you have what we call wallboard. That wallboard loves and is a good growth medium for all forms of mold. Everyone that I can think of, almost everyone now has carpets. The backside of carpets is also a great growth medium for mold and bacteria.
… The other type of home that I’m seeing that is of tremendous potential problems to the homeowner is homes that are built with a basement… [T]hey put the concrete down, and there is no water barrier between the earth and the concrete wall of the basement.
The same thing with the foundation, there is no water barrier. So when you water your yard, when there are heavy rains and things like this, the moisture… goes right to the foundation and into the basement or underneath the house, and then the moisture wicks up through the home, increasing humidity.
All of that increasing humidity, anything above 60 percent is going to lead to growth of mold and bacteria… People have to be very careful about this situation. That’s the reason why I call it a pandemic."
Gutters can also cause problems. You need to be mindful of the drainage from your roof. I didn’t realize this myself, and suffered the consequences when one of the gutters on my home drained onto the ground directly beside the wall, and the water seeped straight through to my basement. So you want to make sure the downspout is far enough away from the building. Ideally, it should empty at least 5 to 10 feet from the wall.
You also want to take care that the soil next to the walls of your home slopes away from the walls, to prevent water from collecting around the foundation. And make sure your lawn sprinklers do not spray the walls. Other common construction issues that can contribute to water intrusion and subsequent mold proliferation include:
· Using polyethylene PVC piping instead of copper or galvanized piping, which can be easily punctured by nails or staples
· Bath tubs installed with improper sealing around the drain
· Improperly sealed sinks and garbage disposal
· Installing particleboard (waferboard) after it has been rained on during construction
Bacteria—Another Health Risk Related to Mold Damage
Growing right along with mold are what’s called ‘gram negative’ and ‘gram positive’ bacteria. Just like mold, they require moisture and organic material to thrive, and the synergistic action between mold and bacteria further increase and worsen inflammatory health conditions.
"The gram positive are group of bacteria that are being totally overlooked," Dr. Thrasher says.
"These positive bacteria consist of several bacilli, cocci, and one group called the actinomycetes. The actinomycetes contain several different groups of bacteria like mycobacterium. We’re all familiar with… mycobacterium tuberculosis.
There are 139 other species of mycobacterium that can grow in our environment and 11 to 12 of those in the indoor environment are very serious human pathogens and can cause a condition called mycobacterium avium complex… and this is a very dangerous situation. It causes serious infection of the lungs and can spread throughout the body. Many of the symptoms are those of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. The condition can go on and develop into an asthma-like condition and then also into sarcoidosis particularly of the mediastinum.
Then the other group are the streptomyces… Streptomyces gave rise to a lot of antibiotics. Also, streptomyces are a source of many of the chemotherapeutic agents that are used today. These organisms are growing in the indoor environment."
Gram negative bacteria are also extremely harmful. When they die, they release their cell walls, which are referred to as lipopolysaccharide, or endotoxins. These endotoxins can severely exacerbate asthma and other conditions because they are highly inflammatory. According to Dr. Thrasher, research indicates the inflammation they cause can also affect your brain and other organs.
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