The midwestern floods have left behind death and destruction. But the end of the high waters doesn't mean the end of problems.
In addition to having their homes become breeding grounds for a whole host of dangerous contaminants, homeowners may face mold issues that can be toxic and dangerous, according to the Environmental News Network (ENN).
ENN says an estimated 11 million people and nine Midwestern states have been impacted by the floods, the severe weather preceding them, or both, and with numbers like these toxic mold becomes a widespread threat.
The EPA details the potential health risks of mold exposure on its website:
Allergic Reactions: Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions to mold are common - these reactions can be immediate or delayed. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).
Asthma: Molds can trigger asthma attacks in persons who are allergic (sensitized) to molds.
Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis: Hypersensitivity pneumonitis may develop following either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) exposure to molds. The disease resembles bacterial pneumonia and is uncommon.
Irritant Effects: Mold exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and sometimes can create a burning sensation in these areas.
Opportunistic Infections: People with weakened immune systems may be more vulnerable to infections by molds.
The EPA explains that molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. The agency says that more than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds, and some of the molds that are known to produce mycotoxins are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. People are exposed to mycotoxins through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.
Symptoms and health effects associated with toxic mold exposure include: mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer.
For more information on mold in your home, visit the EPA's mold resource page.
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