Why Water-Damaged Buildings Pose a Real Health Threat

When water damage occurs in indoor spaces concerns can go well beyond cosmetic. If left unchecked, water soaked into building materials with organic components, such as ceiling tiles, walls and wood, can promote the growth of mold. While the estimated 50,000 different species of mold are perfectly normal in the outdoor environment, about 200 types can cause serious health concerns for people when they move indoors. Known as toxic molds, the 200 species are responsible for creating dangerous mold poisons, or mycotoxins. If inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the body, mycotoxins can promote the development of serious and sometimes life-threatening illnesses.

Addressing water damage as soon as it occurs is generally the best bet for safeguarding people and property alike. This means addressing the source of the damage first. Fixing that broken pipe, for example, is critical for preventing repeat issues. It also calls for removing and/or treating areas of water damage to prevent mold from growing all together.

If mold growth has already occurred, it is typically best to let professionals handle mitigation work in water damaged buildings. Environmental inspectors will be able to assist with mold and/or mycotoxin testing and can help oversee the process to remove these contaminants and contaminated-items from the environment. Leaving mitigation once mold is evident to the professionals can help ensure that personal exposure or continued exposure to mycotoxins does not occur.

Should mold growth already be evident, it may be advised to check people who live or work in the environment for mycotoxin exposure. Urine screening panels can confirm or deny exposure and may help medical professionals address any potentially negative health effects. Long-term mycotoxin exposure has been associated with such serious health concerns as kidney toxicity, some forms of cancer, immune suppression and neurotoxicity, among others.

Addressing water damage in an indoor environment immediately is necessary for safeguarding people and animals from the hazards toxic molds pose. If contamination of people is already suspected, mycotoxin screening panels may be advisable for helping medical professionals treat or prevent illness.