Molds photographed using a microscope.
Are your indoor mold levels higher than those outside?
'Toxic mold' is a myth, claims local allergy specialist
Toxic is as Allergy Does
After studying at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Jerold J. Yecies has spent more than 30 years treating patients with allergies in the Lodi and Stockton areas. Yecies said that while so-called "toxic" mold was controversial 10 to 15 years ago, most doctors now have agreed that there are no known allergies to black or toxic mold. In the wake of the Tokay High School's recent mold discoveries Yecies sat down with reporter Amanda Dyer to talk about some of the health effects of mold and the myth of "toxic" mold. Q: What are some reactions people have to molds? A: There's a big difference between patients allergic to mold and toxic mold. Toxic mold is black and it looks terrible, but there's never been shown ... (to be a) specific allergic reaction to toxic mold. People do get what they call hypersensitivity reactions, which means they can have (reactions), just like you're sensitive to any irritant — sneezy, stuffy, headache, cough. Q: Why is it called "toxic," then? A: It's really a misnomer. What they're proposing is that it's not toxic. It's really what they call "damp building syndrome." ... The main damage is if they don't fix this mold problem, be it in a home or a school, it's sort of like a dry rot. It keeps spreading and it will do damage to the structure. Q: So, you can only get sick from mold if you're allergic to it? A: If your allergic to it. We can do allergy tests for the various molds in this area, which we do. And people do have mold induced asthma, nasal and sinus problems, which we can document. But this "toxic mold" is more of an irritant. You've maybe been into areas that smell musty or damp. They irritate you. You may start to cough, maybe sneezy, stuffy, congested, whatever. So, you leave because you feel better when you're away from it. But there's no actual scientific way to prove that. It's more of an irritant type, or what we call a hypersensitivity. Just like you would be to perfume smell or any strong irritant. Q: If you're allergic to mold, not necessarily black mold, what are the range of symptoms you can have from the most benign to the most severe? A: You can have nasal stuffiness, congestion. The most severe would be significant and severe asthma. You can also, not from the toxic mold, but from mold spores, you can get a hypersensitivity lung disease, which is seen in some farmers. And that gives you an asthma, pneumonia type picture. Patients can be pretty sick with that. Q: If someone is exposed to mold or fears that they have allergies to it, what should they do? A: Well first, with any type of allergy you try to avoid what you're allergic to. In other words, if you have mold in the house or a leak, you try to clean it up. If mold is outside — and, of course if you go outside you can't avoid that it's in the air — obviously you breathe it in. We would then treat the patient that is allergic to the mold, that is determined by the various allergy tests, with medication. Not to help specifically the mold, but to help the symptoms. If that does not work or work well enough, then you can desensitize or make someone less allergic to airborne mold by immunization or so-called allergy shots. Q: What are some of the most common molds? A: The ones that are common are alternaria, cladosporium and there are several others that are known to cause allergic reactions. In addition, you may have stachybotrys that doesn't cause (allergic reactions). But patients don't care. If they're in an area where they're having trouble, or have increased symptoms they, frankly, don't care what type of mold it is. They want to be removed from that environment or treated. Both actually. Q: Is this a good area for mold or a bad area? A: The mold counts for the valley here are higher in the winter. But they're not as high as they would be in, say, Santa Cruz or along the coast, where it's damp and foggy and misty most of the year. So, the mold counts over there are much higher and last much longer than they do in the valley. Q: What are the oddest things that you've seen people be allergic to? A: A patient can be allergic to anything, and I've learned not to discount what a patient says. Certainly peanuts, eggs, fish, shrimp are the more common allergens. There are single allergens. We've had patients have reactions to ... one the other day was carrot. It's a very common, easily innocuous vegetable, but, yes, they definitely were allergic to a carrot. ©Amanda Dyer News-Sentinel Staff June 30, 2007 5:38 AM PDT
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Date Posted: 2007-06-30  

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