What are the Effects of Mold on Health?

N. Swensson

Mold spores are present in virtually every indoor environment. They can grow on many different surfaces in bathrooms, basements, and almost any other area where moisture and oxygen are present. The effects of mold on health can vary. Many people are not usually affected by exposure to household mold, but others can be allergic to the spores. In these cases, mold can cause symptoms including sneezing, runny eyes, and dermatitis. People who are exposed to larger quantities of mold may experience more serious health problems like difficulty breathing and fever. The most serious effects of mold on health are fungal infections, usually in people with other chronic health conditions that affect the lungs.

Moldy bread.
Moldy bread.

Household mold spores are present in almost every indoor environment, and many times there are no effects of this mold on health. There are some homes, however, that have higher concentrations of mold than others, especially where there are high moisture levels such as in a damp basement or crawlspace. Plumbing leaks can also create sources of moisture and encourage mold growth. People who live in homes with high levels of mold who are allergic to the spores can have allergy symptoms. Unlike seasonal allergies, the symptoms may not improve during different times of the year and may worsen if more time is spent indoors.

An orange with mold on it.
An orange with mold on it.

Sometimes, the effects of mold on health are more serious than a mild allergic reaction. People who are exposed to higher concentrations of mold may suffer from more severe health effects. For example, people who are exposed to workplace conditions where very high levels of mold are present can have more severe allergic reactions and breathing problems. Children who are otherwise healthy may be more likely to experience negative health effects from mold exposure.

Mold can irritate the airways, causing coughing spells and breathing problems.
Mold can irritate the airways, causing coughing spells and breathing problems.

People who may experience the most severe effects of mold on health are those with existing health conditions that affect the lungs and breathing. People who have asthma may find that their symptoms worsen if they are exposed to mold. People with other chronic illnesses such as obstructive lung disease can develop infections as a result of mold exposure.

A bleach and water solution is one home remedy used to get rid of a mild mold problem.
A bleach and water solution is one home remedy used to get rid of a mild mold problem.

Household mold problems can usually be remedied by first cleaning moldy areas with either detergent or bleach and water. Then any sources of moisture such as plumbing leaks or basement dampness should be repaired. People who suspect that mold is affecting their health should visit a health care professional for more advice.

Mold can cause allergy symptoms, such as sneezing.
Mold can cause allergy symptoms, such as sneezing.

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