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Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items.
Molds produce microscopic cells called "spores" which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.
Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply:
Suitable place to grow
Of these, controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth.
Should I be concerned about mold in my home? Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.
Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it.
The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person.
The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as:
Nasal and sinus congestion
Skin and eye irritation
Upper respiratory infections (including sinus)
There is wide variability in how different people are affected by indoor mold. However, the long term presence of indoor mold growth may eventually become unhealthy for anyone. The following types of people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:
Infants and children
Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma
Persons having weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, organ transplant recipients)
Those with special health concerns should consult a medical professional if they feel their health is affected by indoor mold.
Some types of mold can produce chemical compounds (called mycotoxins) although they do not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some circumstances, the toxins produced by indoor mold may cause health problems. However, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold is present or whether it can produce toxins.