The Center For Disease Control (CDC) dictates that "Mold is unacceptable in any home or building." (www.cdc.gov)

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold.

There are also medical studies linking mold to certain types of cancer and neurological brain damage in some people.

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

In addition, in 2004 the IOM found sufficient evidence to link exposure to damp indoor environments in general to upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people and with asthma symptoms in people with asthma. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking exposure to damp indoor environments in general to shortness of breath, to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children and to potential development of asthma in susceptible individuals. In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, suggesting mold be responsible for the increase in asthma and upper respiratory infections world-wide. Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies.

A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), have been published. Further studies are needed to find out what other causes contribute to acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.


  • The vast majority of people suffering from chronic respiratory infections are not aware that their problem is related to mold exposure. And unfortunately, their physicians are also unaware, making appropriate treatment impossible.
  • All molds have the potential to cause ill health, depending on their type, whether or not they produce toxins, how long you are exposed, and your overall health and resistance to infection.
  • In addition to minor or major respiratory problems, molds can also cause a multitude of other problems, including skin rashes, gastrointestinal problems, genitourinary problems, immunosuppression, and hemorrhage.
  • The most common places for indoor mold to take hold are bathrooms and kitchens, behind or under appliances, around windows, in basements, or in any other damp area.
  • In addition to consulting a professional mold remediator, also consider that a high-quality air purifier may help reduce your exposure to mold toxins.

Mold pollution is a key element of indoor air pollution that few people understand. Mold has been making the headlines more frequently over the last several years, largely as a result of Hurricane Katrina. And the past several years have brought enormous record-breaking floods in the U.S. not seen in more than a century, including the massive overflow of the Mississippi River, certain to activate serious mold infestations in certain areas of the country.

If you live in one of those water-stricken areas, you could already be "sleeping with the enemy."
Along with obvious places such as shower stalls and damp basements and crawlspaces, there can be many hidden sources of mold in your home. Particularly, if you've had plumbing problems or leaks in your roof, mold may grow and release spores from places such as behind drywall, under carpet or carpet padding, or in wood.

But mold can find its way into some rather surprising places. One study found that even Christmas trees can breed mold quietly releasing millions of spores into the room and causing winter allergies and asthma attacks. The study found that indoor air quality dropped six-fold over the 14 days a Christmas tree typically decorates a room. Millions of mold spores may even be hiding in your pillows.

And, surprisingly, if you live in a dry climate you may be even MORE at risk—mold grows routinely in desert regions, and the desert naturally selects the most tenacious forms.

Mold Can Be Deadly

What many people don't realize is that mold can make you extremely sick, or even kill you. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),1 all molds have the potential to cause ill health. The type and severity of your symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of your exposure, your age and general health, and your existing sensitivities or allergies.

At a 2003 environmental medicine symposium in Dallas, studies of more than 1,600 patients suffering health issues related to fungal exposure were presented. These patients experienced major medical problems, including the following:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and visual disturbances
  • Immune system disturbances and fatigue
  • GI problems
  • Shortness of breath

Yet, medical professionals are sometimes not up to speed on how extensive and devastating mold can be to human health, often missing important biological clues that you're being affected by mold. It is important to be aware of these potential problems because your physician may NOT be, and you need to take the wheel as your own health advocate.

Mold's Favorite Places in Your Home

Fungi grow by releasing reproductive cells (spores) into the air, just as plants reproduce by spreading seeds. The airborne spores are invisible to the naked eye, which is a major reason mold is such a problem. It is not uncommon to find hundreds or even thousands of mold spores per cubic foot of indoor air. Spores are extremely small (1-100 microns)—20 million spores would fit on a postage stamp.

Spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dryness, that do not support normal mold growth. In fact, many spores can lie dormant for decades until favorable conditions allow them to spring back to life.

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, provided moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, tile, sheetrock, insulation, leather, fabrics, and foods. Molds survive by digesting whatever substrate they are growing on, which is a real problem when it happens to be your floorboards. There is no way to eliminate all mold and mold spores from your indoor environment; the only way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. The most common indoor places for mold to take hold are damp areas, such as:

  • Bathrooms and kitchens, especially under sinks—particularly leaky ones
  • Behind or under appliances that hide slow plumbing leaks (refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.)
  • Roof leaks
  • Around windows where condensation collects
  • High humidity areas of your home, such as basements

Often, the first sign of a mold problem is a "musty" odor. You are probably familiar with the smell of mildew—mildew is simply a variety of mold. You could also notice bowed or buckled floorboards, discolored carpet, a new water stain on your wall, or black or white specks—all signs you could be developing a mold problem. But what type of life form is mold?