Exposure to Mold

Molds are forms of fungi that are found naturally both indoors and outdoors. Moisture and humidity make mold overgrowth a problem in some buildings. Molds produce spores, which get released in the air. They can cause allergy symptoms in some people. But mold won’t affect most people in their environment. Molds come in a variety of colors, including green, black, white, brown and orange. Mold sometimes appears fuzzy, but often appears in slimy streaks. There is often an earthy or mildew type of odor around mold.

What causes mold to grow inside?

Molds love moisture and need to have a food source. Good food sources for molds are cloth, wood, and wallboard. When moisture doesn’t dry promptly, molds moves in and reproduces quickly. Examples may include a burst pipe or leaking windows in rainstorms. In humid environments, keeping surfaces dry enough to prevent mold growth can be quite a challenge.

How do I get exposed to mold?

Molds produce spores, which are invisible and small enough to travel through the air and into your lungs. Skin contact can also expose you to mold.

How can molds affect my health?

The most common health problem from molds is allergy symptoms. This includes runny nose, scratchy throat, itchy eyes, sneezing, and in more severe cases, wheezing and coughing. Wheezing is a serious symptom that may mean asthma. If you have more serious symptoms, please see your health care provider. Allergy symptoms from mold are more common in people who already have allergy problems.

Some people exposed to mold report flu-like symptoms, dizziness and other non-allergic symptoms. But the cause of these symptoms isn’t known. Although molds can produce toxins (mycotoxins), research so far hasn’t shown a connection between these and nonallergic symptoms.

What can I do about molds in my house?

Any obvious water leaks or similar sources of moisture should be corrected promptly to prevent mold growth. Visible mold on hard surfaces such as tile or vinyl should be removed through surface cleaning with a detergent or soap solution. Mold on porous materials such as ceiling tile or wallboard requires replacement of the contaminated materials. These may need professional removal with appropriate worker protection. If you live in government housing, you should contact your facility manager for assistance.

What can I do about molds in my workplace?

Your workplace needs to clean hard surfaces as outlined above. Report visible mold in your work area to your supervisor, who will bring it to the attention of the industrial hygienist and facility manager. Mold in the work area should be removed. Causes of the growth, such as water leaks, must be corrected to prevent further growth. Any obvious water leaks or similar sources of moisture should be corrected promptly to prevent mold growth.

What if I have symptoms I think are related to mold?

You should make note of the timing of the symptoms and see a health care provider for evaluation. If you have a medical treatment facility on site, you may be evaluated there.

One benefit of this approach is that the on-site clinicians can work as a team with the industrial hygienist in evaluating your work area.

*Information provided by U.S. Army Public Health Center 

Last Updated 11/7/2022