Mold Exposure (cont.)

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Where can mold be found in homes?

Although shower stalls and basements are typical moist areas prone to the growth of molds, any moist area in the home can harbor mold. Drywall, ceiling tiles, carpets, furniture, ductwork, roofing, paneling, wallpaper, and the areas around plumbing pipes are examples of areas in the home that can become infested by mold if the requisite growing conditions are present.

Mold from the outdoors can enter the home through open doors, windows, and vents. It may also become attached to clothing, shoes, and pets and therefore be carried indoors.

Mold can have many different colors and sometimes appears as spots. Additionally, a musty odor may be present. Mold growth may also be hidden underneath carpeting, on the back side of wallpaper, and behind drywall or paneling.

What kinds of health problems may be linked to mold? What are symptoms of mold allergy?

Molds produce irritating substances that may act as allergens (allergy-causing substances) in sensitive individuals. Furthermore, some molds produce toxic substances. Mold may not cause health effects or it may lead to symptoms in people who are sensitive to molds.

Allergic reactions to mold are the most common health effects of mold. Allergic reactions may happen immediately or develop after a period of time following exposure. Both growing mold and mold spores may lead to allergic reactions. Symptoms of mold allergy may include sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, tearing and redness of the eyes, and skin irritation or rash. Asthma attacks may be caused by mold or mold spores in people who have asthma and are allergic to mold. Even in some nonallergic individuals, mold can irritate the eyes, skin, and airways. For example, the "black mold" Stachybotrys, along with some other types of mold, produces toxins known as mycotoxins that can cause irritation of the skin and airways in susceptible individuals.

In some cases, people may develop severe reactions to mold exposure. Symptoms of severe reactions, which are uncommon, include fever and difficulty breathing. People with compromised immune systems or those with chronic lung disease can develop serious infections of the lungs due to molds.

It is not possible to predict the degree of severity of the health risks associated with mold in the home. Allergic individuals vary in their degree of susceptibility to mold, and the risk may also depend upon the extent and exact type of mold that is present.

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 wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Mold was linked to the worsening of asthma symptoms in people who have asthma. Mold was also reported to be linked to hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to this immunologic condition. This uncommon disease is similar to pneumonia and can develop in susceptible individuals after brief or prolonged exposure to mold.

Despite some initial concerns about other medical conditions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "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), has not been proven."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/20/2012

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