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Question: What if I suspect mold but cannot
find it? Look where there has been previous
water damage, where there is standing water, or where
there is a lot of humidity. Visible mold growth can
sometimes be found underneath materials where water has
damaged surfaces or behind walls.
Question: How much mold can make me sick?
It depends. For some people, a relatively small number
of mold spores can cause health problems. For other
people, it may take much more. The basic rule is, if you
can see or smell it, take steps to eliminate the excess
moisture, and to cleanup and remove the mold.
Porous substances that are growing mold should be
Question: What symptoms do molds commonly
cause? Mold can cause illness in several ways:
Irritation: Exposure to mold can irritate the eyes,
nose, and upper breathing passages. Symptoms of
irritation include burning eyes, nasal congestion,
coughing, and post-nasal drip.
Allergy: Many people become allergic
to mold and develop hay fever or asthma symptoms such as
itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, chest
tightness, cough and wheezing.
Toxins: Some molds create chemicals,
called toxins that can cause illness. While much remains
unknown about mold toxins, it appears that some molds
produce toxins that can have effects on the skin, the
respiratory system, the immune system, and the nervous
Infection: Some molds can also cause
infection, such as chronic sinus infections. Other types
of mold-induced infection are much less common, and
occur mainly among people with weakened immune systems.
Examples of individuals with weakened immune systems
include those with HIV infection, those receiving
chemotherapy, and the elderly. Children and pregnant
women may also be at increased risk.
Question: Are some molds more hazardous than
others? Allergic persons vary in their
sensitivities to mold, both as to amount and type needed
to cause reactions. In addition, certain types of molds
can produce toxins, called mycotoxins that the mold
makes to inhibit or prevent the growth of other
organisms. Mycotoxins are not always produced, and
whether a mold produces mycotoxins while growing in a
building depends on what the mold is growing on,
conditions such as temperature, pH, humidity or other
unknown factors. When mycotoxins are present, they occur
in both living and dead mold spores and may be present
in materials that have become contaminated with molds.
Question: What can I save? What should I
throw away? In general, porous substances that
are growing mold, such as paper, rags, wallboard, and
rotten wood, should be bagged and thrown out. Harder
materials such as glass, plastic, or metal can be kept
after they are cleaned and disinfected.