Molds in the Environment
What is mold?
A mold is a microscopic fungus that grows and lives on plant or animal matter or on
nonorganic objects. Most molds are made up of filaments and reproduce through the
production of spores. Spores spread by air, water, or insects. There are many thousands
of species of fungi. Common indoor molds include:
Molds are found everywhere in the environment, both indoors and outdoors, and throughout
What are common reactions to mold?
Molds cause allergic symptoms in many people. Common reactions to molds include nasal
stuffiness, eye irritation, or wheezing when breathing.
More severe reactions may happen among workers, such as farmers, who are exposed to
large amounts of molds in occupational settings. These reactions include fever or
shortness of breath. Mold infections may happen in the lungs of people with obstructive
lung disease. People with weakened immune systems would be especially susceptible
to infections from many different types of mold or fungi.
How can mold exposure be decreased?
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), mold is one of the most
serious results of water damage from a hurricane or severe floods. Mold can grow within
24 to 48 hours after water damage. It can keep growing until the correct measures
are applied to stop it. The CDC states molds can be recognized by sight, such as wall
or ceiling discoloration, and a bad odor or musty smell.
FEMA and CDC warn that returning to water-damaged homes after a disaster may pose
serious health threats. This is especially true for people who already have preexisting
respiratory conditions, pregnant women, children, older adults, and people with diseases
that compromise the immune system. Always wear rubber gloves, goggles, and boots when
cleaning areas with mold.
FEMA and CDC have developed specific guidelines for cleanup of water-related disasters.
Please talk with your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have
about this condition.