The development of mold in the home can pose potentially harmful health risks. Molds are a type of fungi that can live both indoors and outdoors. Common building materials, such as wallpaper, insulation, drywall, and flooring materials, can provide a good environment for mold to grow. Mold is especially suited to grow in areas that are moist and damp. Accumulated moisture from flooding, leaks, or high humidity can cause mold to grow and reproduce.
Spores from the mold Stachybotrys chartarum, or black mold, can become trapped within wall spaces and lie inactive for many years. Black mold reproduces by creating spores that carry harmful chemicals called mycotoxins. The spores are released into the air where they circulate and may land on household surfaces.
Mycotoxins that come in contact with skin may cause skin irritation. If inhaled, these toxins travel to the lungs and infiltrate the air sacs. Allergy and hay fever-like symptoms can develop, such as nasal stuffiness, itchy eyes and wheezing.
Molds can enter the home through any type of opening, such as an open door or window, leaks in roofs, or around pipes. Households that have been exposed to moisture should be tested for the presence of mold. New homes should be constructed with appropriate measures for reducing the potential for moisture accumulation.