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What are the Dangers of Mold and Mildew?

Mold and mildew pose serious health risks, including respiratory issues, allergies, and weakened immune systems. They thrive in damp environments, silently damaging your home's structure and air quality. Exposure can lead to chronic conditions, especially in vulnerable individuals. Curious about how to protect your family and home from these hidden hazards? Discover more about prevention and safe removal strategies in our comprehensive guide.
L. Burgoon
L. Burgoon

Mold and mildew are both fungi that grow in moist environments, such as damp basements or bathrooms. The fungi can grow on any household surface—from wood to carpet to tile—and on food. The main safety issue, especially from toxic mold, comes from inhaling the spores, which can lead to respiratory and nervous system problems. Exposure to the fungi also may cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation. While people with preexisting conditions may particularly suffer, the side effects of mold and mildew can hit anyone.

Most homes have at least a minor mildew and mold presence that causes few dangerous side effects. The danger of the fungi escalates with major cases. The growth starts within 48 hours of a surface’s exposure to moisture. Unchecked, mildew—which is mold in its early stage—starts to appear. The growth advances to full-blown mold that spreads by spores traveling in the air.

Moldy bread.
Moldy bread.

Some molds produce mycotoxin, a potentially toxic substance that is extremely dangerous to inhale. This toxic mold, which often looks like black paint or tar, grows on surfaces repeatedly exposed to heavy moisture, usually from water damage. Short-term exposure to the mold can compromise an individual’s immune system, leading to fatigue, headaches, burning throat and nasal passages, and cold and flu-like symptoms. The mycotoxins attack the nervous system with long-term exposure, leading to dizziness, mood changes and memory loss. In some cases, black mold is fatal to animals and humans.

Grapes with mildew on them.
Grapes with mildew on them.

Mold and mildew present health dangers even if the contamination is not caused by toxic varieties. Respiratory problems are very common, especially in people with preexisting issues, such as asthma. These substances can increase the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks. Exposure also may cause wheezing or a burning feeling when inhaling.

The fungi also may result in repeated bouts of cold- or allergy-like symptoms that do not go away or get better with medication. People may experience sore throats, congestion, sinus problems, sneezing and runny noses. These substances can also cause eye irritation manifested in redness, itchiness or watering. Exposure may lead to skin rashes, bumps or hives as well.

An orange with mold on it.
An orange with mold on it.

People with certain health conditions, including compromised immunity, severe allergies and asthma, are more susceptible to the dangerous effects of mold and mildew. Long-term exposure, however, can lead to any of the negative side effects, even in healthy people. Those who notice such problems and who do not respond to medical treatments should check their homes for mildew and mold.

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Discussion Comments


We have this moldy smell in our office which is carpeted from wall to wall. It has really affect my breathing and I constantly get these ridiculous headaches that subside every time I leave work.

We have brought the issue to management but nothing has been done about it. I'm even thinking of lodging an investigation with the Health and Safety board of South Africa.


Thank you for covering the dangers of mold and mildew. Mold and mildew often grow in damp environments. When someone's home is flooded, there is very little time to remove the water and dry the home before mold sets in. It is good to have a professional who knows how to remove water damage and mold as well as perform restoration on your home.


Thank you for the great information about mold. I am a certified mold inspector, and when people's homes test positive for mold, they ask me if they should have it removed. I leave that decision to them, and I will provide them with your site information to become better informed about the topic.

Valerie D, Certified Mold Inspector


I am working in a old building which is loaded with lots of junk. I am removing everything to a dumpster. This place has mold and mildew everywhere. How should I protect myself and my health while working?


What is the best way to get rid of mold and mildew odor? Some cleaners I have tired get rid of the mold, but there is still that odor that I have a hard time getting rid of.

We have carpet in our basement, and I think I may end up ripping out all of the carpet to totally get rid of the smell.

I would like to put down something like tile and use rugs instead of having carpet in an area that seems to stay damp a lot of the time.

In the mean time, does anyone have any good suggestions to get this smell out of my carpet?


I live in an area of the country where most homes have basements. In fact, I can't ever remember living in a home that didn't have one.

Some of them were pretty scary places to be and always had a mold and mildew smell to them. If the basement is just used as a storage space and not living quarters, I can see how it would be easy for this to happen.

As a kid, our basement was always a scary place to me, and I never wanted to go down there by myself. I still think of that moldy smell when I go down into a basement today.

Maybe I am strange, but I have never liked basements and prefer to be upstairs where it is light and there are lots of windows.


My son has asthma and we never let him sleep in the basement even though we had finished bedrooms down there.

If he spends much time in a damp environment like that his asthma always gets worse. A few times after we had a lot of rain, I would notice some mold growing along the wall in the basement.

I had someone tell me the best mold and mildew remover was to put some bleach in a spray bottle and use that to get rid of it.

This has worked for me every time and is much cheaper than buying a special cleaner that would probably do the same thing.

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    • Moldy bread.
      Moldy bread.
    • Grapes with mildew on them.
      By: Frenk
      Grapes with mildew on them.
    • An orange with mold on it.
      By: nito
      An orange with mold on it.
    • Mold and mildew exposure symptoms can include hives.
      By: Jürgen Fälchle
      Mold and mildew exposure symptoms can include hives.
    • People may experience congestion, sneezing and runny noses due to mold and mildew.
      By: CandyBox Images
      People may experience congestion, sneezing and runny noses due to mold and mildew.
    • Short term exposure to mold and mildew can compromise one's immune system and cause a burning throat.
      By: jedi-master
      Short term exposure to mold and mildew can compromise one's immune system and cause a burning throat.