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Get facts about mold and learn what to do if you see it in your work area.

About Mold in the Environment

Your environment can never be totally free of mold. It is naturally occurring, and is generally found everywhere. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Various species of molds can be found both indoors and outdoors. All molds are capable of producing toxins under specific conditions, but there is no one “toxic mold” that should raise additional concern. Mold can enter your home or work environment through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, bags, and pets, and can be carried indoors.

Indoors, mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

Mold and Your Health

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. For the majority of the population, exposure to small amounts of mold does not present a health risk. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies or asthma may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas.

Mold Prevention

Mold growth can be controlled by:

  • Keeping humidity levels between 40% and 60%
  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding
  • Ventilating areas that produce excess moisture

If you notice mold growing in your home or work area, the first thing that needs to be done is to identify and fix the moisture problem:

  • Clean up and dry out any area that has been flooded thoroughly and quickly, (within 24–48 hours)
  • Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried promptly
  • Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture
  • Any additional moldy material should be identified, removed and replaced.
  • Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Mold Testing

You do not need to identify the type of mold growing in your area, and EH&S (based upon CDC guidelines) does not recommend or perform routine sampling for molds. No matter what type of mold is present, you should remove it. Since the effects of mold on people can vary greatly, you cannot rely on sampling and culturing to ascertain your health risk. Also, standards for judging an acceptable level of mold have not been established.

Best Practice

The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth. Call University Facilities at 645-2025 and request to have the moisture source investigated and/or repaired and the mold removed or remediated.

Contact an Expert

headshot of karen peissinger.

Karen Peissinger

Industrial Hygienist

Environment, Health & Safety

Phone: 716-829-3301