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Q&A: Can household mold make me sick?

Consumer Reports News: August 28, 2007 12:47 PM

I recently noticed what appears to be mold in a couple of spots in my master bathroom. Should I be concerned?—Laurie S., New York City

Small, isolated patches of mold growing on and around your shower curtain or tub usually aren't a problem. But mold that covers a large area can aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. Mold can grow out of control whenever buildings retain too much moisture for too long without drying out, even in arid climates.

Many types of mold can cause stuffed or runny noses, rashes, and itchy eyes if you're allergic to mold. They might also pose more-serious risks to people with undeveloped or impaired immune systems, including infants, children, seniors, and anyone with HIV or cancer.

Properly sealing and ventilating your home is the first step toward preventing mold, as detailed in "Mold: Is your home at risk." A dehumidifier can also inhibit mold. See our free dehumidifier buying advice for more information.

Left unchecked, relative humidity above 50 percent can breed mildew, dust mites, and mold that exacerbate allergies and asthma, and degrade indoor air quality. Mildew and mold can thrive on and discolor cloth or natural-wood furniture and grow on clothes, books, and other items stored in your basement or elsewhere. An increasingly common household problem in this country, mold can also cause drywall and wood to rot, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in structural damage.

For more information, see our free report on "Cleaning up mold."

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