Health Hazards in Mold and Mildew

Living in Hawaii has some perks and some challenges. The thing that makes it so beautiful is the high humidity so the rain forests can thrive. We have just finished all seasons of Lost, and it has stayed breathtakingly beautiful for the whole series.

However, these high humidity conditions do cause condensation to form on cold surfaces inside of buildings and even outside where there is constant water. Long periods of humidity really challenge those that take care of computers, books, clothes and many more items. If condensation remains in a location for a long time, mold and mildew can begin to grow.

Mold is a fungus that can develop on walls, ceilings, food, clothes, books, furniture and many more items. It is particularly troublesome in bathrooms, closets, basements and kitchens. If you have experienced a flood, you are aware that the water can get trapped in the walls for a long period of time and this can be hazardous to your health. Mildew actually is a type of mold that grows on leather, fabric, paper, etc. and is also potentially harmful.

Health Conditions

Molds cause certain types of allergies. Runny nose, postnasal drip, sneezing, itchy eyes, throat and nose, sinusitis, headaches, and watery eyes are the most common complaints. For those who suffer with asthma, mold can make your condition worse. Shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing are symptoms of asthma.

Some serious health conditions can also be caused by mold and mildew. Some toxins are produced by certain molds and can greatl affect people in a contaminated house or office. If you are exposed for a long length of time you may develop more serious conditions than just allergies or asthma. Some memory and hearing loss has been attributed to mold contamination. Also breathing difficulties, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, excessive bruising and acid reflux have been linked to mold. Those affected have had to take medications or had to have therapy or treatments to get back to normal.

Even permanent damage to your health can result if you do not eliminate the mold and mildew from your environment. Mold can weaken our immune system and cause brain damage. Balance and coordination problems, long-term memory, hearing or eyesight loss have been reported. Some of these conditions cannot be reversed. The most damaging strains of mold can even lead to autoimmune diseases. Do are you convinced yet that you need to get rid of any and all mold and mildew in your home?

My sad experience

I traveled to the mainland from Hawaii one summer for about three weeks, and I had locked up the house tight and secure. When I returned, I was shocked to see mold and and mildew growing on places I had not expected. There were little patches of mold growing on our dining room chairs and starting to grow on my couch. I had to scrub and scrub to get it out. Now whenever I go away for an extended amount of time, I make sure I leave the fans going, so there is some circulation of air to minimize the humidity.


We do not have basements in Hawaii, otherwise we would hit water, but for those with basements, mold and mildew can be particularly troublesome. Mold and mildew seem to like dark damp areas of the house particularly where the air is not constantly circulated. It can grow on drapes, rugs, leather, ceilings, corners, carpets and so much more. They will cause discoloration and can damage or rot anything they get a hold in.

The main thing is to take control of the dampness. Ordinary jobs that we do in the home (like cooking, laundering and daily bathing and showering) all add water to the air. If you keep an exhaust fan or dryer running to keep the moisture controlled on clothes, furniture, carpets and all. Central air conditioning or heating is ideal as long as you replace the filters often and keep the temperature even. However, electricity can be very expensive.

One thing that is useful is a dehumidifier. This helps to remove the water from the air. Also ventilating by keeping the windows open can help as long as there is a breeze. Inside closets and small rooms, it is recommended that you keep a 100-watt electric light bulb burning. We did have this when we lived in Tonga, and it did help in the closets.

Keep Things Clean

Mold and mildew loves soil, grease and film that might grow on the walls, clothes, books and furnishings. As soon as the right amount of moisture, the right temperature and a little food (soil, grease or film) exist in the same location, mold will grow. The best thing to fight mold is to keep your home or environment as clean as possible. Wash clothes often. Do not drop wet towels on your bed or floor. You will also want to have a schedule for washing your drapes. You can use diluted chlorine bleach for cleaning bathrooms, tile walls and floors. You need to leave the bleach on for a few minutes before rinsing it off. Keep your area ventilated until it is completed dry.

Vacuum Often

You can help prevent mold from taking hold by vacuuming regularly. It is so important to keep dirt from getting deep into your rugs and carpet and also to suck up any mold spores which may be present and cause health problems. If you can, take your rugs out into the sun for a few hours. Shampoo your carpets a couple of times a year as well as your furniture, making sure that they dry completely before using.

Helpful Chemicals

Another thing you can do to prevent mold is to use chemicals which do not harm fabrics but they can absorb moisture in the air. These chemicals can hold half their weight in water and can be hung in closets or placed in small containers around the room. These chemicals include silica gel, activated alumina, and anhydrous calcium sulfate. They are usually sold in by different manufacturers in a variety of contraptions.


If you have an emergency where your basement or home is flooded, you will probably do best to call a professional cleaner. They have the right equipment to remove your rugs and carpets and to make sure they are completely clean and dry. The carpet pad will need to be replaced.

Mold can hide in plumbing, air ducts, on windows, entryways, book shelves, drywall and cardboard. Another place it seems to grow quickly is on the refrigerator seal, so it should be regularly washed.

How do You Recognize Mold?

Perhaps you have noticed a few wet spots on your ceiling or carpet or have discovered a water leak. There are many different types of mold that can grow in your home, some of which are hazardous to you and your family's health.

Molds can be many different colors - orange, white, yellow, black, green, brown or gray. If you notice a discoloration in your home, have a closer look. If it has a musty or rotten food smell, it probably is mold. Mold spores are in the air and can land just about anywhere. With the right conditions, they will start to make a colony and by then you will be able to see and smell it.

Some molds are fuzzy, some are smooth like leather, and others look like cotton. Some mold even looks like slime - the type inside of fish tanks or growing on dirty wood chips. Particular kinds even have a bread-like texture or can look like peanut butter or vomit. Matured mold has a powdery texture that looks like cement, and when you scratch it, the spores are released.

If you suspect you have mold, you can get a mold testing kits that helps to identify what types of mold are present. There are also air quality mold testing kits available. If you are very concerned, you can contact professionals who will search, evaluate and test the mold to see if you are in danger from it. Not all molds are dangerous, but they sure can damage the contents of your home if left unchecked.

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Comments 38 comments

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Yes, mold can smell pretty pungent. That is often how you recognize it. Thanks for your comments davesnell. I appreciate that.

davesnell profile image

davesnell 5 years ago from 5437 Cedarmint Drive, Charlotte, N.C. 28227

They even smell very repulsive. Well thanks for the informations about harzadous problems caused by this undesirable fungal growth (mold).

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks saintodd. Glad you found it useful. Mold can be very dangerous, so it is good to be aware of it. I appreciate your comments.

saintodd profile image

saintodd 5 years ago from Snohomish, WA

Great hub. Pictures were hard to look at. Mold has had an impact on my family too - its so nasty and often sneaky. Thanks for the great resource. Voted up!

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thank you toknowinfo. I know vinegar is great for many things. I appreciate your addition to the hub.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 6 years ago

Great hub! Lots of good info. Vinegar is a great and natural way to clean mold if it has not gotten out of hand.

Rated up and useful. Always looking forward to your next articles.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks Eric and Mr. Moldy for your comments. Mold is not only unhealthy - it is unsightly too. I agree with you.

Mr. Moldy 6 years ago

As was mentioned above, one of the big factors in dealing with mold is moving fast when it's first spotted. Either deal with it yourself or call a professional to remediate, but you can't ignore it!

Eric de Jesus 6 years ago

I used to have asthma and I certainly didn't know that molds can trigger this. Memory and hearing loss? This isn't good. My parents' old house used to have molds like that on the ceiling and I'm telling you that it doesn't look pretty at all. Thanks for the great advice!

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks Tamarajo. I appreciate your comments. Glad you found it useful.

Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 6 years ago from Southern Minnesota

I knew mold wasn't good but wow didn't know all the health effects of it. Informative hub. Also like the vinegar tip above.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Great advice homemoldremoval. I will definitely have to try that.

homemoldremoval profile image

homemoldremoval 6 years ago

Yes, living in places with high humidity could cause serious mold problem. One thing you can try is to spray those areas that prone to mold growth with white vinegar water regularly and leave it without rinsing. It helps to prevent or at least minimize mold growth.

Samatha of

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Yes Trudy, unfortunately certain areas are harder than others when it comes to mold and mildew. We live near the ocean and things rust and mold quite fast. When we go for a few weeks, I have to leave some fans on otherwise we would have mold all over when we came back. The first time we didn't and were sorry. Wishing you success and much aloha.

Trudy Dartouzos 6 years ago

Help...I was planning on buying a house near the water in Southern Maryland but after reading your article, I'm thinking this is not a good idea. Lots of moisture and how would I keep out the mold? You want those breezes and hear the waves from the water but then you are letting all the moisture into your home and the mold can develop. I would have to run dehumidifiers and the air conditioner non-stop I guess. So, now big electric bills.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks mwatkins. Glad you enjoyed my hub on mold and mildew. I appreciate your comments.

mwatkins profile image

mwatkins 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

Kona was my favorite spot on that side of the world! Mold is deadly to my allergies! Going scuba diving in these warm climates is killer on my system, too! I didn't now about the different mold colors. Your hub is awesome and full of great info! Thumbs up to you!

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks John - I appreciate your coming by - hope you find a way to stop the leak.

John B Badd profile image

John B Badd 6 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

very good hub, my basement leaks and I am constantly battling mositure.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks LianaK. Not sure if Utah has problems with mold and mildew, but for sure we do here in Hawaii.

LianaK profile image

LianaK 6 years ago

Great hub. Great information and something to look for as we clean our homes. Thank you so much.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks Pamela99. At least in the shower, it is pretty easy to take care of with clorox and other cleaners, but other places can be difficult. Appreciate your comments.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Elayne, I hate to see mold in the shower which is the main place I get it. This is a good article covering everything you need to know about the mold problem. Good hub.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

I also saw a video on youtube of a man who worked in a mold removal service and he had some really nasty sores on his legs. He said they always wore protective clothing, but he believed that certain molds can indeed cause cancer and had fought bad sores on his legs for some time. Thanks for all your comments.

HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 6 years ago from Utah

Good hub. I too know of the hazards of mold. It is incredible how much of a problem mold and mildew are.

rprcarz50 profile image

rprcarz50 6 years ago

Very informative Hub . I believe many forms of cancers are caused by mold and mildew in many homes that goes undected for years.

Nice work , and great topic .


As always also a2z50

reddog1027 profile image

reddog1027 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

One should never ignore mold and mildew problems. Renovations in buildings are another way to become exposed to molds that often grow undetected behind walls and in attics. Even if these areas are dry, mold spores can remain viable until they are exposed to moisture.

It took me years to realize that sinus infection I got every time I was mucking around in the basement of my 125 yr old home or during any renovation projects I undertook was caused by exposure to molds and mildew. Once I started wearing a dust mask, I had much fewer infections.

Thanks for the hub and what to do to prevent mold and mildew.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

@ That is too bad BJBenson. I hope they change their view of mold - it is really can be dangerous to your health.

@Nellieanna I found it in my closet one day on a blouse I hadn't worn for a while and that was enough to wash quite a few things that have been sitting for some time. Now my drapes are looking ready to wash. Never can be too careful.

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

I'm so paranoid about letting moisture stand to get moldy (even in the relatively dry climate here, it would) - I dry paper towels that have been used to wipe up water spills before putting them into a closed trash can! Nothing worse than walking into a home and getting an odor of mold or mildew. I suppose it could be growing somewhere out of sight or reach and therefore hard to locate and get-at. But I think I'd be ripping out walls to find it!

I once lived in the very humid Ohio River Valley - and found some mildew starting to creep up from a baseboard in my house. Clorox took care of it! I didn't know the exact dangers of it - but it stands to reason that any air that is contaminated by a living organism which is generated by spores released into the air is not what one needs to be breathing!

BJBenson profile image

BJBenson 6 years ago from USA

Yipes! I hate mold. The government housing for the military is bad about putting people into houses with it and telling them it will not hurt them.

Great hub by the way.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

You are right - they are quite extreme, but this is how bad it can get left unchecked. You never know what might be lurking behind your walls if you live in a high humidity climate. Thanks for your comments Sandyspider.

Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

These are some horrible pictures. It is hard to imagine living like this. Nice hub on mold.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

So glad nosense that you don't have mold - keep safe and healthy!

nosense profile image

nosense 6 years ago

Mold is a serious problem. Luckily we don't have them.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

No kidding. Mold is nothing to ignore, that's for sure. Thanks Kay Creates.

Kay Creates profile image

Kay Creates 6 years ago from Ohio

Great advice and information here. Mold can be deadly.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Yes, some parts of the islands are dry, but the prettiest parts receive tons of moisture every year, especially the mountains. Thanks for your comments Hello, hello.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Something else I have learned from your hub. I never knew about the climate. I thought it is always just nice and sunny. Thank you for an informative hub.

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