Mildew is a type of fungus and if you are not aware it is the same as mold (or mould). Mildew is made up of thin thread-like branching structures. It is present everywhere in the natural environment. Mildew spores, which are tiny microscopic ‘seeds’, can be found virtually everywhere, including in homes, and are a part of the household dust found in homes. These spores can grow on wet organic building materials and furnishings. Excess moisture is the critical factor in any indoor mildew growth. Mildew growth should not be allowed in our homes since apart from being a potential health hazard it can damage what it is growing on, which may include both the building materials and personal belongings. The key to preventing mildew growth is to prevent moisture problems.
What does mildew require to grow?
Mildew only requires 3 things to grow and multiply:
- Suitable temperature of around 25 oC
Of these, controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mildew growth.
Health Risks of Mildew
Health effects from exposure to mildew can vary greatly depending on the person, the amount of mildew in their home and the length of exposure. The type of health symptoms that may occur include coughing, wheezing, nasal and throat conditions. People with asthma or allergies who are sensitive to mildew may notice their asthma or allergy symptoms worsen. Individuals with severely weakened immune system who are exposed to moldy environments are at risk of developing serious fungal respiratory infections.
Are the risks greater for some people?
There is wide variability in how different people are affected by mildew exposures. However, the long term presence of indoor mildew growth may eventually become unhealthy for anyone. The following types of people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:
- infants and children
- elderly people
- individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies or asthma
- persons having severely weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, organ transplant recipients)
If you suspect you are suffering from mildew-related illness you should consult a medical professional as they may be able to point you in the right direction. It is also important to remember that the presence of mildew does not necessarily mean your health has been affected.
Are some mildews more hazardous than others?
A common question is whether some mildews are more hazardous than others. During growth, some types of mildew may produce chemical compounds called mycotoxins. Some mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins, are highly toxic to humans and pets if ingested. Many, if not most, mildews can produce potentially harmful substances, whether it’s allergens, mycotoxins, or other compounds. Hence, all indoor mildew growth should be removed promptly, no matter what type(s) of mildew is present or whether it can produce toxins.