The effects of mold exposure on children


Exposure to mold can have many effects on an individual’s health and well-being. Everyone is at risk when it comes to the health consequences of mold but children, seniors, and individuals with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable. Children are particularly sensitive (especially infants and kids in their early years) to the harmful effects of mold due to their underdeveloped immune system. Unfortunately, many kids today live in a household where they are exposed to mold on a daily basis.

Where is mold found?

Mold is found indoors and outdoors and it grows and thrives in places with plenty of moisture. It can start where there have been leaks in roofs, windows or pipes, or where flooding has occurred.


Mold grows well on


  • paper products or cardboard
  • ceiling tiles
  • wood products
  • dust
  • paint
  • wallpaper
  • drywall
  • insulation
  • carpet
  • fabric and upholstery

American homes

The Center for American Progress states that there are approximately 135 million homes in the United States and a large percentage of these homes are threatening to its inhabitants. 30 million homes have serious health and safety hazards such as gas leaks, damaged plumbing and poor heating. 6 million homes have structural issues and another 6 million contain lead paint. The majority of these homes are in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, unemployment and single-parent homes.


Individuals living in these conditions are more likely to suffer preventable health problems such as depression or asthma. 40% of asthma episodes are actually triggered by rats, dust mites or mold and not a seasonal issue such as pollen.

Health effects

Mold is a huge problem in many households around the country. While some individuals are more sensitive to mold than others, there are a variety of health effects from short-term or long-term mold exposure. The Institute of Medicine found evidence to link respiratory illness and the development of asthma in normally healthy children. Other symptoms include


  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • runny or itchy nose
  • nasal congestion
  • sore throat or coughing
  • sneezing
  • flu-like symptoms
  • eye issues such as inflammation, itchy/watery eyes, bloodshot eyes, or blurry vision
  • fatigue
  • weakness and general discomfort
  • pain (muscles, joints, abdomen, chest)
  • colds
  • ear infections
  • impaired hearing
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • hair loss


Children can also experience neurological problems or internal damage such as


  • impaired brain functions
  • nervous disorders, mood swings or irritability
  • skin inflammation, rashes, or irritation
  • confusion or disorientation
  • shortened attention span
  • slowed reflexes
  • dizziness and headaches
  • memory loss or memory problems
  • anxiety or depression
  • trembling or shaking
  • numbing
  • irregular heartbeat
  • heart inflammation or damage
  • low blood pressure
  • blood clotting
  • internal or external hemorrhaging

The greatest risk comes from black mold which can result in breathing problems, bleeding the lungs, irritation or burning sensation in the nasal cavity, throat and mouth, and even death.


A reaction to household mold depends on sensitivity level, overall health condition, the amount of mold, type of mold and length of exposure. The longer a child lives in a household with mold, the more sensitive he or she will become and the more severe the consequences will be.


Adverse health effects, such as those caused by household mold exposure, can also affect academic performance, which directly relates to employment, and other areas of a child’s future such as social health and happiness. Many local, national and global organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, are working to address the housing crisis and are striving to improve housing conditions as no child should have to live a life in the presence of mold.