Zero Tolerance

Regardless of the variety, "mold growth should always be taken care of, whether you have the chartarum or not," says Dr. Chew, "as all molds have the potential to pose health risks." Don't waste your time trying to determine what kind of mold you have. For one thing, it's probably a futile effort. "There's a lot of cross-reactivity between species," she says, "so it's hard to figure out which mold is which." And even if you're not allergic now, don't count on staying that way; as Dr. Chew points out, "People can develop allergies throughout their lives."

Besides, even people who aren't allergic can be adversely affected. "That musty, moldy odor comes from volatile organic compounds, which are mainly alcohols and ketones," says Dr. Chew. "Inhaling alcohol for a long time, in sufficient quantity, can result in headaches, watery eyes, mucous membrane irritation—and that can affect anyone."

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