Mold

Mold (mildew), mushrooms, and yeast are all types of fungi. Fungi are found both indoors and outdoors. Hundreds of different kinds of mold are commonly found in the United States and New York City.

Exposure to mold can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma attacks. Fortunately, mold can be controlled by cleaning up visible mold and fixing the underlying problem, such as leaks or dampness.

Independent contractors who are hired to assess or remediate mold conditions must be licensed and follow the requirements of Article 32 of the NYS Labor Law. Learn more by visiting the NYS Department of Labor website.

Landlords of buildings with 10 or more apartments must use a Department of Labor-licensed mold assessor or remediator to remove mold that covers 10 or more square feet.

What does mold look and smell like?

Mold can be many different colors, including gray, black, green, yellow and orange. It may look furry, slimy or powdery. Some mold has a musty, stale or earthy smell.

Where is mold found?

Mold usually grows in wet or damp places, such as bathrooms and basements. It can grow on paper, fabric, wallpaper glue, Sheetrock, wood, soap scum, leather and many other surfaces.

How does mold grow?

It can grow almost anywhere there is water, high humidity, or damp conditions. Mold grows faster in warm temperatures and high humidity.

How are people exposed to mold?

  • You can breathe in mold particles if mold is disturbed or damaged.
  • You can also breathe in tiny spores (similar to seeds) that mold may release into the air.
  • You can touch mold and get it on your skin.
  • You can swallow mold if you eat moldy or spoiled food.

What are the health effects of mold?

  • Some people are allergic or sensitive to mold and may experience symptoms, such as congestion, runny nose, coughing and trouble breathing.
  • exposure to mold can cause or worsen asthma symptoms, hay fever, or other allergies.
  • Some people are at risk for more severe reactions to mold, such as fever and shortness of breath. Examples include people who are exposed to large amounts of mold at work (such as agricultural workers and building demolition workers) and people who have had — or are currently undergoing — certain medical procedures (such as bone marrow or organ transplants and chemotherapy).

Health symptoms usually disappear after the mold has been removed.

Should I see a doctor if I have been exposed to mold?

If you think that you or your family member has symptoms related to mold exposure, you should see a doctor. For help finding a doctor, call 311. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure are also caused by many other illness.

How can mold be prevented?

The best way is to remove water and moisture sources. Fixing leaks, drying damp areas, and removing humidity from the air (for example, using a dehumidifier in basements; cracking a window while taking a shower in bathrooms with no exhaust ventilation; or opening a window in the kitchen while cooking) will help stop mold growth and keep it from coming back.

How can I safely clean mold in my home?

  • Seal off moldy areas using a plastic sheet and duct tape until cleaned. Keep children and pets away.
  • Use water and soap or detergent to clean small areas of mold (less than 10 square feet) on walls or other hard surfaces as soon as you see it.
  • Wear waterproof gloves while cleaning.
  • Dry the cleaned area completely.
  • Clean any visible dust from the work area. Use wet mops or HEPA vacuums.
  • Throw away all cleaning-related waste in heavy-duty plastic bags and seal securely.
  • If the mold returns quickly or spreads, there may be an underlying problem such as a water leak. To stop mold, water problems must be fixed. Report the problem to your landlord.
  • If large areas of mold are present, you may need a professional mold abatement company. Check the phone book for licensed mold abatement contractors. You can also search online for Department of Labor-licensed mold contractors.
  • Building owners and building maintenance staff interested in more information on safely controlling and removing pest and mold hazards in tenant homes can email NYCHNP@health.nyc.gov or call 311 and ask for the "Healthy Neighborhoods Program."

What does my landlord have to do?

  • Landlords of buildings with three or more apartments — or buildings of any size where a tenant has asthma — are required to keep tenants’ homes free of mold and pests. This includes safely fixing conditions that cause these problems, repairing water leaks and correcting persistently high humidity levels.
  • If you have a lot of mold, or it keeps coming back after you have cleaned it, ask your landlord to fix the problem.
  • If the problem isn't fixed, call 311 .

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