MVOCs and Moldy Odors
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) are gases produced by mold. The musty odor which you might smell from mold is caused by MVOCs. These odors are actually chemicals which are produced my molds during some parts of the mold’s growth cycle.
Laboratory experiments have identified over 200 compounds as MVOCs. They are commonly made up of strong chemicals such as aldehydes, benzenes, tulolenes and many more.
When Does Mold Produce MVOCs
Some molds produce different MVOCs depending on conditions such as how much moisture is available and what material the mold is growing on. However MVOCs are only produced at all when mold is actively growing (which depends on certain conditions such as humidity, temperature, air pressure and light – see Mold Causes). This is because MVOCs are the waste products created by mold as it grows.
So if you can smell MVOCs from mold it is a sign that mold is actively growing in your home and that you should remediate the mold problem as soon as possible.
Even if you cannot see mold, the musty smell of MVOCs can alert you to the presence of mold growing somewhere in your home hidden from view. MVOCs can be doing damage to your health even if no mold growth is visible in your home.
See Where Mold Grows and Mold Inspection for help with finding mold in your home.
Once mold growth has been removed from a home (see Mold Removal) some MVOCs may still be present as they can remain ingrained in permeable items such as clothes, carpets, upholstered furniture and curtains. These moldy odors can be hard to remove. Even HEPA filters cannot remove MVOCs from the air. However, cleaning the items thoroughly along with plenty of fresh air and sunlight should remove most of the odor eventually.
Symptoms Caused by MVOCs
MVOCs can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. MVOCs may also irritate the eyes and the mucus membranes of the nose and throat. However, because research on MVOCs is still at an early stage, not everything is yet known about MVOCs and our reactions to them.
You can find the symptoms of mold, as well as testing and treatment, at the Mold Symptoms page.