Efflorescence is not generally considered a health hazard, but it may cause mild irritation if inhaled or exposed to the eyes, explains the U.S. Army Medical Department. However, efflorescence may include harmful, chemical elements if it has developed as a result of chemical waste, combustion or other chemical processes.
Efflorescence indicates an excess accumulation of water. Although this usually only poses a cosmetic concern, excess moisture can lead to serious structural issues and mold growth, states the U.S. Army Medical Department.
Exposure to mold may result in skin and/or eye irritation, nasal congestion and wheezing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Individuals with serious mold allergies are prone to experience severe reactions characterized by breathlessness and fever. Individuals with chronic lung diseases can develop mold infections within the lungs.
To distinguish efflorescence from mold, the U.S. Army Medical Department suggests an evaluation of the environmental conditions and the substance's appearance. Because mold requires a food source, structures lacking organic materials, such as wallpaper, are unlikely to support mold growth. Mold is also unlikely to grow on structures exposed to sun and air. In regard to appearance, efflorescence presents as an evenly white, powdery substance, while mold varies in color and may manifest in different shades. A certified professional with personal protective equipment can conduct a more thorough examination to determine the presence of efflorescence and/or mold.
Because efflorescence may contain harmful chemicals, the U.S. Army Medical Department recommends properly evaluating the substance before attempting removal. Removal techniques, such as the use of acids, also pose health risks. This procedure can only be performed by professionals who have been properly trained and are equipped with personal protective equipment.