A 2005 study by the University of Manchester, shows the average pillow is home to a host of potentially-harmful molds. Researchers studied 10 pillows that were both old and new and found that each pillow contained anywhere from 4-16 different types of mold and a million spores per pillow. Synthetic pillows were the worst of the bunch.
Some of the pillows were infected with a mold called Aspergillus fumigatus which has been shown to be the cause of many illnesses and has been implicated in the deaths of patients suffering from various disease such as leukemia, AIDS, and complications stemming from bone marrow transplants. This fungus also commonly invades the lungs, sinuses and can worsen asthma, and also spread to other organs such as the brain.
Ashley Woodcock, MD, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Manchester, had told WebMD, “We secrete about 100 liters of sweat into a bed over a year. We do not wash our quilts and pillows, so they are an ideal place to find fungi. And sure enough, we found them.”
Researchers in the study said that the molds found in the pillows fed off human skins scales and dust mite feces.
Woodstock said, “You have a small zoo in there,” he says. “It is thought that human skinscales in bedding are used as a food source for fungi, and the fungi are eaten by mites. And the fungi might sit on the mite feces as well.”
I did a quick Google search, ‘mold on pillows,‘ and found a lot of images of mold on pillows such as the one pictured above. I also discovered a lot of complaints from people who have stayed at hotels and found their pillows to be infested with visible mold.
The University of Manchester reports:
“Aspergillus fumigatus, the species most commonly found in the pillows, is most likely to cause disease, and the resulting condition Aspergillosis has become the leading infectious cause of death in leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients. Fungi also exacerbate asthma in adults………Aspergillus is a very common fungus, carried in the air as well as being found in cellars, household plant pots, compost, computers and ground pepper and spices.
Invasive Aspergillosis occurs mainly in the lungs and sinuses, although it can spread to other organs such as the brain, and is becoming increasingly common across other patient groups. It is very difficult to treat, and as many as 1 in 25 patients who die in modern European teaching hospitals have the disease.”