Paranoid college student here. Today I had discovered some potatoes in my dorm kitchen that seemed to be covered in black gooey mold, gone extremely mushy, and were giving off an awful smell. I had decided to toss them immediately but I touched some of the stuff in the process.

I know rotting potatoes are poisonous if consumed or if the fumes from the stuff are inhaled, but is it (or that kind of moldy item in general) harmful if touched with bare skin? Thank you in advance.

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    Rotting potatoes are possibly one of the worst smells I've ever encountered. They're right up there with insects catching fire in those old 'torchiere' style halogen lamps. – Joe Mar 29 '18 at 14:35
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    Welcome to the site @A.Ran. I'm voting to close this as it's asking for medical advice, which is off topic. We're cooks, not doctors. Personally I wouldn't worry, I handled enough nasty stuff in my college days to kill me several times over if it was harmful. – GdD Mar 29 '18 at 16:03
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    Curious how the fumes are poisonous? Rotting food is unpleasant, and has bacteria and mold, but I've never heard of the smell being poisonous? – MarsJarsGuitars-n-Chars Mar 29 '18 at 16:07

Not generally; your skin is quite good at protecting you from invasion by microbes and spores. The bigger risk is (as you identify) inhalation, mostly the actual spores rather than any toxic fumes or vapors. There might also be some risk of infection if you had an open wound that came into contact with moldy produce for any length of time.

In any case, I wouldn't regard this as a greatly elevated risk over just having that stuff around; mold is good at aggressively spreading its spores through the air, so you did the right thing by throwing it out immediately. Assuming you are otherwise healthy and don't have a compromised immune system for any reason, you're very likely fine (if a bit disgusted). Wash your hands well, and clean the area where the potatoes were stored, preferably with a bleach solution to kill any lingering spores. If you develop any feverish symptoms, go see a doctor; if you identify whoever left potatoes around long enough to rot, chastise them. There's probably much worse somewhere in a dorm environment but rotting food is a definite public health risk.

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