What is Black Mold and is it Toxic?
The term black mold is widely used by Florida homeowners and business managers to describe a dark-colored mold that is believed to be extremely toxic. In reality, it does not represent a specific type of mold and many beliefs surrounding the topic are misinformed. There is a variety of mold species that can be classified as black mold because of dark coloration. The term is most commonly used in reference to Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum), also known as Stachybotrys atra, which usually appears dark green or black in color.
Are Black Molds More Toxic Than Others?
In the public view, black molds are typically deemed to be more dangerous and are associated with high levels of toxicity because they can release mycotoxins. The truth of the matter is that all species of mold are capable of producing mycotoxins. The mere presence of mold does not necessarily mean that these toxins are being released. There is also no evidence to suggest that species associated with black mold produce toxins at a different rate than others.
Mycotoxicoses are toxic diseases that are caused by mycotoxins. Other possible health concerns include nosebleeds, mood changes, headaches, memory loss, and aches and pains. However, there is currently no proof showing that these diseases or symptoms are caused by inhalation or touch, but rather through the ingestion of moldy foods. Still, there are a variety of other health effects that inhabitants of a contaminated space can experience when coming into contact with mold.
How Can Contact with Mold Affect Your Health?
Contact with mold, whether through touch, inhalation, or ingestion, can affect the health of individuals differently. People with the highest risk of experiencing symptoms due to exposure are senior citizens, children and infants. Exposure to mold can also be particularly harmful to people with asthma, allergies and people with a weakened immune system such as those diagnosed with HIV, transplant patients and cancer patients undergoing treatment. Exposure to mold will not usually cause symptoms in people with healthy immune systems, however, long-term exposure can be harmful to anyone.
People with allergies tend to be more sensitive to mold than most. Common symptoms that they may experience include:
- rashes on the skin
- dry coughing
- sinus congestion
- a runny nose
- red, watery eyes
- shortness of breath
Closing windows at night and remaining indoors after a rainstorm are a few ways to prevent mold allergy symptoms.
Exposure to mold can also be particularly harmful to people with asthma, allergies and people with a weakened immune system
How to Prevent Mold Growth
The easiest way to prevent mold from growing is to take control of moisture levels in your property. Ideally, your indoor moisture levels should range from 30% to 50%. Aside from reducing indoor mold spores with equipment like HEPA filtered vacuums, keeping moisture levels down will prevent mold from growing further. Here are some ways you can keep moisture down in your home or office:
- Inspect for and repair any plumbing issues in a timely manner.
- In the event of water damage, clean and dry affected areas within 24-48 hours
- Keep air conditioning units running during humid weather to avoid moisture buildup.
- Avoid using carpets in typically humid areas like basements and bathrooms.
- Add insulation to prevent condensation on cold components such as pipes, roofing, windows and floors.
Testing for Indoor Mold
It is actually impossible to completely avoid exposure to mold as it is nearly everywhere around us naturally. Spores that are released by mold are microscopic and cannot be seen by the human eye alone. The problems arise when spore counts are in higher concentration than is normal. It is also not possible to indicate whether you truly have mold just because you have noticed growth in your property. Although signs such as discoloration, fuzz, slime and strange earthy odors are generally good indicators of a problem, the only way to truly find out what you are facing is to seek the aid of a licensed environmental hygienist.
A hygienist will note what you have experienced and will conduct a thorough inspection of your property. They will search for visible signs of mold growth and can collect tape or cotton swab samples for lab testing. However, they do not stop there. A crucial part of a hygienist’s inspection includes collecting air quality samples throughout your property, as well as a controlled sample from outside. The combined surface and air samples are then sent to a lab for testing.
When the results arrive, a mold assessor will create a comprehensive report detailing the species of mold that were found as well as which areas of the property had elevated spore counts. Most professional mold testing companies will also be able to provide a written protocol with instructions for how to properly remediate the mold for your specific case. Many mold remediation companies require this protocol before agreeing to begin work. If the situation is very minor and does not require treatment by a licensed remediation company, your assessor may give you instructions to treat the mold yourself. This is especially true in situations with low spore counts and mold that is present on non-porous materials.
Do You Suspect Black Mold In Your Property?
Although species commonly grouped as black mold are not known to pose any more of a threat than other types of mold, the fact remains that any mold growth in your property should be taken seriously and properly treated. If you suspect mold, the best course of action you can take for your health and others is to schedule an appointment with a professional. Mold Investigators is a reliable and Florida licensed mold inspection company that can put you on the right path to taking care of these issues and uncovering the truth of your situation. Get started by calling a mold assessor today!