Black mold (also called toxic black mold) is the common and descriptive name for Stachybotrys chartarum. It is most often mentioned in the context of mold growing in homes. When it does, it becomes highly dangerous to people. The reason it is called “toxic” black mold is because it produces mycotoxins, which are what pose the health dangers.
Black Mold: How Do I Recognize It?
It is called black mold due to its greenish–black appearance. It grows in a “colony” and thrives in wet or humid environments, such as bathrooms or leaky basements. A wet layer on its surface will make it appear slimy and gelatinous. If the water source has dried up, however, it will appear powdery. In either state, it is still a danger, so please refrain from touching it or breathing it in. Since there are a few imposter molds, the only way to know for certain if it is Stachybotrys is to have a mold expert examine it under a microscope, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
How Do I Know If I’m Affected?
People exposed to the mycotoxins produced by black mold develop specific symptoms. The symptoms vary with the level of exposure, but the most common symptoms noted with exposure to black mold include:
● Respiratory problems
● Ongoing headaches
● Hemorrhaging of the skin / sores
● Irritated mucous membranes
● Organ damage
● Mental impairment
● Suppressed immune system
Extended exposure to toxic black mold can damage your health permanently. There are even cases, especially in the elderly, the very young, and in people who already suffer a compromised immune system, where exposure has been fatal. Due to the serious health risks associated with toxic black mold, it needs to be removed by a professional immediately if found in your home. Know that the longer your exposure to the mycotoxins, the more severely your health will be affected.
How Do I Remove It?
Because of the toxicity of this substance, you should never try to get rid of black mold on your own. Always consutl with a black mold remediation and removal company like ours. Remember, this is a living thing and creating a disturbance by touching, rubbing or scraping at it can cause it to release major amounts of mycotoxins and mold spores into your house. As these toxins and spores take to the air, especially through your ventilation and cooling system, and settle into new areas, household symptoms will become much worse.
If you have any reason to suspect black mold is growing in your home, it is recommended that you call a professional mold removal service right away. Once diagnosed, they will be able to use their experience to remove the mold while causing minimal disturbance. They will contain the majority of mycotoxins and spores that are released while it is being removed so as to prevent its spread or recurrence in the future. During mold removal, you will want to find somewhere else to stay to avoid further exposure and worsening of symptoms.
Where Does Black Mold Grow and How?
Black mold is found around the world in areas where it has warm conditions with some source of water, including high humidity. When growing outdoors, it is usually found in the soil away from sunlight and on plant debris. A compost pile, if not properly cared for, is a prime place to find it. Where it grows indoors, it can be found on many common building materials such as plywood, beams and drywall, as it requires a host that is high in cellulose but has little nitrogen.
When black mold is growing inside the house, it’s typically growing somewhere out of immediate sight. There needs to be a good source of moisture in an undisturbed area before it can take root, so to speak. When there are water leaks that are hidden from view, such as between walls, in the attic or under floor boards, black mold will tend to grow and thrive. This is why symptoms often will be felt in the household long before any trace of toxic black mold is located.
How Fast Does It Grow?
Toxic black mold doesn’t just spring up or grow quickly like most other molds do. Instead, it needs its host material to remain damp at least a week before it can start to take hold. It will take 8 to 12 days to start to form a colony, once exposed to continuous moisture, unlike other types of mold, which only take 1-2 days to start forming a colony. Black mold is ruthless though, and once a colony has been established, it will force out other types of mold growing in the vicinity and essentially take over its habitat. It’s like the hardy, persistent weed of molds!
What Exactly Are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are poisonous substances found on the spores of black mold, specifically Stachybotrys, and the entire colony is full of them. Exposure usually occurs through inhalation when the spores are released and travel through the air; just about anything can disturb a colony enough to release the spores. For this reason, the first symptoms are usually respiratory in nature, coughing and wheezing accompanied by headaches, from the spores and toxins being inhaled through the nose and settling in the sinuses.
The mycotoxins produced by black mold are called trichothecene mycotoxins and they are some of the most dangerous and stable (long-living) mycotoxins known to exist. Because they can take several years to break down to a harmless state and because they are microscopic, it can be nearly impossible to remove them from the home. This is why a professional mold removal specialist is required to remove as much as possible while containing as much of the released toxins as possible.
Inspection and Testing
If you find anything in your home that you think may be toxic black mold, please have it tested by a professional. Some types of black mold are non-toxic but due to the severe health risks posed by toxic black mold, you don’t want to risk your family’s health by not knowing. The first signs that you need to have your home inspected should be:
● Your or someone in the house is experiencing the symptoms listed
● You have had recent water damage
● You have discovered a water leak inside a wall or another unseen place
● You have already located black mold and think there may be more
It is important when having your home inspected for toxic black mold that if it is located, you also locate the water problem that has caused it, such as a leaky pipe, roof leak or foundation leak. You’ll always want to hire a professional to do the inspection as they utilize special tools to get into hidden areas without disturbing a colony. You’ll also want to look for mold odors, water damage, peeling or warped paint around pipes and anywhere else leaks can be found.
Toxic Black Mold Treatment
While there is no “cure” for toxic black mold, having it professionally removed and repairing any water problems that caused it can take care of the problem long term. At Environmental Protective Solutions, we work with you to solve your water and black mold issues fast. Black mold remediation is one of our specialties.Your first line of defense is to remove yourself from the building in which black mold was found. Once your exposure is removed, your body will start to heal and symptoms should be relieved over time. If this was a long-term exposure, some of the damage can be permanent. This is something to discuss with your doctor. With the right professionals on your side, you can win the battle against toxic black mold.