What Is Black Mold – Can Mold Make You Sick?

Black mold has drawn a lot of media attention and black mold removal has become big business. This exposure has made the public more aware of the health risks of mold exposure and poor indoor air quality. But if you think that the health risks are exaggerated please think again.

Do you know it has been estimated half the houses in the US have a mold problem. When there is a musty or earthy smell present there also is a very good chance it’s caused by unwanted mold growth. Mold in the house could be making you sick even without knowing it.

If you suffer from colds that don’t seem to go away, have ongoing flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue, asthma or other respiratory or eye problems it could be because your house is making you sick.

What Is Black Mold Or Stachybotrys?

What Is Black Mold - Can Mold Make You Sick? Stachybotrys Chartarum AKA Black Mold In Petri Dish

Black mold or toxic mold is the layman’s term for the fungus Stachybotrys chartarum. Stachybotrys is an asexually reproducing fungi. Actually there are about 50 species of this fungus. It is proven to be highly toxic and if it is growing in your home you need to remove it.

But this is not the only type of toxic mold. While black mold is not rare it is not the most common culprit although the mycotoxins it produces are probably the most damaging.

Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria are common household molds that are known to have adverse health effects on humans and pets.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says all mold should be treated as a potential health hazard regardless of its color and should be removed.

Recently declassified US Army documents state that black mold mycotoxins were used to develop biological weapons. Black, green, no matter what the color, you do not want mold in your home.

Why Is There Mold In The House?

Stachybotrys chartarum or black moldMold is everywhere. It is an important part of our ecosystem, helping to decay organic matter. Imagine how autumn leaves would stack up if they didn’t decompose.

It has been around for millions of years and has probably been making people sick ever since they lived in caves. But science has only recently discovered how mold can affect our health, in fact they have only really scratched the surface of the problem. But while not all of these mycotoxins have been studied thoroughly, the adverse health effects of mold exposure are well documented.

Mold feeds on cellulose rich foods like wood and paper. When it feeds mycotoxins are produced to keep competing organisms away from its food supply. This is all fine outdoors in the open air. The problem begins when mold begins to grow indoors.

What makes Stachybotrys so dangerous, and the center of attention, is the strong mycotoxins it produces and their ability to make humans sick. There will always be some low levels of mold in the house, but when it is growing and reproducing indoors it poses a health risk to everyone.

Mold In Homes Is Getting Worse

Since the 1970’s there has been a trend towards making homes tighter and more energy-efficient. HVAC systems recirculate inside air and can spread mold spores throughout the house.

These tighter homes and having mold in the house are responsible for the increasing mold problems. Add moisture, temperatures above freezing and a suitable source of food inside a tight home and you have a potentially lethal cocktail.

Sick building syndrome is affecting our homes, our schools and our workplace. Even worse, our health is being undermined and many times we aren’t even aware of it.

Home Mold Inspection

If you are experiencing unexplained health issues or can smell that telltale musty or earthy smell its time to do a home mold inspection.

Mold needs moisture to grow. That’s one of the reasons it shows up in bathrooms so often. Other prime places for mold are under sinks, behind washing machines, water heaters and partly heated areas where condensation can occur. Basements and attics are common places to find mold in the house.

Sometimes mold can be hidden. Leaky pipes in the walls can cause hidden mold problems as can roof leaks. Tea colored spots on ceilings or walls are an indication of leaks and possible mold growth. Since Stachybotrys is a fungus it doesn’t need light to grow, just a food source and moisture, so it can quite easily grow inside your walls where you can’t readily see it.

The first order of business is to look for all sources of moisture and possible leaks and fix them, otherwise no matter how many times you remove mold it will continue to grow back.

If you find black mold or any other type of mold in the house it is not necessary to test it. It needs to be removed following EPA safety guidelines.

If you don’t find visible mold but can smell it then you definitely have a hidden mold problem and you may need the assistance of a mold remediation company to find it. They have specialized mold detection equipment that can help them find where it’s hiding. It is important to find it all especially if you are experiencing mold symptoms and want them to go away.

Black Mold Removal – Can You Get Rid Of Mold Yourself?

It is important to take care in removing mold not to spread it or breathe it in so wear a respirator and gloves. It is a good idea to wear clothing that is disposable or at least easy to clean. If you are sensitive to mold you should not try to remove it yourself. If you become ill during the black mold removal process you should seek medical attention.

If mold is growing on hard surfaces like metal or glass, they can be scrubbed clean and disinfected.

However if mold is growing on porous surfaces like drywall they will need to be removed and replaced. You can not kill mold on these surfaces with bleach or any other biocide because the root-like mycelium have penetrated far below the surface.

It is not just living mold that is dangerous. The spores and other dead parts are also toxic when inhaled. If the area is under 10 square feet you can probably replace it yourself easily if you are in good health and not allergic to mold.

Care should be taken not to spread the mold or its spores. Try to isolate the area and carry the debris out in a sealed plastic bag. It is possible if proper precautions are taken to remove up to a 30 square foot area, roughly the size of a sheet of drywall.

A note of caution. Sometimes it is easy to underestimate the size and scope of the problem until you actually tear into it. If the problem turns out to be larger than you thought it would be better to seal it off and get a certified mold remediation company with the proper equipment to remove it.

Anything larger than 30 square feet should really be handled by a trained mold remediation specialist. Once you approach 30 square feet the area requires containment beyond the scope of what most homeowners can provide and full body protection is required by the EPA when removing black mold.

Whether you remove it yourself or hire a mold remediation specialist it is important to deal with the problem, even if it does not seem to be making you sick. Not everyone shows symptoms of mold poisoning right away.

Besides the health risks to you, your family and your pets, black mold is a financial risk. Eventually moldy areas will begin to rot and damage the structural integrity of your home. Even worse it can make it impossible to sell your home. So it is important to deal with a black mold problem.