Black mold is not one specific type of mold, but can be any of several species of mold that appear black or dark green. One common type of mold that is referred to as “black mold” is stachybotrys chartarum.
Stachybotrys chartarum can grow on a variety of materials including fiberboard, paper, gypsum board, lint and even dust. Moisture from water damage due to flooding, leaks and condensation can create an environment for this mold to begin growing. Indeed, any environment that can harbor mold can potentially grow black mold.
The reason that black mold has such a bad reputation is that it can produce mycotoxins, which are irritating, harmful or even deadly, especially for people who have weakened immune systems or other pre-existing conditions. In extreme cases, high levels of mycotoxins can make even healthy people very sick.
If your home has experienced water damage, you should be concerned about the potential growth of black mold. Black mold can have serious consequences for the health of you and your loved ones.
Black mold exposure can cause a range of symptoms in a short period of time. At the mild end, mycotoxicosis (or mold poisoning) can cause upper respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold. Someone who has inhaled black mold spores may experience coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Mucous membranes of the nose and throat can become irritated, and you may experience nose bleeds. You may have itchy eyes or develop skin rashes, depending on where the mold spores have made contact.
If you have allergies or asthma, these symptoms may be more acute, with severe wheezing, difficulty breathing and flu-like symptoms including fever, headache and exhaustion. These symptoms will last as long as the black mold is present in your home, potentially leading to chronic health conditions.
Other risk factors that may exacerbate symptoms of black mold exposure include cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and any immunodeficiency condition. The elderly and young children are at greater risk for having a negative health response to mold exposure.
Mycotoxins from unchecked mold growth can pose serious health risks. Some types of mold may release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that act as a neurotoxin, with some patients reporting problems with memory loss, confusion, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and problems concentrating when living or working in an environment with unchecked mold growth.
An extremely rare, but frequently deadly, infection caused by a type of black mold (Cladophialophora bantiana) is fungal brain abscess. Particularly in people with weakened immune systems, a brain abscess may occur when fungi (in this case, from mold) reach the brain through a wound or infection elsewhere in the body. IV antifungal medications and/or surgery are usually required to attempt to treat this infection.
If you suspect that you have health concerns related to your exposure to black mold, call your doctor. While it can sometimes be difficult for health professionals to determine if neurological problems are symptoms of black mold exposure, eliminating mold is essential to avoid unnecessary exposure and any related adverse health effects.
Black mold needs to be addressed in much the same way as any other type of mold. First, stop the source of water, and then get rid of the mold.
Once you no longer have water entering your home or collecting in a damp area, remove as much remaining moisture as possible, whether with towels, a Shop-Vac, or other means. You may need to run a dehumidifier for several days after removing the water.
To get rid of the mold, first determine how big of an area has been affected by the water damage and how far the mold has spread. The EPA recommends getting professional help to handle mold remediation in an area 10 square feet or larger.
For a smaller area, first make sure you have the proper equipment and tools. To protect yourself, you’ll need gloves, goggles and a mask to avoid inhaling mold spores. Use materials like tape and plastic sheeting to contain the mold as you clear the damaged area. Vacuum mold dust using a vacuum with a HEPA-filter. Bleach (diluted to 1 cup per gallon of water) can be used to clean mold from hard, non-porous surfaces like tile. Porous surfaces with mold such as drywall or carpeting will need to be removed and thrown away.
For more detailed information on cleaning black mold growth in the home, personal protection, and safe work practices, we recommend the ebook A Homeowners Complete Guide To Mold Remediation. The link will take you to the ebook on Amazon.com.
To prevent ongoing problems with mold and avoid symptoms of black mold exposure, keep moisture out of your home. If your home experienced water damage due to natural flooding, contact a professional contractor to find out if there are structural changes you can make to prevent water from getting into your home in the future.
Identify and eliminate any leaks, whether in the bathroom or kitchen, or behind the walls or above the ceiling. Even a small drip of water can do major damage if that leak allows mold to grow.
Keep humidity levels below 50% by using exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms, and running dehumidifiers or air conditioners in the warm, humid months of the year. Dry up spills and clean bathrooms regularly with mold-killing products.
If suspect you have black mold growing in your home, get immediate, 24-hour assistance from local experts by calling 877-960-0491. You will be connected to an experienced professional that can answer your questions and help you get rid of the mold quickly.