What is black mold?
Black mold is a common issue in homes and workplaces, though it is not the only fungal growth in buildings. Like all mold, black mold poses health risks to people and animals. It can lead to allergic reactions that cause physical and mental symptoms. It's important to remove mold as soon as you find it in your home and to take steps to prevent new growth from happening.
Black mold is the common name for Stachybotrys chartarum. This fungus can grow on common building materials used in homes. It's black or greenish-black in color and thrives in dampness. It may appear in large patches or clusters of small spots. Water damage, leaking water, condensation, or flooding can all encourage the growth of black mold. It's hard to get rid of once it is growing in your house.
People with asthma or significant sensitivities to mold may feel acute symptoms in an environment where mold is present. The symptoms can be quite noticeable, and people may feel as if they are coming down with a respiratory illness. Symptoms often improve as soon as you go to a location without mold.
Is black mold dangerous?
There have been reports about black mold leading to illness. Black mold has been linked to lung problems in babies and children, including bleeding in the lungs. There is no scientific evidence to support that link.
Researchers have not found evidence that allergies to black mold are worse than allergies to other types of mold. People who develop respiratory symptoms associated with sick building syndrome have blamed black mold. The evidence suggests that mold-related illness can result from multiple types of mold, not just black mold.
Is black mold toxic?
Some fungi produce substances called mycotoxins which are harmful to people or animals. You typically have to consume mycotoxins for them to affect your health. However, certain mycotoxins cause problems through inhalation or skin contact.
Black mold can produce a type of substance called trichothecene mycotoxins. Research shows that it doesn't typically affect humans through inhalation. Illness from trichothecene mycotoxins usually only occurs after eating food with high contamination levels from the toxins. The symptoms include gastrointestinal problems and anemia.
There have been cases where people with significant exposure to black mold had negative health effects. These cases arose in people who lived in buildings with widespread mold. Crew members who came in to clean up the mold reported similar symptoms, including:
Experts believe that heavy exposure to black mold causes hypersensitivity to mold exposure. Many of the physical effects are consistent with allergy symptoms, not the effects of trichothecene mycotoxin poisoning. If there are other types of mold in the environment, they might play a role as well.
Black mold and mental effects
People with high levels of black mold exposure have reported mood and cognitive symptoms including:
The mental symptoms from heavy mold exposure are consistent with the effects of a severe mold allergy; Mental issues are not symptoms of trichothecene mycotoxicity. Experts in allergies note that people often report fatigue and "mental fog" when they are suffering from allergies.
Managing back mold
Since black mold can cause allergy symptoms, you should take steps to remove it from your home. You will need to locate the sources of moisture and fix any leaks or areas of significant condensation. Use fans or dehumidifiers to dry the damp areas.
If mold is present on furniture, carpet, or drywall, you will probably need to remove and replace those items. You may be able to clean mold out of small areas of your home. You might need to hire a service for more extensive mold remediation.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum."
National Toxicology Program (NTP): "Stachybotrys chartarum (or S. atra or S. alternans) [CAS No. 67892-26-6] Review of Toxicological Literature."
New York Times: "Why Do Allergies Cause' Brain Fog'?"
Paediatrics and Child Health: "Stachybotrys chartarum (atra) contamination of the indoor environment: Health implications."
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