How Dangerous Is Black Mold?

Keeping home interiors dry and well-ventilated will deter black mold.
Keeping home interiors dry and well-ventilated will deter black mold. (Image: greg801/iStock/Getty Images)

Black mold Stachybotrys chartarum/S. atra produces mycotoxins in its airborne spores that can, if inhaled, cause breathing difficulty in otherwise healthy people and aggravate symptoms in people suffering chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma and nasal congestion. Black mold will grow on constantly-moist wallboard, wood, fabrics, paper, lint and any other moist material with a high cellulose content and low nitrogen content. The moisture may come from water leaks and other sources.

Remove All Molds

All molds are unsightly, smell musty and eventually destroy what they grow on. But not all dark-colored mold is toxic. Many species of dark molds aren’t known to have any harmful human medical issues. But if your dark mold is growing on wet cellulose materials, you may be dealing with the toxic Stachybotrys species. But it’s not necessary to know what type of mold you have in your house before undertaking removal, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: “All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.”

Link to Illness

Multiple studies posit that individuals who spent considerable time in damp, moldy environments were more likely to develop wheezing, coughing, sneezing, headaches, runny nose, eye irritation and other allergic symptoms. If you suspect black mold exposure is causing your symptoms, consult your doctor or other health care provider for diagnosis and remedies. In most cases, just getting people away from moldy places and cleaning up the mold decreased or eliminated the symptoms of illness.

Not Deadly

Although it is unhealthy, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence that black mold can cause death or any illness other than allergy symptoms. And no specific federal or state legal health standards exist for permissible levels of airborne black mold spores, and there are no standards established for environmental mold testing. Fortunately for mold allergy sufferers, a thorough cleanup of household mold remains the most effective way to bring relief from the allergy symptoms.

Look for Mold

Look over your house for black staining and other areas of discoloration on walls, ceilings or floors. These can indicate the presence of mold. Pay particular attention to perimeter walls and any areas where water has been standing. Check for mold beneath and behind carpeting, wallpaper and floor tiles. Check for molds in kitchen or bathroom cabinets, beneath sinks and on furniture or stored items placed next to outside walls or on damp floors. Check floor areas by exterior doors and the walls beneath windows. Thoroughly inspect any area with a noticeable musty or earthy smell. Check basement walls, particularly around windows and laundry facilities.

Find Moisture Source

Mold can’t grow without moisture, so the first and most essential step in mold cleanup is to find and fix the source of the excess moisture that is supporting the mold growth. Mold will keep coming back unless you stop the moisture. Look for water problems such as plumbing leaks, rain infiltration, drain backups, flooding, condensation or large spills that weren’t completely cleaned up. Once you’ve corrected the source of the moisture, you can move ahead with washing down and drying off mold-damaged areas and removing mold-contaminated materials that can’t be cleaned.

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