You’ve heard of it before—black mold has a terrifying reputation as a dangerous toxin that can spread easily and go unnoticed. But is there truth to the hype? Turns out, there is much misinformation and many false assumptions about black mold—how it spreads, what causes it, as well as side effects and symptoms. As is so often the case, however, knowledge is power — including the power to stay calm and deal with a current or potential problem head-on. Here’s what you need to know about black mold, the health problems it can cause, and what to do if you think you have it in your home.
Black Mold: What is It?
Commonly known as black mold, the fungus has a more scientific name—Stachybotrys chartarum. It’s often black (but it can be greenish or gray as well) and can grow in homes in humid or damp areas. This type of mold has a distinct musty, mildew smell and almost always accompanies water damage. It is not always visible as it thrives in dark, damp places, and feeds on common household materials like drywall, carpet, insulation, or sub-flooring that have been exposed to moisture.
Identifying Black Mold
Black mold growing in a visible area is easily seen. However, sometimes you may not be able to see mold that’s growing behind your walls or in your insulation, for instance. In these cases, the musty smell can tip you off and let you know further investigation is needed. It’s vital to uncover where exactly it is as well as the moisture source that’s causing it.
Is Exposure to Black Mold Toxic?
Black mold, like all molds, can cause a range of respiratory problems and issues. Since black mold is a fungus, its spores spread in the air and grow as they come in contact with moisture or damp areas. As these spores are microscopic, it’s impossible to see them in the air and makes them easily digestible and unknown to homeowners until the smell or symptoms kick in.
That being said, there are a lot of misconceptions about black mold, particularly that it can cause cancer and lung disease. There is no scientific evidence of this; rather, symptoms of fatigue, headaches, eye irritation, chronic coughing and sneezing, and sore throat are much more common.
While these may seem like mild symptoms, black mold is not completely risk-free: black mold exposure can cause adverse, serious reactions such as pneumonia in young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems or respiratory issues such as allergies and asthma. It’s worth noting, however, that all home mold exposure is bad, and all mold should always be removed as soon as possible.
Reducing and Elimination Mold in your Home
While it’s easy for black mold to spread its spores, it’s much more difficult to eliminate it. If your home has had water damage, it’s essential to act quickly to ensure your home is spore-free. The best way to prevent black mold is to eliminate moisture both in the air and in your home. If any water comes in contact with your walls, doors, ceilings, or carpet, be sure to immediately dry the area using plenty of towels and a dehumidifier, as well as removing wet furniture.
Ensure that your A/C unit is completely dry as well, as spores can circulate through air vents. When drying the water, locate the issue and fix it as quickly as possible. Even something as small as a leak or a simple spill on the carpet can cause a buildup of moisture and the likelihood of mold, so it’s crucial to fix the issue to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Black Mold Removal
Any porous material that has become moldy should be thrown away. This includes ceiling tiles, drywall, and carpet. In many cases, it’s wise to rely on a professional to do the job. Even dead mold can cause health problems, so the affected area needs to be thoroughly cleaned and dried.
To ensure that the mold doesn’t re-grow, the source of the dampness or moisture must be addressed. This means locating and fixing any leaks or broken pipes that are causing the situation, before replacing other materials and furnishings.
The bottom line is that though “toxic black mold” is a buzz phrase we’ve all heard and fear, black mold is not necessarily more dangerous than other molds. Any mold growth in the home can be potentially dangerous and should be addressed swiftly and thoroughly.
Concerned about water damage or a mold problem? Get in touch! The team at National First Response has decades of experience and offers a range of emergency response and remediation services.