Toxic black mold – also known as Stachybotrys – is a type of fungi that produces dangerous spores, called mycotoxins. There are 15 species of this hazardous mold, all of which are thought to be a primary cause of “sick building syndrome.” Toxic black mold is most often found in previous flood areas, and is known to thrive in areas of high humidity. The scent or appearance of toxic black mold can indicate a variety of problems, and if the temperature and moisture conditions are favorable, mold colonization can develop in a relatively short amount of time. Toxic black mold is unhealthy for humans and should be treated with respect to potential health risks and mold removal options.
Although you can detect black mold in your home on visible surfaces, additional mold can be hidden inside of cabinets, under carpets, and behind drywall. In order to determine if the mold in your home is toxic or not, a sample will need to be sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis. Sampling of mold-contaminated areas, as well as environmental testing, is necessary to determine the accuracy and scope of remediation. A qualified environmental inspector will use visual inspection, laboratory analysis, and photographs to evaluate the type and intensity of toxic black mold contamination. Finally, after remediation is complete, clearance testing should be performed to guarantee that the infestation has been terminated, or reduced to a tolerable level.
While individuals with respiratory problems are more susceptible to black mold health risks, mycotoxins can cause problems in healthy individuals as well. The most common symptoms of black mold are caused by allergic reactions, including: skin irritation, difficulty breathing, sore throat, dry cough, nasal and sinus congestion, and nausea. The effects of toxic mold can become chronic with extended exposure, leading to diseases beyond allergic reactions. Both short and long-term health issues include: recurring cold and flu symptoms, excessive fatigue, headaches, dermatitis, and altered immune function. Further, these symptoms can lead to more severe diseases, such as: tremors, chronic fatigue syndrome, toxic pneumonitis, kidney failure, and cancer.
There are several medical tests that can be performed to determine if toxic black mold is impairing your health. One such test is called a ‘prick test,’ in which the doctor will prick the patient’s skin with different molds and observe any allergic reactions that take place. Blood tests are also common, and can indicate toxic black mold exposure through the measurement of white blood cell counts. If a higher than normal activity is observed for T-lymphocyte cells, or the body’s immune system, mold may be responsible. Lastly, a spirometry test can be used to measure lung function. Since mold spores attach to your lungs after inhalation, a degenerated competency of the lung function may indicate exposure.
Although it is impossible to completely get rid of black mold from your environment, it is possible to manage its affect on both your home and your health. If you inspect your home regularly, check for signs of infestation, and monitor moisture levels, you can reduce the chance of toxic black mold becoming a problem. Minor problem areas can be dealt with by the homeowner, whereas larger contamination areas may require professional help, particularly if mold has gone undetected for some time. We have no choice but to live with mold, because it will always be present in our environment; what we can do is everything possible to insure it does not impair the health of us or our loved ones.