The scientific name given to black mold is stachybotrys chartarum, and the reputation of this fungus is about as dark as its name. Black mold can generate a trichothecene mycotoxin known as Satrotoxin-H, which has a toxic effect on human beings, and both home owners and the construction industry have the challenge of preventing stachybotrys chartarum, “black mold” from growing and spreading in houses and newly built residential structures.
What is the known danger inherent in black mold exposure for human beings? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that molds such as black mold produce mycotoxins the molds themselves are not toxic or poisonous substances. In other words, brushing up against a wall with black mold clinging to it will not by itself cause serious illness. However, the Center does recognize that research has uncovered evidence to link this mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms and conditions common to people with breathing problems (e.g. asthma hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Those suffering from asthma are particularly at peril from the harmful effects of black mold). Black mold health risks, unfortunately, can dramatically increase to dangerous levels when certain demographic groups are exposed to it.
Air borne black mold spores can cause pulmonary hemosiderosis, or bleeding in the lungs among children. Those whose immune systems have been weakened by advancing years or debilitating disease (AIDS patients and those undergoing chemotherapy) are also susceptible to health problems caused by inhaling stachybotrys chartarum spores. Pregnant women are another group of people at risk by high levels of black mold growth in a home. It needs to be remembered that residents are not the only places where black mold propagates. Industry also must be mindful of the health dangers associated with black mold exposure, because this fungus turns into an occupational health hazard when unprotected workers come in contact with high mold concentrations in places such as warehouses or damp buildings conducive to the generation of mold spores.
Stachybotrys chartarum and other molds affect a person’s health through mold allergies, infection and toxicity. The health risks stem from the considerable amount of time most people spend in their homes and these dwellings may have black mold in them. Indoor levels are usually low but high levels of stachybotrys chartarum can cause symptoms of black mold that increase in severity with the duration of heightened exposure. Signs of adverse exposure to black mold may include problems with breathing, headaches, rash from coming in direct contact, fever, and dizziness if the exposure is for a prolonged period of time. Bleeding in the lungs and nose can occur in extreme cases of exposure as well as mold infecting the lining of the lungs themselves.
Research into the health issues of black mold is ongoing. To date, studies suggest that while the stachbotrys chartarum does create health problems, only in those cases of high and prolonged exposure is black mold ever fatal. The good news is that the health problems associated with black mold exposure vanish after the mold has been successfully removed. Moisture control is the generally accepted means of preventing black mold from growing and becoming a health concern. The Environmental Protection Agency and a number of mold removal companies have website information that can be used to keep black mold from growing in buildings. These are very useful references for those homeowners seeking to control this fungus.