The most sinister feature of black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, is that it grows and multiplies in secret places. There, it will quietly fester and then spread all over the surface of a wall and contaminate the room. Visible signs of black mold indicate a sizable infestation, which may require major efforts to get rid of it. Black mold is best handled in its initial stages and early detection is extremely helpful. Smell is a way to discover this harmful fungus in its primary period of development.
Before nosing around (pardon the pun) for mold, there are a few things to keep in mind. Black mold requires humidity and moisture to actively grow. It is accepted that humidity levels in a structure must be at a relative humidity (RH) level of fifty five percent or more for an infestation to develop. That can mean in a room in which the relative humidity is lower, there will probably be no sign of black mold regardless of what a person may smell. Nevertheless, possible spawning grounds include leaky pipes or damp crawl spaces. Flooding is a major cause of black mold since the water levels remain high for a considerable period of time, often soaking the wood in a house for days. Oddly enough, having lots of house plants can cause problems too. These require watering and may increase the humidity in a room. An added danger is that no one would ever expect house plants to be a source for the needed moisture, and as such, rooms with a number of plants may be ignored until the mold is highly visible.
Smelling out this fungus is an elementary means of discovery, and the investigation is assisted by the ventilation in the room. An unacceptably low level of air pressure invites breeding moisture into the space, and creates the right atmosphere for growth to occur. The odor of black mold is a musty smell. Once it is detected, a person should immediately inspect the area for evidence of mold spores. Another place, connected to the atmosphere, is the air conditioning system. Black mold can grow in the damp areas of the air conditioning unit, and may even be spreading the odor. However, when inspecting the air conditioning units, a person must be extremely careful. The spores of this fungus can be airborne, and be blown into the air by the normal functioning of air conditioning. An amateur inspector can accidentally inhale the spores while checking for them. It is a good precaution, therefore, to have an air mask ready when close inspection is being done.
The dank smell is the warning alarm, akin to the canary in the coal mine. Cleanup work to eradicate the fungus should not be delayed. The actual elimination of the spores may require professional help and should be sought if necessary. Cleaning the air ducts of the house can keep the mold from spreading room to room, and the air filters of the furnace ought to be changed. Air cleaners are relatively cheap and can reduce airborne particles, including mold spores.
Smell can be used to detect the existence of black mold, but a little preventive maintenance can keep both the smell and the spores from being a problem. Checking for damp areas, keeping the humidity levels down, and using air filters can stop this mold from being a house problem. Black mold is a dank, dirty hazard which doesn’t have to be a part of the woodwork if a person uses a little household caution.