What is mildew and black toxic
mold and where is it found?
Mold (fungi) are present everywhere - indoors and outdoors. There are more than 100,000
species of mold. At least 1,000 species of molds are common in the U.S. Some of the most
commonly found are species of Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.
Toxic mold is most
likely to grow where there is water or dampness - such as in bathrooms and basements.
How can it affect your health?
Most types of molds that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy
individuals. However, too much exposure to it may cause or worsen conditions such as
asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. The most common symptoms of overexposure are cough,
congestion, runny nose, eye irritation, and aggravation of asthma. Depending on the amount
of exposure and a persons individual vulnerability, more serious health effects -
such as fevers and breathing problems - can occur but are unusual.
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How can you be exposed?
When moldy material becomes damaged or disturbed, spores (reproductive bodies similar to
seeds) can be released into the air. Exposure can occur if people inhale the spores,
directly handle moldy materials, or accidentally ingest it. Also, it can sometimes
produce chemicals called Mycotoxins. Mycotoxins may cause illness in people who are
sensitive to them or if they are exposed to large amounts in the air. Large exposures are
typically associated with certain occupations (e.g., agricultural work).
How does it grow?
All molds need water to grow. Molds can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high
humidity, or dampness. Most often molds are confined to areas near the source of water.
Removing the source of moisture - such as through repairs or dehumidification - is
critical to preventing mold growth.
What is Stachybotrys chartarum?
Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra) is a type of
spore that has been
associated with health effects in people. It is a greenish-black mildew that can grow on
materials with a high cellulose content - such as drywall sheet rock, dropped ceiling
tiles, and wood - that become chronically moist or water-damaged, due to excessive
humidity, water leaks, condensation, or flooding.
How can you tell if Stachybotrys chartarum is present in your home?
Many molds are black in appearance but are not Stachybotrys. For example, the black mold
commonly found between bathroom tiles is not toxic. Stachybotrys can be positively
identified only by specially trained professionals (e.g., mycologists) through a
How can Stachybotrys chartarum affect your health?
Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low; however, as with other types of
molds, at higher levels health effects can occur. These include allergic rhinitis
(cold-like symptoms), dermatitis (rashes), sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of
asthma. Some related symptoms are more general - such as inability to concentrate and
fatigue. Usually, symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed.
There has been some evidence linking Stachybotrys with pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants
who are generally less than six months old. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon
condition that results from bleeding in the lungs. In studied cases of pulmonary
hemosiderosis, the exposure to Stachybotrys came from highly contaminated dwellings, where
the infants were continually exposed over a long period of time.
What should you do if mold is present in your home or apartment?
Although any contamination visible can be sampled by an environmental consultant and/or analyzed by
a laboratory specializing in microbiology, these tests can be very expensive - from
hundreds to thousands of dollars. There is no simple and cheap way to sample the air in
your home to find out what types of spores are present and whether they are airborne. Even
if you have your home tested, it is difficult to say at what levels health effects would
occur. Therefore, it is more important get rid of the problem rather than find out more about
it. The most effective way to treat is to correct underlying water damage and clean
the affected area.
How should these problems be cleaned?
Moldy surfaces should be cleaned as soon as it appears. Persons doing
the cleaning should be free of
symptoms and allergies. Small areas should be cleaned using a detergent/soapy
solution or an appropriate cleaner such as Sporex,
sold on this site. Gloves should be worn during cleaning. The
cleaned area should then be thoroughly dried. Dispose of any sponges or rags used to clean.
If the problem returns quickly or spreads, it may indicate an underlying problem such as a
leak. Any underlying water problems must be fixed to successfully eliminate problems.
If contamination is extensive, a professional abatement company may need to be
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