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Black Mold

What is "black mold"?
The news media often refer to "black mold" or "toxic black mold."  It has usually been associated with the mold Stachybotrys chartarum , a type of greenish-black mold commonly associated with heavy water damage.  Known health effects are similar to other common molds.  It has been inconclusively associated with more severe health effects in some people.  While there are only a few molds that are truly black, many can appear black.  Not all mold that appears to be black is Stachybotrys.

How does mold get into a house or building? 
Most, if not all of the mold found indoors, comes from outdoor sources. It seems likely to grow and become a problem only where there is lack of ventilation, water damage, high humidity, or dampness.  All molds need moisture to grow.  Common sources of indoor moisture that can cause mold problems include flooding, roof and plumbing leaks, damp basement or crawl spaces, or anywhere moist air condenses on cold surfaces.  Bathroom showers and steam from cooking may also create problems if not well ventilated.

How can I prevent mold growth?  
A well ventilated roof can help to reduce moisture build-up in the attic space of your home. Controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth. Keeping susceptible areas in the home clean and dry is very important.  Ventilate or use exhaust fans (to the outdoors) to remove moisture where it accumulates: bathrooms; kitchens; and laundry areas.  Attic ventilaton is extremely important! By keeping good air flow through the attic space you can reduce your chances of moisture build-up. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One of the most commonly installed ventilation products is a ridge-vent. Repair roof leaks promptly, and either dry out and clean or replace any water-damaged materials.  Materials that stay wet for longer than 48 hours are likely to produce mold growth.  Proper insulation helps prevent condensation inside the home during cold weather that could cause mold growth.

Can mold be toxic?
Some molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins.  Airborne mycotoxins have not been shown to cause health problems to occupants in residential or commercial buildings. The health effects of breathing mycotoxins are not well understood and are currently under study. 

High or chronic airborne exposures, typically associated with certain occupations like agricultural work, have been associated with illnesses, although these are rare.   More is known about eating mycotoxins (from humans and animals consuming moldy foods or feed) and the resulting health effects than is known about breathing mycotoxins.

Why are we concerned about mold?  
Small amounts of mold growth in workplaces or homes (such as mildew on a shower curtain) or workplaces are not a major concern, but no mold should be permitted to grow and multiply indoors.  When molds are present in large quantities, they may cause nuisance odors and health problems for some people.  Mold can damage building materials, finishes and home furnishings.  Some molds can cause structural damage to wood.

How do molds affect people?  
Most people will have no reaction at all when exposed to molds.  Allergic reactions, similar to common pollen or animal allergies, are the most common health effects for individuals sensitive to molds.  Flu-like symptoms and skin rash may occur.  Molds may also aggravate asthma.  Fungal infections from building-associated molds may occur in people with serious immune disease but this is very rare.  Most symptoms are temporary and eliminated by correcting the mold problem in the home.

Who is affected by exposure to mold?  
For those who are affected by mold exposure, there can be a wide variation in how they react. People who may be affected more severely and quickly than others include:

  • pregnant women
  • elderly people
  • persons with weakened immune systems
  • infants and children
  • individuals with respiratory conditions or allergies and asthma

Those with special health concerns should consult their doctor if they are concerned about mold exposure.  The symptoms that may seem to occur f from mold exposure can also be due to other causes such as bacterial or viral infections, or other allergies.

What should I do if I see or smell mold in my home?  
Prevention is an important step in keeping your home free of mold, but if you find yourself in a situation where mold has had a chance to grow it is recommeneded that you contact a professional. The most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and fix the moisture sources that caused the mold growth. Porous or absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles, wallboard and carpeting) that become moldy should be replaced.  If you do not see mold growth, but notice a musty odor, mold may be growing behind water-damaged materials, such as walls, carpeting or wallpaper.  Persons cleaning mold should wear gloves, eye protection and a dust mask or respirator to protect against breathing airborne spores (an N95 dust mask or respirator may be purchased in hardware stores).  If you have health concerns, you should consult your doctor before attempting any mold cleanup. It is highly recommended to leave this clean-up to the professionals.






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