Black mold – it sounds scary and it’s not something we want in our homes. Many types of mold and fungi can cause reactions for people who are allergic, but the type referred to as “black” or “toxic” can be more dangerous to our health. When conditions are right inside of a building – where there’s moisture, inadequate ventilation and mold spores – black mold will likely be present.
Black and Toxic Molds
The term “black” mold can be misleading. The terms “black” and “toxic” mold are often used interchangeably when discussing mold. The type of mold referred to as black mold by most professionals is Stachybotrys chartarum, or Stachybotrys atra. This type of mold is actually a dark greenish-black color. With more than 100,000 known types of mold, many of them are a similar color, though they aren’t considered “black” mold. And most types of mold are not toxic, but certain individuals are sensitive to them nevertheless. Some other common indoor toxic molds include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria.
Regarding mold toxicity, the Centers for Disease Control says that black mold itself isn’t poisonous, but are “toxigenic”, which means they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins). These chemical compounds can attach to mold spores as they drift through the air. When the spores are inhaled by humans or animals, they may cause serious health problems. Mold typically only releases spores when disturbed by something like the breeze or vibration of a closing door or moving furniture etc. Even toxigenic molds won’t always carry mycotoxins, but any mold is not healthy in a home or building. This is especially true for individuals with lung ailments, compromised immune systems or allergies to mold.
What are the signs of Black Mold?
Mold has a musty smell, like dirt or rotting leaves. This can be a strong indicator of mold presence in a home or commercial building. Stachybotrys (“black” mold) smells especially strong and musty and can quickly cause headaches in some people. All types of mold need moist, dark environments with temperatures that neither freeze nor get excessively hot in order to grow. Stachybotrys thrives in conditions that are a little more wet and contain cellulose-based components, consuming water-soaked materials such as cotton, wicker, drywall, lumber, cardboard and even dust or lint.
In flooded homes or buildings the conditions are ideal for black mold. Within 24 hours, dark rings will begin to form around areas with excessive moisture, with the musty smell soon to follow. It’s in these instances that quickly addressing the moisture problem is most important in order to avoid severe mold growth and eventual mold remediation or costly repair.
Mold Testing – To Test or Not To Test
Black mold, or Stachybotrys mold, is generally greenish-black and slightly slimy or wet, but can also look gray with a powdery texture. Other molds may look very similar. This is why it is nearly impossible to tell the type of mold by appearance, smell or location. The only way to definitively identify a mold species is under examination of a microscope. Testing can sometimes be costly, depending on the circumstances, and isn’t necessary in every situation. Official testing is often sought for real estate transactions or insurance purposes. Many types of mold can cause health problems; therefore, if visible mold is present in your home or building, you should arrange to have it removed and remediated, no matter what type it is.