Is Black Mold Hazardous For Your Health?
Black mold has been the topic of much debate and concern for people because of the potential health implications, costs, insurance claims and legal disputes it causes.
Although mold plays an important role in our ecosystem, by decomposing dead organic matter outdoors, it has no place inside our homes or the buildings we work in.
Black Mold has managed to creep its way into the mainstream, where the media has showcased this destructive fungus as the bane of our existence…
In this article I will clarify some common questions about black mold so we can understand and learn how to deal with it.
Why Are People So Afraid Of Black Mold?
Let’s face it… we can all agree that mold is ugly. And the scariest of all mold is the dreaded toxic black mold.
The media has done a great job in profiling black mold as a toxic, health debilitating expensive problem in our lives.
The scary and potentially toxic black mold that people are mold afraid of is called Stachybotrys chartarum. In fact, this mold is not exactly black… it is actually dark green.
It is a wet sticky mold that begins to grow after constant exposure to moisture for a minimum of seven days. It is most common in extremely humid environments or after a flood or ongoing leak.
The actual mold is not toxic or poisonous. Potential hazards may only occur if and when the mold produces mycotoxins, (poisons) and people with allergies to this mold are exposed.
There are so many types of mold species, and everyone is affected uniquely to each types of mold. So, it is very hard to determine how one species of mold will affect each person.
However, we do know that prolonged exposure to any type of mold is potentially harmful to our health, which is why we need to get rid of it when we see it in our homes.
Some of the black mold symptoms can include itchy skin and eyes, sore throat, rash, and flu symptoms.
Does The Colour Of Mold Matter?
The short answer is no.
The fact is, the color of mold does not determine whether it will be toxic or not. All molds have the potential to cause health issues. As mentioned earlier, the media has been responsible for alarming people about black mold.
In reality, there are several species and colours of mold, including green, brown, red, white, pink, yellow, blue and black of course.
To complicate the issue further, one single species of mold may come in a number of different colours. This is why we cannot determine the specific type of mold from just looking at it. To be sure, we must sample the mold and send it to a microbial lab for analysis
What To Do When You See Black Mold
First off, don’t assume that because it is black, that it is toxic. I’m not suggesting that it is harmless, but we need to understand that the colour does not dictate the molds toxicity potential.
If the mold has been found on a porous surface like drywall, then it cannot be washed off. It must be removed and properly discarded.
There are certain protocols in place that should be followed to ensure effective and safe mold removal. You want to hire a company that is IICRC certified.
If you see black mold on porous furniture, or clothing then it will need to be discarded. Minor mildew can sometimes be cleaned and disinfected through a high heat cycle, but it really depends on how long the clothing has been exposed to the mold. I recommend speaking to a professional cleaning company with experience in dealing with mold on fabric and clothing etc.
If you notice black mold growing on a non-porous surface, then it can be removed by wiping it away with the use of a mold cleaner, followed by a microbial disinfectant.
Preventing Black Mold In Your Home
Mold is everywhere. The spores are microscopic and in almost every environment you can imagine… just take a look at sealed container that has been in the refrigerator for two weeks.
It is impossible to completely prevent mold from your home or any building. However, there are a number of ways to prevent mold from growing into a large-scale problem.
The most important part of mold prevention is moisture control. If you have a leak, flood, moisture ingress, or excess humidity then you must find out what is causing it and put an end to it quickly.
In addition to fixing a moisture problem, the next step is keeping the home dry.
Mold also needs and organic material to feed on. For this reason, you need to continually clean away all dust from areas that do not typical get a lot of ventilation, such as closets walls, under and behind furniture, all horizontal surfaces, interior wall and ceiling corners. In addition, you want to avoid pushing furniture up against the walls, especially cooler exterior walls.
The humidity inside the home must be less than 55%, especially in our environment. (Pacific Northwest) Constant high humidity readings 60% or more will encourage condensation leading to mold growth.
You can figure out the humidity levels inside the home by using a hygrometer. This device can be purchased from your local hardware store. It shows you the humidity and temperature. Here is an example of a simple hygrometer.
Often, basement suites are humid because they are below ground and naturally cooler. In addition, they are poorly ventilated, relying mostly on cross ventilation by opening the windows. This may not always be practical, especially during the winter or when it is raining outside.
Normally the best solution to combat high humidity is to use a dehumidifier, as it is designed to pull moisture out of the air.
You should also make sure that all kitchen fans are being used while cooking and your bathroom fans are being used prior to, throughout and during a bath or shower.
When you see a build up of moisture along the lower windows, or accumulating along the windowsills, black mold is sure to grow, just like in the photo below.
Experienced and well-trained mold inspectors will have a checklist and or routine to follow.
Finding the potential source of a leak, flood or high humidity issue in the home can prevent black mold.
The best way to go about this is to hire a mold inspector. Mold inspectors are trained to look for issues that may cause water damage, such leaky pipes, ruptured washing machine hoses or and or high humidity readings throughout the home.
Now that you know a little bit more about black mold you can save yourself the unnecessary grief, aggravation and costs associated to dealing with this fungal menace.