You probably have encountered mold at some point in your life, either outdoors or indoors. Except in the dead of winter, these fungi with the distinctive musty odor grow naturally in moist outdoor environments where they release spores into the air. These microscopic spores, in turn, enter homes and buildings through open doors, windows and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems with outdoor air intakes. They also get in by attaching themselves to your clothing, shoes, bags and pets. Once there, they multiply rapidly in damp areas and substances and can cause serious health problems.
While molds come in a variety of species and a variety of colors including black, white, orange, green and purple, Stachybotrys chartarum, popularly called black mold, represents one of the most toxic. Actually, black mold is not truly black, but rather greenish-black in color. In addition, it is not toxic or poisonous in and of itself. Rather, as it feeds on organic substances in common building materials that have been exposed to moisture, it produces mycotoxins that you inhale or ingest.
Black Mold Health Symptoms
When you are exposed to mold for extended periods, you can develop hay fever-like symptoms including the following:
- Chronic coughing and sneezing
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Chronic fatigue
- Persistent headaches
Should you already have allergies or asthma, black mold exposure could cause more serious symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sinusitis, fever, shortness of breath and bleeding in your nose and lungs. High concentrations of mycotoxins in your home or workplace can lead to mold poisoning, also called mycotoxicosis, even in healthy people depending on their concentration and the amount of time you are exposed to them.
Where Black Mold Lives
Any area of your home that receives excessive moisture, such as around your washer and dryer, stove, toilets, humidifier, under-cabinet pipes, etc., is a prime candidate for black mold growth. It lives and thrives in damp cellulose materials including the following:
- Paper and paper products
- Books and magazines
- Wood and wood products
- Ceiling tiles
Black mold also loves such things as:
- Damp surfaces, particularly basement and bathroom walls or floors
In your workplace, black mold can grow around windows or doors, and often establishes itself in the building’s heating, cooling and ventilation pipes and ducts. As in your home, your workplace’s damp ceiling tiles, furniture, carpeting and bathrooms likewise are prime mold breeding places.
Needless to say, if your home or workplace suffers flood damage or a sewage backup, getting rid of mold is just as important as getting rid of the water or sewage itself.
Home Mold Prevention
To minimize the potentiality of black mold establishing itself in your home, do the following:
- Regularly clean and vacuum.
- Leave your bathroom window open when you bathe or shower.
- Use a dehumidifier to maintain your indoor relative humidity below 50 percent.
- Use an indoor air purifier with a HEPA filtration system.
- Keep your rain gutters clean so as not to block water drainage.
Conversely, do not do the following:
- Leave old newspapers, books or wood sitting unused for long periods
- Put carpeting in your bathrooms, kitchen or basement
- Ignore leaky pipes
If you live in a rented or leased home or apartment, contact your landlord immediately if you see or suspect mold anywhere on the premises. (S)he may need to hire a mold removal service to remedy the problem.
Workplace Mold Prevention
If you notice black mold anywhere in your workplace or exhibit any of the symptoms associated with black mold poisoning, report these things immediately to your employer. In a workplace setting, mold discovery and removal by a professional service provider is the only sure answer.
If black mold occurs in the home you own, you need to file a claim with your homeowner’s policy provider. Such claims must be handled properly, especially when it comes to remediating the mold problem. Insurance companies often try to disclaim such coverage, leading to litigation. Consequently, if you see mold in your own home or develop black mold symptoms in your rental home or workplace which your landlord or employer fails to remedy, please call Richard A. Dubi toll-free at 833-FOR-DUBI (833-367-3824).