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Banishing Troublesome Black Mold

March 4, 2024

Banishing Troublesome Black Mold

What is Black Mold?

Black mold, also known as Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra, is a greenish-black mold that can grow in damp areas of the home. Black mold is known to release toxins that can cause health issues in humans and animals.

Some key facts about black mold:

  • Black mold grows in damp, warm environments with cellulose material present, like wood, paper, or drywall. Bathrooms, basements, and areas with water damage are common sites for black mold growth.

  • The mold produces dark greenish-black spores in slimy masses. It has a distinctive musty odor.

  • Black mold releases mycotoxins, which are toxic substances that can cause irritation and illness. Mycotoxins are thought to be the primary reason black mold exposure causes health issues.

  • Exposure symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, skin irritation, headaches, fatigue, and exacerbation of asthma. Those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk.

  • Black mold exposure does not always cause symptoms. Some people have high tolerance, while others are quite sensitive.

Dangers and Health Effects of Black Mold Exposure

Exposure to black mold and its mycotoxins can lead to a variety of health issues:

Respiratory Problems

Inhaling black mold spores or mycotoxins can cause wheezing, coughing, and exacerbation of asthma or respiratory conditions. Black mold is associated with upper respiratory tract symptoms, nasal congestion, and coughing.

Allergic Reactions

Black mold allergy symptoms are similar to common mold allergies. This includes sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Those allergic to molds are at higher risk for reaction to black mold.

Weakened Immune System

The toxins produced by black mold may suppress the immune system, making people more susceptible to illness. Studies link mold exposure to lowered immunity in children. Those with already compromised immunity are also at greater risk.

Fatigue and Headaches

General malaise, including chronic fatigue and frequent headaches, has been associated with black mold exposure. The mechanism behind this effect is not fully understood.

Cognitive and Neurological Problems

There is some evidence linking black mold exposure to cognitive deficits and problems with memory, concentration, and balance. The mycotoxins may have a neurological effect.

How to Identify and Test for Black Mold

To identify black mold growth in your home, look for the following signs:

  • Greenish-black staining or spots on surfaces, especially in damp areas

  • Musty, earthy odor coming from an area

  • Signs of excess moisture, such as peeling paint or warped boards

  • Health symptoms that improve when away from the home

Testing can confirm black mold presence. Options include:

  • DIY mold testing kits -these check for airborne mold spores

  • Professional mold inspection – inspector takes samples and sends to a lab for analysis

  • Black mold can be identified through visual inspection in many cases based on color and location. Testing provides confirmation.

Preventing and Removing Black Mold

The key to controlling black mold is keeping your home dry and well-ventilated. Here are some prevention tips:

  • Use exhaust fans when cooking, showering, and washing dishes

  • Ventilate moist spaces like attics and crawl spaces

  • Repair leaks and water damage promptly

  • Use a dehumidifier to maintain humidity under 50%

  • Clean bathrooms and wet rooms regularly with bleach

To remove black mold:

  • Protect yourself by wearing an N95 respirator mask, goggles, and gloves

  • Remove all affected drywall, wood, or other material

  • Clean surrounding surfaces with concentrated bleach solution or concrobium

  • Completely dry and air out the area before rebuilding

  • Consider mold resistant drywall and paint when rebuilding

For extensive black mold contamination, professional remediation may be needed. This involves containing the area, intensive cleaning, HEPA vacuuming, and replacing damaged materials.

My Personal Experience with Black Mold

I once lived in a basement apartment that had a moisture problem and developed black mold in the bathroom. Here’s what happened:

  • I started noticing a musty smell in the bathroom and black spots on the grout around the tub.

  • Within a couple weeks, I developed a cough, congestion, headaches, and fatigue.

  • I bought a mold test kit and it came back positive for elevated spore levels in the air.

  • When I informed the landlord, they had a mold remediation team come do professional cleaning and replace the drywall and tub surround.

  • Once the work was done, my symptoms cleared up within a few days of moving back in.

The experience taught me how important it is to stay vigilant about moisture issues and address black mold promptly before it can affect your health. Following proper mold prevention and removal techniques made all the difference in successfully banishing the black mold problem.

When to Seek Professional Help

While small patches of black mold can often be tackled through DIY cleaning, you should call in a professional mold remediation contractor if:

  • There are signs of heavy water damage or extensive mold growth covering over 10 square feet.

  • The black mold returns after cleaning and you can’t identify or fix the moisture source.

  • Anyone in the home has become ill or has strong mold allergies or asthma.

  • The HVAC system, air ducts, or crawl spaces show evidence of mold. Cleaning these spaces requires specialized equipment.

  • You don’t feel comfortable or equipped to do the remediation safely and effectively yourself.

Mold professionals have training, protective gear, and tools like vacuums with HEPA filters. Their services are often covered by home insurance if the mold is due to a water loss.

The Takeaway: Vigilance and Swift Action Against Black Mold

Black mold can be sneaky, but a few simple prevention steps like reducing moisture and cleaning with bleach regularly can help keep it at bay. Being alert to the signs and acting quickly when you do spot black mold growth are key to banishing it before health effects occur. With early intervention, most black mold can be tackled at home safely using proper containment, cleaning methods, and mold killing products. Don’t let black mold fester – take control at the first sight of those black spots!

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