What is black mold?
Black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is one of the most well known and feared toxic molds of all varieties. It grows very quickly in your home and can be harmful to human beings and pets. Because black mold grows in warm and damp environments it is common in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Black mold is actually greenish-black and is often found on high-cellulose materials such as cardboard, paper, and drywall. Black mold is attracted to moisture which is why it is common in previously flooded homes, in the area of leaky pipes or near any water damage. It is not uncommon to find it growing in your basement in cardboard boxes of stored papers and documents. Black mold presents higher health risks to people with respiratory conditions or weakened immune systems. Black mold, like all mold, should be handled with caution and removed from your home as carefully and as quickly as possible.
How does black mold affect human health?
People have varying levels of tolerance when it comes to allergens like mold spores. And that is what black mold is- an allergen. People who suffer from respiratory allergies, asthma, or immune issues will experience the effects of black mold’s “mycotoxins” more than those in perfect health. There is a certain amount of media hype around black mold and its effects on humans, but there are still many questions and more medical testing to be done. Regardless, black mold does present health risks to some and should be removed from your home immediately. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), black mold can cause cold- or flu-like symptoms such as:
- Stuffy nose
- Skin and eye irritation
Longer exposure can cause more serious symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
Where does mold occur?
Mold spores can be introduced into your home on clothes, pets, or even in the air. They seek out water to survive which is why you will find black mold around water-damaged areas. Damp drywall, carpets, or drapes can create the perfect host for black mold growth. If you have water damage you must remove all the affected materials. Remember, like other molds, black mold likes damp, humid, and dark areas in our home.
Here are some signs that you may have black mold in our home.
- Mold has an earthy and musty smell. Although not visible to you, you still may smell it when you enter your home or a specific room.
- An early warning of mold is the appearance of dark spots or rinks in our walls or ceiling. They may not yet be mold, but they are a warning of water damage or pooling water which is the perfect invitation for mold. If you see this, clean it up immediately with disinfectants, wearing gloves, a mask, and glasses. The damage could be more widespread. When in doubt, call an inspector.
- Irritations like sneezing, itchy eyes or skin, headaches, coughing, and skin irritation.
- Visible black mold growth which has a furry growth and black stain There may also be specks of white, brown, green, or orange.
Once you have gotten rid of black mold, take some steps to keep it from returning. Do regular inspections of areas where dampness accumulates like the bathroom and around your HVAC system. Get a dehumidifier to keep moisture levels low.
Keep an eye out for any leaks from appliances or in ventilation ducts. Keep your home well ventilated.
Testing for Black Mold
It is impossible to tell if mold is black mold by sight or smell. The only way to determine a mold species is by examining under a microscope. Testing can be expensive and may not be necessary according to the CDC since any mold can cause health issues and it should be removed regardless.
DIY Mold Removal
If you are convinced that your mold is contained in a small area on non-porous materials you may decide to remove it yourself. It’s important that you protect yourself!
Wear latex gloves, a mask, eye protection, and clothing that covers you completely to avoid contact with the spores. Close of the area duct-taping vents and cracks and closing doors. You can use a fan directed at a small window. Clean the area with a brush, soap, and water. Bag us anything that was infested with mold. Apply a strong disinfectant to the affected area and the surrounding area. Ventilate the area well and keep it dry.
Some good disinfectants are white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or grapefruit seed extract.
Professional Mold Remediation and Clean Up
Hiring a professional is a great and safer option. A professional will reach areas you can’t see and ensure the spores don’t spread. Every case is different but the general mold remediation process is the same. Their process will include a full inspection and assessment of the damage, containment of the mold, air filtration, removing the mold and all infested materials, cleaning the contents of your home and your belongings, and restoring your home to its original state. The restoration may include major reconstruction of some areas, replacing drywall, subfloors, or minor repairs such as painting, installing new carpet. A mold remediation specialist will be available 24/7. Be sure to involve your insurance company to understand what, if any of the costs will be covered.