What is black mold and why is it considered a health risk? It is a type of fungus which grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. These are microscopic fungi. The tubular, branching hyphae has multiple, identical nuclei and has a connected network. It is considered to be a single organism. Black Mold, also known as Stachybotrys Chartarum (atra) is a greenish-black fungus that is is wet and slightly slimy to touch. There are about 15 species of Stachybotrys.
How Black Mold Grows
For black mold to colonize there must be sufficient moisture present. Black mold grows on sufaces when the relative humidity is over 55%. Black mold usually starts in buildings where water damage has occurred, either from flooding, leaky plumbing, or even excessive condensation. Given the right moist circumstances it grows well on most building materials such as drywall, carpet, wood, ceiling tiles and wall paper.
Black mold is self-replicating. What is actually visible as a moldy film on a surface is the mycelium, or the main body of the fungus. This forms when the filamentous cells of the fungus called the hyphae produce enzymes to decompose neighboring organic material, the organism’s primary source of nutrition. Eventually, these hyphael cells form spores, which are released to germinate and the spread of the mold. These spores are very resilient and can lie dormant for years before germinating.
Black mold spores die quickly after release but they remain allergenic and toxigenic. In order to eliminate the hazard, the mold growth and mold spores themselves must be physically removed, not just treated with a biocide.
Black Mold Health Risks
Black mold can comprise indoor air quality quite quickly, producing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are responsible for producing the musty smell commonly associated with moldy areas. Black mold may also produce an opportunistic infection in those who already have a compromised immune system that wouldn’t ordinarily occur in a healthy person. Individuals that may become infected include HIV/AIDS patients, organ transplant recipients, or those undergoing chemotherapy.
Black mold is also linked to causing or elevating allergies, asthma, and sinusitis; causing intermittent hair loss, flu symptoms, sore throats, fatigue, rashes and other many other issues ranging from mild symptoms to life-threatening. This type of mold is thought to be a possible cause of the “sick building syndrome”.
Some people are more susceptible to severe reactions when exposed to toxic mold spores. Children, in particular, can have serious reactions to the toxins, including lung damage, brain function and even death. For some people symptoms my be quite mild but others may have a predisposition to reactions due to asthma, allergies, or genetics.
See Black Mold Symptoms.
What is Black Mold Removal?
Black mold removal can be a long, expensive and physically intensive endeavor. It is essential that anyone at high risk from negative health consequences from black mold exposure be evacuated from the site prior to initiating the clean up process. In addition, anyone involved in black mold remediation should wear protective clothing and related eye and respiratory gear. All moldy materials must be removed from the premises and contained until it can be properly disposed of. Once problem areas have been improved, it is essential to address moisture problems in the environment to prevent future black mold contamination.