Toxic Mold & Black Mold
What is "black mold" or "toxic mold"?
You have probably heard a great deal
about black mold or toxic mold. It is
usually associated with Stachybotrys,
a black mold that is often found after
there has been persistent water damage.
The known health effects from exposure
to Stachybotrys are similar to other common
molds and may cause illness in individuals
with a sensitivity to “mycotoxins”
(chemicals produced by certain molds),
to people who are immunocompromised, or
to individuals who have become sensitive
after prolonged exposure. In fact, many
molds are black and it is the amount of
mold and level of exposure that are necessary
pieces of information to discover.
do I know if the mold in my home is toxic?
Web sites and media articles will often
use the terms “toxic mold”
or “toxic black mold”. This
is largely a marketing strategy, a scare
tactic designed to encourage you to make
financial decisions that may not even
be necessary. In fact, most molds are
toxic to some extent and many are black.
There is one variety of particular concern;
Stachybotrys. About 30% of the strains
of this species produce abundant mycotoxins
and are reportedly more potent than other
types of mold. A few species/strains of
Aspergillus and several others can be
nearly as dangerous. Ingesting mold in
contaminated foods has been shown to poison
people and may even cause cancer. Of further
concern is mold contamination found around
the home in areas in which children could
have access to it. It is important that
young children do not put items in their
mouths if there is a chance of mold, especially
if it is Stachybotrys or Aspergilus. The
main thing to remember is that many molds
are toxic and once you know you have a
mold problem, all molds need to be removed
to minimize exposure risk. The type of
mold has no bearing on the remediation
process. All mold contamination needs
to be removed, regardless of the type.
Why should I ask to have an inspection
There are many reasons why you may
decide to have your home or business inspected
You smell mold but do not see it
anywhere. An experienced mold inspector
will sample for hidden mold sources (i.e.
wall/ceiling cavities). This will help
determine if and what level of remediation
Before you purchase a house or investment
property you will want to identify if
mold is a pre-existing issue. Mold remediation
can be expensive and if it is required
you will want to consider that additional
cost before the sale is completed.
Mold remediation work has been performed
and you want to make sure that this process
was done correctly. GML will thoroughly
inspect the remediated area(s) preferably
while walls and ceilings remain open,
before flooring is replaced and prior
to new building materials being put in
place. Mold may not be visible but still
may exist if remediation was not done
successfully. “Clearance Testing”
will give you piece of mind that your
money was well spent and that the mold
was cleaned according to industry standards.
Most importantly you will know the mold
contamination has been removed.
have to have a professional come or can
I test for mold myself?
Only professionals who have experience
with mold issues and are familiar with
current guidelines should test for mold.
Since mold is found everywhere, only a
professional is trained to identify if
the levels in your home or business are
“normal” or if professional
work is needed to remove a mold contamination
In addition we believe that mold testing
should only be performed by a company
that is “independent” of the
remediation process. This assures the
inspection will be unbiased. Gordon Mycology
Laboratory does not perform any remediation
services due to this fair business practice.
GML can recommend several successful and
reputable remediation companies that have
a proven history of high quality of remediation
Mold Allergies & Health Affects
In what ways can I be exposed to mold?
When moldy materials becomes damaged or
disturbed, spores are released into the
air. Exposure can occur if you inhale
the spores, directly handle moldy materials,
or accidentally ingest the mold. Certain
molds produce chemicals called mycotoxins
(myco = fungus, toxin = harmful or poisonous
substance) and mold volatile organic compounds
(irritating chemicals released into the
air = “musty odor”). These
may cause illnesses in individuals sensitive
to the chemicals or who are immunocomprised,
or who have become sensitive after long-term
exposure to mold.
mold affect my health?
Under normal circumstances, most mold
types and levels are not harmful to healthy
individuals. However, when molds grow
indoors, their numbers increase to levels
that can become harmful. Long-term exposure
to mold may cause or worsen conditions
such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies.
The most common symptoms of mold exposure
are cough, chest or sinus congestion,
runny nose, eye irritations, and aggravation
of asthma, chronic respiratory or sinus
infections. Depending on the exposure
level and your sensitivity to the mold,
more serious health effects may result.
steps do I take if my home or business
is contaminated with mold?
The first step is to find the source of
moisture that led to the mold growth and
have it resolved. Mold contamination should
be removed as soon as it is discovered.
If visible mold is seen on walls or ceilings,
it might be necessary to collect additional
samples inside the wall/ceiling cavities
to identify the extent of contamination
and narrow the scope of remediation work.
When surfaces containing mold contamination
are disrupted, millions of spores are
spread throughout the air. Small patches
of mold growth may be carefully and properly
removed without professional assistance.
Extensive and/or recurring mold growth
might be an indication of a pervasive
problem. This problem will most likely
require a skilled mold remediation company
who will use proper containment and removal
equipment, depending on the situation.
Different levels of contamination require
varying degrees of remediation. Remediation
can range from disinfecting a small area
affected by mold to “gutting”
a room that has had chronic moisture intrusion
and severe mold growth. If the mold returns
after remediation has been completed,
it indicates that a moisture problem still
exists or that the contamination was not
I see a doctor if I am exposed to mold?
If you believe that you or someone
in your family has symptoms that you suspect
might be linked to mold exposure, you
should consult a physician who has experience
with mold exposure illnesses. If mold
testing was performed in the house or
building, bring a copy of the report,
including any accompanying data tables
to your doctor. Keep in mind that many
symptoms associated with mold exposure
can also be associated with other environmental
problems. Tell you doctor about the symptoms,
when they began, and the period of time
you think you were exposed to mold. If
you do not get better or symptoms worsen
over time, an indoor mold inspection will
be important in finding mold contamination
sources and suggesting how to solve the
My attic sheathing is black with mold.
Do I need a new roof, or what should I
It depends on how extensive the mold
is, and sometimes on what you are willing
to pay for. Often times the mold is just
in a few areas, requiring limited material
replacement, or just cleaning. Obviously,
any roof leaks, shingle flashing or ventilation
issues must be fixed to prevent future
mold growth. Attic mold can:
- Worsen and become more expensive to
remove if left unchecked
- Can lower property value
- Spread to the living areas below if
- Contaminate belongings stored in the
- Delay or cause the loss of a house
is mold growth on roof materials, can
the cold weather kill it?
Generally, if conditions are favorable
for mold to have grown in the attic and
the mold is still alive, cold winter temperatures
will slow or stop the mold from growing.
However, molds produce spores with resilient
outer coatings that allow them to remain
alive through harsh conditions including
long dry spells and cold temperatures.
Thus, when the attic warms up again and
sufficient moisture is present mold growth
will resume. This cycle will continue
until the mold has been removed and favorable
growth conditions eliminated. Simply resolving
the moisture issue, most often inadequate
ventilation will not kill the mold. The
complete process must include two steps:
- Identify and fix moisture/ventilation
- Remove mold appropriately
my basement flooded, the carpet was removed,
but I still smell a musty odor. Why?
If moisture remained on materials
in the basement for a sufficient amount
of time, the materials, such as sheetrock,
insulation, cardboard boxes, walls studs,
paneling, etc., molds will continue to
grow and produce the volatile organics
or the mold odor. If, in addition to the
flood, moisture is entering slowly through
the foundation, the condition will be
chronic until the moisture sources are
does the mold odor in a basement usually
go away in the winter?
This musty odor is produced by actively
growing molds that are metabolizing (breaking
down) a food source (wallboard, wood,
cardboard, etc.) While the molds are feeding
on the materials, they produce mold volatile
organic compounds or mVOCs, which are
simply chemicals that travel easily in
the air and therefore disperse throughout
a house or building. Because basements
dry out in the winter, mold is relatively
starved for moisture and grows more slowly
or not at all and the odor may lessen
in strength. This is not, however, the
end of the mold problem.
Wall Cavity Mold
Can mold contamination inside a wall cavity
Yes. For example, after a basement
has flooded and the water is extracted,
the carpet should be removed and the floor
disinfected. However, a mold odor may
still be present and the mold source not
easily recognizable. Wallboard, paneling,
plaster, wood and insulation that make
up the walls in a basement absorbed moisture
up into the wall cavity and mold growth
resulted. Wall cavity samples are collected
through very small, drilled holes, cultured,
and analyzed similarly to airborne samples.
Collection of a control wall cavity sample
in a wall that was not affected by the
moisture is recommended for comparison
airborne mold samples sometimes not show
that mold contamination is present, even
when there is visible surface mold growth?
Mold growing on a surface is not
necessarily producing airborne spores, especially
in an area that has little or no activity
such as an unfinished basement used primarily
for storage. Also, if the surface that the
mold is growing on is still damp or wet,
the mold spores will not become airborne
as easily. GML has found cases of significant
amounts of active mold growth on building
materials without the companion air samples
showing elevated mold spores. As long as
surface mold growth is present, it will
need to be removed, regardless of what air
Homeowners Insurance Coverage For Mold
What should I know about mold and home owners insurance?
Insurers are dropping homeowners
and raising rates. During the early '90s,
average premiums were flat at about $420/yr,
then rose at the rate of inflation.
That changed in 2001 when rates shot up
and insurers began scrutinizing credit ratings
and houses' histories. Poor credit or unresolved
mold problems may adversely affect your
coverage or premiums.
In this new environment you need to:
• Shop Harder - You probably can find a company willing to offer you a policy including mold coverage, but you may have to scout more, and don't forego comparison shopping.
• Check Prior Claims - Before you buy a new house, ask the sellers for a copy of their Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report from ChoicePoint . Or call 866-527-2600 and ask, or try http://www.choicetrust.com .
• Check Your Credit - Insurers find that people who pay their bills on time take better care of their homes and file fewer claims. Get your credit score at http://www.myfico.com .
• Raise Your Deductible - Doubling your deductible from $250 to $500 reduces your premium by 15% (typical example) , while a $1,000 deductible may save 35%. A high deductible also insures that coverage renewal will not be denied because of multiple small claims.
• Don't Leap and Lapse - Never let your policy lapse before getting a new one. A new insurer can deny coverage for up to 59 days, so don't cancel your old policy until then.
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