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Toxic Black Mold: Detection and Risks

When companies refer to "black mold" or "toxic mold," it is often their way of scaring homeowners into purchasing expensive services that are not necessary. The fact is, however, most molds are toxic to some degree ? regardless of what they're called. Furthermore, many mold types produce black spores (not just one), so identifying a specific species of "toxic black mold" is beyond the knowledge of the average individual.

Certain types of “toxic black mold” may pose a greater threat to sensitized individuals, and therefore should be identified and treated by professionals if a problem is suspected. Stachybotrys chartarum is often found where there has been a significant amount of water damage or a smaller amount of water but over a prolonged period (i.e. a slow drip leak) and specifically on Sheetrock, ceiling tiles, and paper products (cardboard, books). Stachybotrys, and many other molds, can be harmful to people who are sensitive to them or their by-products (VOC’s, mycotoxins, allergens). Other black molds known to cause health problems include Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Aureobasidium.

Some places where abnormal mold can be found:

  • Kitchen Cabinets / Not-Well-Maintained Refrigerators
  • Drywall / Inside Wall & Ceiling Cavities
  • Behind Baseboards
  • Damp Basements / Crawlspaces
  • Flooring / Particleboard / Plywood
  • Water-Damaged Areas / Materials
  • Shower Curtains
  • Cracked / Peeling Paint or Behind Wallpaper
  • Ductwork / HVAC Systems

An estimated 10% of Americans have mold sensitivity. Individuals may respond differently to mold as some will not notice it while others may have a severe reaction to it immediately. Individuals with weak or compromised immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and patients who are currently undergoing immune suppressing treatments may be more susceptible than other people to the effects of mold. Even healthy adults can become sensitive to molds, and as with all allergens, increased exposure generally leads to increased severity of symptoms. While allergic symptoms including coughing, reddened eyes, sore throat, and general allergy symptoms are the most common reactions to the presence of "toxic black mold," other effects can include headaches and flu-like symptoms, respiratory distress, sinus irritation.

Health risks associated with mold exposure:

  • Allergic reactions: including runny noses, itchy-watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, throat irritation, and exaserbation of asthma.
  • Non-specific health complaints: including headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty concentrating, and dizziness.
  • Serious or life threatening disease: normally affects people with abnormally functioning immune systems or under very extreme conditions, rare cases of respiratory arrest, organic dust toxic syndrome, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and neurological effects.
  • Mycotoxicosis poisoning caused by ingestion of a mycotoxin.

 

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