The effects of black mold could be life-threatening. Use this reference on how to spot black mold so you know what to do next.
We all get colds from time to time. That’s just a part of life. The problem is that it’s easy for doctors to diagnose clear symptoms like coughing, sneezing and a runny nose as just a cold or the flu. However, a far more dangerous problem could be the cause: it could be from exposure to toxic black mold.
You can find mold everywhere. However, black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum and Stachybotrys atra) is estimated to be in between 30-50% of homes. For your overall health and wellbeing, it’s key to learn how to spot black mold in your home and what steps you can take to remove it to avoid allergic reactions.
Let’s dive in.
What is black mold?
The term black mold refers to several species of mold — dark green or black funguses. As in nature, these species of mold thrive in warm, damp environments. They are particularly nasty in the summer months.
Toxic molds can also grow on almost any material, including wood and plastic, though porous materials and those in dark places are most susceptible. Most types of mold commonly live in damp areas. This includes areas such as around the bath and toilet, in kitchens and in basements.
Toxic mold isn’t just an eyesore. It’s dangerous. Mold growth occurs rapidly. As it does so, it releases mycotoxins, which cause a wide array of negative health effects.
What are the health effects of black mold?
There are 4 different kinds of health concerns that can arise from exposure to mold: allergic illness, irritant effects, infection and toxic effects. Symptoms can be commonly confused with other ailments in the early stages.
Oftentimes, symptoms of toxic black mold exposure may not appear right away. In many cases, you may have been exposed to black mold for a long time before feeling ill at all. This is why it’s essential to know how to identify black mold.
Initial symptoms typically include:
- Runny nose
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Trouble breathing
Essentially, you will experience symptoms related to those you feel when you come down with a cold.
Additional and more serious symptoms and complications can include:
- Neurological disorders
- Skin inflammation
- Irritation of the mucous membranes
- Damage to internal organs
- Immune system suppression
- Blood clots or pulmonary hemorrhages
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Brain damage or mental impairment
- Neurological problems
The effects of black mold can be devastating. In many cases, they can be permanent. The longer the exposure to black mold, the worse the conditions usually become. That means they’ll be harder they are to treat as well.
How to spot black mold in your home
Black mold spores are tiny. In addition, they can grow in places you can’t easily see such as under floorboards, behind walls, above ceiling panels and more.
It can also be spread easily through an entire building through air ducts. With this in mind, it’s important to identify high-risk areas for black mold. Colonies of black mold can become visible within a week and you can spot them by noticing spots that are tinged green or black with a wet, slimy texture.
Remember: black mold isn’t just what you can see. It often also extends to an entire area around an outbreak.
Wet mold vs dry mold
Wet areas help black mold to set in and multiply. Sometimes these areas are inside the walls where the mold cannot be seen and might be caused by something as simple as a small, unnoticed water leak in the wall.
While growing, the mold is black and sometimes tinged with green. Due to moisture, the texture can be wet and slimy. It can grow in thick patches, but usually appears in mottled spots.
Dry mold becomes brittle, making it easy for the spores to spread out. When the mold and the hosting area dry out, the mold looks powdery and brittle and sometimes might even appear hairy. Dry mold is just as vicious because the dry spores can more easily break off into the air and spread. Whether wet or dry, toxic mold is considered dangerous and should be handled with care.
Black mold can be exceptionally devastating to:
- infants and children
- people who are elderly
- anyone who is ill
- people with pre-existing conditions such as lowered immune response
- those who have certain advanced-stage diseases
Black mold can hurt anyone, but people in these categories are more susceptible to the severest adverse effects.
How to prevent black mold
To alleviate your symptoms, your doctor will likely prescribe antihistamines and other medications to help you. However, it’s essential to remove the black mold that’s causing these negative health effects.
Prevention is definitely the best medicine. For this reason, it’s essential to control the moisture levels in your home. You need to check areas susceptible to high humidity and quickly address any leaky pipes or other places water may be dripping into your home. Your overall goal should be to keep the humidity in your home under 50% percent.
There are many ways to do this, including:
- For rooms like bathrooms and kitchens, use exhaust fans and aim for as much exposure to sunlight as possible. Air circulation goes a long way in preventing excessive moisture.
- In summer or more humid conditions, use air conditioners and dehumidifiers to reduce moisture levels.
- Be conscious and take small steps such as hanging bath mats and towels after showering and drying your dishes to prevent mold buildup.
Black mold removal
You can use a wide variety of household and natural cleaners to remove black mold. However, for larger areas, hiring a professional is essential.
Once the black mold has become an outbreak, it can be hazardous to your health for you try to clean it personally. Not only that, professionals have the right tools to make sure that mold is removed without damaging walls, paint jobs and more. They can also tackle more serious challenges, such as if the mold has gotten into the drywall, ceiling tiles, ventilation systems and other areas. Without doing this, the mold will easily be able to grow back.
Even if your home seems fine, you may want to have a professional conduct an annual inspection. This is the best way to catch the fungus before it breaks out and causes health problems.
Watch this video to learn more about how to spot black mold:
The bottom line
Black mold is a terrible pest. But that doesn’t mean you are defenseless against it. If you learn how to spot black mold and take the right precautions, you can protect yourself.
Make sure your home receives plenty of air circulation and sunlight, keep an eye out on excessive moisture areas and hire a professional to annual check mold levels. By doing this, you’ll prevent a black mold outbreak and have a healthy, safe home.
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This post was updated in March 2019 with new information and resources.