Toxic Black Mold: What Homeowners Need to Know

If you’ve recently experienced water damage or water intrusion into your home, you’re at a higher risk than usual for unwanted mold growth. Mold is literally everywhere, and the air around you is laden with microscopic scores of various fungal organisms. In moist areas, these fungi can begin to grow. When moisture is introduced, as in home water damage, the fungi begin to decompose moist wood and particleboard.

Mold is widely known as a health risk, and any significant amount of mold, regardless of type, can reduce your indoor air quality. Most molds cause minor health issues for some individuals, like respiratory, eye, and throat irritation. Black mold, however, can be truly dangerous. If black mold is present in your home or business, you’ll need a certified mold remediation contractor. This mold is quite toxic, and is often implicated in what’s known as “sick building syndrome.” Unlike most household molds, which can be irritating but are relatively benign, black mold is a documented cause of serious illness.

What is Black Mold & Why is It Dangerous?

Molds are quite diverse, including those that tend to grow in human dwellings. Black mold is a particular genus of fungi, called Stachybotrus. The most common and well-known black mold is Stachybotrus chartarum, but other species in the same genus can cause similar effects. Black mold releases compounds known as “mycotoxins.”

In nature, black mold grows and feeds on plant debris and in soil. Like all fungi, it fills a vital ecological role as a decomposer. The danger of S. chartarum isn’t the mold itself, but toxic metabolites that it naturally produces and releases into the surrounding environment. These compounds can cause poisoning, which is medically referred to as stachybotryotoxosis.

Black mold releases quite a few toxic compounds, including satratoxins, isosatratoxins, and trichoverroids. The primary toxic components are the satratoxins, notably satratoxin-H. Satratoxin-H can lead to a variety of symptoms in people who are exposed to black mold via inhalation, ingestion, or physical contact. Some of the possible effects of black mold exposure can include:

  • Moist dermatitis
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chest pain
  • Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Pulmonary hemorrhage

Of these symptoms, the possibility of mycotoxin-induced pulmonary hemorrhage has drawn the most attention. Pulmonary hemorrhage is bleeding in the lungs, which is a serious medical emergency that could be fatal. This has been documented in infants and very young children who have been exposed to black mold inside homes and buildings.

Because it poses a significant health risk, you’ll need professional mold remediation to remove black mold. Trying to take a DIY approach is possible, but not recommended. Especially if you have children, it’s worth hiring a professional to ensure that the mold is fully removed, and that you’ve removed the moisture that allowed it to grow in the first place.

Identifying Black Mold in Your Home

Not all dark-colored fungal growths are the dreaded “black mold.” Stachybotrus tends to grow in relatively inaccessible areas, like in between walls, so homeowners may not visually notice it. Black mold is a dark greenish-black mold, and tends to grow on moist wood, drywall, particleboard, and other materials with a high cellulose content. It’s wet and slimy to the touch, and can have a “sooty” visual texture.