If there was one organism that was in dire need of a PR overhaul, it would probably be black mold. Yup, when it comes to mold, you don’t get much worse than this. Yet how much of it is over-sensationalized, and how much should we really take to heart? MoldBlogger investigates!
The ‘persona non grata’ of black mold is probably no better summed up than the other name it often goes by: Toxic mold. Yet according to the CDC, this is actually an inaccurate description, as “while certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous.” It also suggests that only this kind of mold must be removed as quickly as possible, when in fact, this is true of all mold – not to mention the fact that you can’t rely on the naked eye to determine what kind of mold you are looking at – nor its level of toxicity – as there are over 100,000 species of the stuff in existence. Finally – and contrary to popular opinion – toxic mold can come in many colors and black mold is not always toxic.
The most common types are:
- Stachybotrys chartarum. Thrives off dead materials that are rich in cellulose, such as cereal grains, wood, paper, hay, straw, soil and plant debris.
- Aspergillus niger. Can survive in environments with minimal nutritional value.
- Memnoniella echinta or Stachybotrys echinate. Often found on cotton, linen, wool and canvas.
The toxins that can be produced from certain types of mold are known as Mycotoxins, but the presence of black mold does not automatically mean that they will be present.
In fact, somewhat alarmingly, toxic mold grows in identical conditions to any other mold: damp, humid and dark areas, and acts exactly the same as its fungal peers, too; releasing spores into the air which can be both inhaled or absorbed into skin.
None of this is to suggest, however, that mycotoxins are not as dangerous as the media would have you believe. True, the frequency and prevalence of these toxins may be overestimated, but one thing’s for sure: Once mycotoxins are present, the risks are great, with one Michigan State study finding that they can cause a myriad of respiratory, neurological and immunological symptoms – ranging from minor ailments to more serious and potentially life-threatening ones – although the connection is still not completely understood. Yet studies into the link are ongoing, with others finding that exposure to mold during infancy can lead to asthma and brain inflammation. See further studies by the World Health Organization here.
Because of the CDC’s belief that all molds are potentially as dangerous as each other, they advise to ditch the inspection and testing side of things altogether and work to eliminate the mold as soon as it is found.
If, however, you or anyone else in your household is suffering from respiratory conditions such as coughing, sneezing or wheezing, or other symptoms such as itchy skin, itchy eyes, headaches, chronic fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting but are not aware of any mold in your home, you should arrange for a professional inspection immediately to identify the source of the problem. Those with already-existing respiratory conditions are more at-risk than those without, as are the very young, very old and pregnant women.
If mold has been found in your home, a visit to the doctor should be arranged to determine whether or not you are suffering from mold poisoning. They may take a blood sample or conduct a skin prick test to check for biotoxins or whether or not your allergic to certain types of mold.
If you are found to be suffering from mold poisoning, there a range of treatments that may be presented to you, including over-the-counter medications or nasal sprays and allergy shots to build up your immunity over time.
Whilst ‘black mold’ and/or ‘toxic mold’ have become common buzz phrases, all mold should be treated as swiftly and urgently as each other. If anything, the misinformation that focuses on black mold alone means the scare tactics don’t actually go far enough. Read: 12 Harmful Types of Mold Commonly Found In Homes