What is Black Mold?
“Black mold,” or stachbotrys as his mycologist friends like to call him, is actually a dark green mold, but not only did “Dark Green Mold” fail miserably at striking fear in the hearts of the public, Penicillium mold pretty much held the copyright to all-things-green. “Killer Mold,” too, fell short of fear-mongering. And “The Notorious B.M.” didn’t quite have the effect mycologists were going for, which could be why a dark green mold was given the nickname “black mold.” Or, more specifically, “toxic black mold.” But, what causes black mold? And why is it considered so toxic?
What Causes Black Mold?
Like any other sadistic and self-serving mold, black mold began as a minuscule mold spore, floating effortlessly on the air currents in search of the perfect home. Though chance may cause it to perch itself just about anywhere, it thrives in warm, dark, and damp environments that provide plenty of decaying organic material for sustenance. When it comes to nutrition, black mold favors cellulose materials, such as cardboard, hay, paper, wicker, and wood. Furniture, cabinets, flooring, and even wallpaper are common locations for black mold, especially in the most humid rooms of a house (i.e. bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, basement).
When the environment provides luxurious fungal accommodations, the original mold spore takes root and matures quickly into a reproducing colony. Such a colony is capable of sprouting and releasing millions, if not billions, of mold spores that can cause rapid territory growth throughout the affected room and the house as a whole. Once mold spores are produced, the black mold has reached a level of maturity necessary for also releasing mycotoxins, such as the deadly trichothecene (T-2). These mycotoxins are merely the secondary metabolite (think: toxic flatulence) of the mold. Every mold produces a secondary metabolite of one form or another (the smell of the mold being one example), but not every toxic compound is called a mycotoxin. For instance, a metabolite toxic to bacteria is referred to, instead, as an antibiotic. Regardless, even the antibiotic compound is a potential danger to human health.
The reason behind black mold’s notorious reputation is not only its capacity for quick maturation and rapid growth, but also its hardiness under harsh and changing environmental conditions. What makes black mold so intimidating is how difficult it is destroy and remove it completely, how concentrated its toxic compounds are, and how potent and enduring its toxic effect is on the human body.
Oftentimes, most victims of stachybotrys exposure (and their doctors) confuse their black mold symptoms with common illnesses, such as colds and flus. This results in delayed diagnosis and treatment, which could have chronic and deadly repercussions. This is why it is imperative to be able to recognize the symptoms of black mold poisoning before it’s too late.
Black Mold Symptoms
First-time exposure to black mold poisoning may only produce the following reactions:
- a long, painful headache
- a tightening in the chest
- burning sensations in airways
- difficulty breathing
- fits of sneezing
- nose bleeds
- skin irritation
- stuffy nose
- watery or itchy eyes
While all types of exposure are dangerous, the main catalyst behind the common (and deadly) symptoms of black mold is the inhalation of mold spores and mycotoxins. Ingesting and touching black mold is hazardous, but it’s been revealed that inhaling black mold is over 40% more toxic to the human body. It’s when black mold is introduced to the lungs in high concentrations or repeatedly at lower concentrations, that it causes the most damage and becomes difficult to detox and heal from. This is due to its introduction into the bloodstream, as well as its inhibitory effects on the respiratory system as a whole.
In the case of frequent exposure, black mold poisoning will not only increase the effects and duration of the symptoms listed above, causing further difficulty in breathing, but also cause the emergence of sinusitis and chronic fatigue. Most victims of repeat exposure complain of dull, relentless aches in their joints and sinuses. Another symptom is sudden and unexplained depression. Prolonged black mold poisoning is also notorious for affecting the immune and endocrine system, resulting in recurring sickness and debilitating disease. Children are especially susceptible to black mold’s toxic compounds. Many studies have revealed that stachybotrys is responsible for several neurological problems in children, as well as pulmonary bleeding and a possible link to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in infants.
Listed below are the more common complaints of long-term and/or high-concentration exposure:
- autoimmune disease
- cold and flu
- emphysema-like disease
- memory loss
- migraine-like headaches
- muscle aches
- pulmonary hemorrhage
- rashes and dermatitis
- sore throat
- vomiting and diarrhea (especially in infants)
Though each health concern is diagnose-able as such, the source of these maladies is rarely ever revealed to be symptoms of black mold. In fact, the majority of the medical community is not trained to recognize that illnesses and diseases of this nature could be related to mold at all.
Black Mold Health Risks
Once the immune and endocrine system are compromised by long-term exposure or high concentrations, the body is susceptible to a great variety of disease and even cancer. Some of the black mold health risks involved in long-term effects are:
- Balkan nephropathy (disorder of the kidney)
- Bronchitis (lung infection)
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (cancer in the cells of the liver)
- Kashin-Beck disease (disease of the joints and bones)
- Respiratory infections
- Reye’s syndrome (results in brain and liver swelling)
- And much more…
While some damage may be irreversible, detox is both possible and plausible in managing and overcoming the weakening effects of black mold exposure. Knowing how to detox your body from mold is just as important as recognizing the symptoms of black mold, especially since the majority of medical professionals aren’t trained to recognize what is triggering those symptoms.
How to Get Rid of Black Mold and How to Detox Your Body From Mold
The first step in any situation involving any type of mold, is to find it and eliminate it or remove yourself from the affected home or work space entirely. It isn’t always necessary to identify the specific type of mold because all molds pose health risks, whether they are the “milder” allergenic molds or the “more potent” pathogenic molds, such as black mold. However, certain legal scenarios may require the use of a mold test kit or hiring a professional mold remediation team to do the testing for you, especially if you are a renter or a landlord. In addition, some patients are unable to receive the treatment they’re convinced they need because their doctors are unaware of the ins and outs of black mold health risks. Identifying the mold in their home may come in handy when confronting medical professionals about misdiagnosis, especially since a lot of the medical decisions are based on insurance coverage and patients are unable to go to the right specialists without formal referrals from their current doctors.
If black mold is suspect (or any highly-dangerous mold, for that matter), it is wiser to hire a professional mold remediation company to locate and clean up the mold. This is because black mold, especially, is a very hardy mold. It can survive even the harshest of environments and, unless its roots are destroyed, it will merely lie dormant until conditions are favorable again for regrowth. Also, most supplies available at reasonable prices to the public (gloves, breathing masks, etc.) do not adequately protect against infiltration from mold spores and mycotoxins. Furthermore, commercial mold-cleaning solutions can be both ineffective (if bleach-based) and sometimes more harmful to the skin, mucous membranes, and lungs than the mold itself. If remediation is not possible based on the severity of the mold growth, the budget of the victim(s), or the consent and willingness of the landlords, then it is best to move (or seek legal counsel).
The second step (after the mold is removed) is to commit to preventative measures in the home. All molds thrive in dark, damp, and relatively unclean areas. Keep the home bright with as much natural light as possible, dry (a dehumidifier may be necessary), and clear of dirt, dust, and food particles. Keep up with household maintenance (updates and filter-changes) on all appliances, water pipes, and HVAC systems.
The third step is to confront any health issues and begin a regimen of detox and natural healing. Mold and yeast thrive in bodies that are malnourished by diets high in sugar and processed foods. In order to detox your body from mold, you must first begin by cutting out sugars, fruits, processed foods, fried and greasy foods, dairy, meat, grains, mushrooms, and nuts that are well-known for their mold content, such as pistachios and peanuts. Adopt a habit of eating dark leafy greens in abundance, as well as plenty of garlic and other anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal foods. Allow a period of five to six hours between each meal and never eat just before bed. This permits the digestive tract to rest and the body to focus on healing instead of digestion. Consider anti-fungal supplements, such as Myco-ZX, as well. Lastly, increase sweat-inducing exercise, water intake, and sleep.
Black mold may be a formidable foe, but with patience, consistency, and determination, you can rid your home and your body of its ill effects.
About the Author: Amanda Demsky is the mother and personal chef of two boys, the domestic technician of a three-bedroom desert home and, occasionally, a freelance writer and editor. Feel free to follow her on Twitter fullquiver777.