It seems like every day there’s some new news story in the media about the threat of Stachybotrys chartarum or so-called “Toxic Black Mold.” It can leave you wondering if black mold can make you sick, and just what are the long-term health risks to yourself and others.
The good news is that for the average healthy person, a minor incidental exposure to black mold is unlikely to make you sick. Though long-term exposure can be an issue for just about anyone. There are also many individuals at high risk of health issues in the presence of black mold which is why a mold removal and complete remediation is often the best plan of action once it has been identified.
High-Risk Groups Vulnerable to Health Problems from Black Mold
There are several groups that are at high risk of health problems caused by the presence of black mold, mold spores, and mycotoxins. This includes:
- Young children
- The elderly
- Individuals with a compromised immune system
- Individuals with existing health conditions
- Individuals with a history of chronic inflammation conditions
- People with chronic respiratory health conditions
What Is Mold?
Mold is part of the fungi family, and it is actually one of the most common living things on the planet Earth. Mold spores live in the air surrounding all of us. When they find the presence of moisture and warmth with even modestly nutrient-rich material the settling mold spores can germinate into an active colony.
Mold colonies and the spores they release can be found indoors and outdoors. They tend to thrive in moist places such as showers, basements, and garages. As a colony progresses the microscopic roots can penetrate deep into porous materials such as wood and drywall.
Once a mold colony is established, it starts to release new mold spores and mycotoxins into the air around it. As time goes on the density of spores and mycotoxins naturally increases with the exponential growth of the colony. In outdoor environments, these spores spread on the wind, though they can concentrate indoors. Especially in places with poor ventilation.
What Is Black Mold?
Stachybotrys chartarum is a dangerous and aggressive strain, of mold that is often referred to as “Toxic Black Mold.” It is often found in damp places inside buildings and often appears as black spots and splotches on porous materials such as woodwork or drywall.
Toxic black mold has been linked to a wide range of health problems and cases in young people, the elderly, and those with compromising respiratory health conditions.
Common Symptoms of Mold Exposure
The truth is all mold colonies produce toxins that are carried on their airborne spores. While exposure to mold is rarely deadly, it can cause a variety of symptoms in sensitive individuals. Long-term mold exposure can even start to affect regularly healthy individuals.
Symptoms of recurring mold exposure include things like:
- Chronic coughing
- Dry skin scaly looking skin
- Itchy eyes, nose
- Itchy throat
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Trouble breathing
- Watery eyes
- Skin rashes
- Chronic mild headaches
A lot of people who are unknowingly suffering from mold exposure will often go on vacation for a week or so and find that their symptoms go away. Only to return again in full force when they return to the mold-affected environment.
People with chronic respiratory health conditions, chronic inflammatory health conditions, and the very young and the very old are more likely to have a strong reaction when exposed to a mold-infested environment.
This can lead to recurring flare-ups of allergies and asthma attacks. Individuals with respiratory health conditions are also increasingly likely to experience more severe symptoms during flare-ups.
People with chronic inflammatory conditions can also experience symptomatic flare-ups with prolonged exposure to toxic black mold, mycotoxins, and airborne mold spores.
How Is Black Mold Detected
If you’ve been noticing signs and symptoms of toxic black mold exposure, or any mold-related health concerns, the wisest course of action is to contact a professional mold testing and remediation service. These are highly trained and certified professionals with the state-of-the-art tools needed to detect the presence of mold and all the places it might be lurking in your home or place of business.
This might call for the use of:
- Air sampling tests
- Physical sampling tests
- Visual inspections
- Moisture sampling inspections
- Visual assessments
Be sure to let them know about any past water events, and/or areas where there has been a plumbing leak or roof leak. This will help the mold testers to better dial in the type and severity of the mold problem.
How Is Mold Exposure Diagnosed & Treated?
If you or someone else has been experiencing health-related symptoms of mold exposure, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your primary physician. They will try to determine your level of sensitivity to mold and its effects on your health.
This often starts with a physical exam, where they will pay special attention to how your lungs sound when you take deep breaths. Be sure to provide your physician with an updated medical history.
Depending on your symptoms your physician might also recommend an allergy test. This is done by scratching or pricking the skin with extracts of different known strains of mold. If the tested skin develops noticeable swelling or a reaction to black mold, you likely have an allergy to it.
The physician might also run a blood test that measures your immune system’s response to certain types of mold. This is called a radioallergosorbent (RAST) test, which might be needed to further diagnose the health impact of mold exposure if you have an autoimmune condition or some other type of chronic inflammation condition.
Professional Mold Remediation Is Essential
Even with an accurate diagnosis in hand, and a viable treatment strategy provided by your physician, the mold infestation will need to be removed in order for all your symptoms to fully abate. Yet mold remediation is not the sort of thing you want to attempt to do on your own.
Most of the cleaning products and equipment found at the consumer level simply aren’t potent enough to fully eradicate mold down to its microscopic roots. Compounding this problem is that when a mishandled mold colony is disturbed, it can release a high concentration of fresh spores into the air. While you might end up clearing away the original colony, you just end up having to deal with additional new mold colonies in other places a few weeks later.
This is definitely a job that’s best left to the professionals, who have the tools and cleaning products to eradicate the presence of mold from your home or office.