Black mold truly is a silent killer. This type of infestation is easy to overlook as it tends to hide out in areas that are not always the easiest to detect. Before you know it, toxic black mold has done more than damage your home: it has affected your health as well.
Below, we will outline the basics of black mold and what makes it the most infamous of house and building molds. We will go over the common health issues that are thought to be related to black mold exposure, as well as what to do if you think you may have come in contact with this substance or if you believe your house has an infestation.
What is Black Mold?
Black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, is different from other types of mold because it is incredibly toxic to humans. While exposure to any kind of mold is never advised, black mold stands out in the severity of problems it may cause. While other types of mold are much more common, black mold isn’t necessarily an uncommon problem for homeowners. It can be found in old homes and buildings as well as newer builds.
Black mold typically has a greenish-black hue and looks slimy. You’ll be able to see it, and you can often identify it by its mildew-like odor.
As previously stated, black mold tends to grow in hidden areas, typically where moisture is present. It thrives in warmer areas that have higher levels of cellulose and lower levels of nitrogen. This can mean under your kitchen or bathroom sink, in cabinets, in HVAC ducts, through drywall, behind wallpaper, in carpeting, and in wood paneling. Buildings that have experienced a flood or internal leak are more likely to develop an unwanted mold growth.
Is Black Mold Harmful?
Black mold is a big deal. If you find black mold growing in your home, the time to act is now. Infants, children, the elderly, people who suffer from allergies, people who have an underlying lung disease, and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing any symptoms. With that said, anyone who comes in contact with toxic black mold may also be at risk for developing any symptoms. Black mold may also cause harm to your house pets.
Mold exposure, in general, may cause sinus and nasal irritation, headache, cough, fatigue, and skin and eye irritation. More severe symptoms triggered by mold exposure are upper respiratory infections, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing (dyspnea).
Black mold poses these risks but to greater severity. Mycotoxins, which are lipid-soluble toxins released by black mold, can quickly be absorbed through the lungs, skin, and intestinal lining. These mycotoxins may cause some of the previously mentioned symptoms, but they can also cause much more severe problems. In the most severe cases, black mold has been thought to be the cause of neurotoxicity, hematologic disorders, immunologic disorders, endocrine or hepatic toxicities, problems during pregnancy, gastrointestinal issues, cardiac problems, and cancer.
If you believe that you are suffering from any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.
How to Remove Black Mold
If you think you have black mold in your home, do not touch it or disturb it in any way. This includes pulling back wallpaper to expose the infestation. Doing so can cause the mold spores to spread into the air, causing harm to you and potentially spreading the infestation. When investigating the suspected mold spot, be sure to wear safety goggles, a respirator, and rubber gloves.
Black mold can be tricky to remove, but it isn’t impossible. We highly recommend that you do not attempt to remove black mold on your own. Instead, we recommend that you bring in a professional for the job.
If you do choose to use a professional to do the hard work for you, know that the removal process can be expensive, but just remember that the alternative is sacrificing your health and the health of your family.
That being said, it is not entirely impossible to remove the mold on your own. If you do feel qualified to tackle the mold removal process on your own, you can expect to go through the following steps:
- Before approaching the infected area, be sure you are adequately protected. This means wearing a respirator that is meant for this type of project, gloves, and protective goggles. It is also advised that you wear clothes that you can dispose of after you’re done, or else wear a full body cover. It may seem excessive, but black mold can be irritating even if it touches your skin. It is better to be overly careful when handling this hazardous mold.
- Diagnose the source of excessive moisture in the area where the black mold is growing. Whether it is a leaky pipe under your sink or improperly installed windows that are causing your moisture issue, you must take care of this first. If you don’t, you risk the black mold returning.
- Seal off the area of your home where the mold is present. Take special care to block off airways to prevent the mold spores from spreading to the rest of your home when disturbed.
- Lightly spray the infected area with water. This will help prevent the mold spores from shooting out when you begin cleaning.
- Using a sponge and soap, scrub the visible mold as best as you can. There may be some staining that you are unable to scrub out, which is okay for this step. Be sure to dispose of your used sponge after you are done.
- Using either a black mold removal product or bleach, carefully disinfect the area covered by the mold and surrounding areas. Be careful, as bleach can discolor and damage certain surfaces.
- Once you are finished, be sure to seal all products used that came in contact with the mold (sponge, gloves, clothes, rags, etc.) in a plastic bag and dispose of away from your house.
If followed wholly and correctly, these steps should fix your black mold problem. However, you should continue to carefully monitor the previously infected area to see if the mold starts growing back. This is a sign that the black mold was not completely removed in the first place. When in doubt, call in a professional mold removal specialist who can tell you if the mold has been successfully contained or if more treatments are needed.
Black mold can take over your home without you even knowing it. Ignoring the problem could lead to some pretty serious health concerns for you, your family, or your pets. Regularly inspecting your bathrooms, basement, kitchen, outdoor sheds, and any other area of your home that you suspect could be fostering a mold infestation is key to catching the problem before it’s too late. When in doubt, call in a mold removal specialist. When it comes to an issue as serious as toxic black mold, it is indeed better to be safe than sorry!