Earlier this week a friend asked me about “toxic black mold.” As with many health subjects, there is a lot of confusion as to whether mold is truly dangerous, or if this is all just hype perpetuated by mold remediation companies.
So here’s a little clarification. Some molds produce toxins (called “mycotoxins”), and some of these molds are black. However, some toxin-producing molds are not black, and some black molds don’t produce mycotoxins! The important point here being – you can’t look at visible mold and know for sure what type it is. This is why we collect air samples and have them analyzed by a certified laboratory.
When you hear the term “toxic black mold” usually what is meant is a species of mold called Stachybotrys Chartrum, known to us mold geeks as simply “stachy” (pronounced “stocky”).
Stachy gets a lot of attention because it has associations with some extreme symptoms. Those of us who have experienced this mold personally know that it has very powerful effects, especially neurological ones.
Since specific illness related to Stachy has not yet been definitively proven in the opinion of the Center for Disease Control, they do not say “Stachybotrus causes such and such symptoms.”
However, they do say, “All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal,” and that “people with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections.”
Mold is a decomposer – its job in the ecosystem is to decompose wood and other substances. It will decompose the wood in your house too, which, without considering the health effects, is reason enough to take it seriously and remediate it properly when you have a problem!
That doesn’t mean there aren’t unscrupulous mold remediation companies. If you have a mold problem you need to get help identifying the source of the problem. If you do nothing about the cause of the mold (leaks, flooding, excess humidity, etc), the mold will keep coming back. The best way to choose a mold remediation company is to pick one that doesn’t handle both mold testing and remediation, as this represents a conflict of interest.
I look for moisture problems and mold growth in homes as part of a holistic approach to inspecting a home for potential health hazards. You can’t have a healthy home without keeping mold in check!