What happens when you breathe in black mold?


Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum

What is Stachybotrys chartarum?

Stachybotrys chartarum is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, and paper. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth.

Does Stachybotrys chartarum cause acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants?

To date, a possible association between acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants and Stachybotrys chartarum has not been proven. Further studies are needed to determine what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage.

What if my child has acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage?

Parents should ensure that their children get proper medical treatment.

Is there a test for Stachybotrys chartarum?

At present, no test exists that proves an association between Stachybotrys chartarum and particular health symptoms. Individuals with persistent symptoms should see their physician. However, if Stachybotrys chartarum or other molds are found in a building they should be removed.

Stachybotrys chartarum and other molds may cause health symptoms that are nonspecific. It is not necessary to determine what type of mold you may have growing in your home or other building. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.

What are the Health Hazards of Black Mold?

Black mold, also known as toxic black mold or Stachubotrys, can cause many serious heath problems if found inside a home. There are many health problems that can be linked to the mold exposure, such as mental impairment, breathing problems, internal organ damage, and sometimes even death. Exposure symptoms can be separated into different groups depending on what area it is effecting.

Mental & Neurological

The toxins that black mold produce can kill neurons in the brain and impair a person’s mental abilities. They can also cause nervous disorders and change a person’s personality, giving them mood swings and making them irritable.


  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Short attention span
  • Shaking
  • Seizure
  • Tingling
  • Trembling
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty concentrating


People living in homes with toxic black mold are exposed mainly through breathing in mold spores and mycotoxins. They can cause irritation and a burning feeling in the person’s air passages, such as the nasal cavity, mouth, and throat. Some respiratory black mold symptoms are:

  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • Nose bleeds
  • Runny, itchy, or stuffy nose
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Burning sensation of the mouth
  • Wheezing
  • Bleeding or swelling in the lungs


Black mold spores can be inhaled, consumed, or absorbed through a person’s skin or eyes. Regardless of the entry way, these mycotoxins will eventually find their way into the person’s blood, possibly leading to serious damage.


  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bleeding tendency
  • Internal bleeding
  • Vomiting up blood
  • Heart inflammation
  • Bleeding in the brain

Vision & Eye

Toxic black mold spores in the air can enter a person’s eye very easily, causing many different vision problems.


  • Eye inflammation
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)


If a person comes in physical contact with toxic mold, they can develops serious skin problems and severe rashes.


  • Jaundice
  • Crawling skin
  • Skin inflammation, rash, blisters, itchiness

Other Symptoms

Toxic black mold can cause many other symptoms when a person is exposed for any length of time. Some of these symptoms are very common with many other types of sickness, so it is sometimes hard to identify that mold is the problem. Some of these symptoms are:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Reoccuring colds
  • Headaches
  • Chest, muscle, abdominal, or joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness

Black mold affects different people in many different ways. Some people’s symptoms will not be as severe as others. People with weak immune systems, such as the elderly or children, can have more serious reactions to black mold exposure.

The best long-term course of action is to take routine measures to prevent all mold growth in your home or property. If you want more information on the health effects of black mold, please visit the Resource page on our website.

If you think that you have black mold growing in your building or home, please call Certified Restoration immediately. We have the experience and the certifications to clean it up quickly and safely, protecting you and your family from possible health problems.

What are the effects of black mold exposure?

Share on PinterestSome molds can release mycotoxins.

There is a commonly held belief that black mold — sometimes called toxic mold — can cause severe health problems because it releases mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic substances that a fungus produces.

Some research suggests that mycotoxins from S. chartarum have a link to serious health problems in people who live in contaminated buildings.

One such health concern is mycotoxicosis — mold poisoning. Others include:

  • aches and pains
  • changes in mood
  • headaches
  • memory loss
  • nosebleeds

To date, there is no proof that inhaling mold spores causes these symptoms.

Mold exposure can cause other symptoms, however. According to the Florida Department of Health, it can cause the following types of health problems:

Allergy and irritation

People with allergies may be more sensitive to mold than others. If they come into contact with mold, they may experience symptoms, such as:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • watery, red eyes
  • a dry cough
  • skin rashes
  • a sore throat
  • sinusitis
  • wheezing

Severe mold allergies cause more severe symptoms, including shortness of breath.

Mold exposure may also worsen asthma or lung problems in people with preexisting lung conditions.

A 2012 study found that infants and young children exposed to mold in the home had an increased risk of developing asthma by the age of 7. The research examined 289 homes and 36 types of mold.

However, S. chartarum was not among the three types of mold most strongly associated with asthma development.

Research published in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicates that spending time in damp indoor spaces is related to respiratory symptoms, including those of asthma.


For most people with healthy immune systems, molds are not a problem.

However, people with weakened immune systems — such as those with uncontrolled HIV, transplant patients, or people undergoing cancer treatment — are at risk of fungal infections.

Toxic effects

Some people believe that black mold is particularly dangerous because it releases mycotoxins. However, the fact is that all molds are capable of producing mycotoxins. Just because mold is present does not mean that it is producing these toxins.

Most cases of mycotoxicosis result from eating moldy food, rather than from inhaling fungal spores in the home or outdoors. The evidence does not indicate that inhaling or touching mold can cause mycotoxicosis.

The IOM’s 2004 report was unable to back up claims that issues such as fatigue, lung disease, or cancer result from mold exposure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that there are very few reports of unique or rare health conditions resulting from mold in the home.


It appears that many types of indoor mold — not just black mold — may cause health problems in some people, but not in everyone.

Long term exposure to mold in the home, however, may be unhealthy for anyone.

People who are most at risk of the symptoms of mold exposure are:

  • infants and children
  • older adults
  • people with allergies or asthma
  • people with weakened immune systems

The main health concerns seem to relate to allergies and irritation, which typically cause respiratory symptoms.

People with weakened immune systems may also have a risk of fungal infection.

What Is Black Mold?

Stachybotrys chartarum is the type of mold often called “black mold” or “toxic mold”. Sensational news reports warn about the dangers of black mold and these stories can be alarming and confusing. Any mold in your home should be treated with caution – stay out of affected areas and don’t touch or disturb the mold.

Please refer to our Mold Damage Tips to learn more about mold and what to do until help arrives.

How Do I Tell If It’s Black Mold?

Since many types of mold can produce allergens and irritants, you should contact a qualified mold remediation company regardless of the color or type of mold. In many instances, multiple types of mold can exist in the same house or structure. If you suspect that you have a mold problem, contact a SERVPRO Franchise Professional immediately.

If You See Signs of Mold, Call Us Today 1-800-SERVPRO

Understanding Mold

When water intrudes into your property, mold growth can start in as little as 48 hours. Consider the following mold facts:

  • Mold is present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors.
  • Mold spores are microscopic, float along in the air, and may enter your home through windows, doors, or AC/heating systems or even hitch a ride indoors on your clothing or a pet.
  • Mold spores thrive on moisture. Mold spores can quickly grow into colonies when exposed to water. These colonies may produce toxins harmful to humans and pets.
  • Before mold remediation can begin, any sources of water or moisture must be addressed. Otherwise the mold may return.
  • Mold often produces a strong, musty odor, and that odor can lead you to possible mold problem areas.
  • Even higher-than-normal indoor humidity can support mold growth. Keep indoor humidity below 45 percent.

Can Mold Kill You?

Can mold kill you?

It’s a question that I get quite often and as a natural born worry monger, I get it…


It’s not just a straightforward “Yes” or “No” answer.

There are broad circumstances to fully answer the question.

But don’t worry…

I’ll make this as simple as possible. My goal is by the time you are done reading this, you will have an idea of how mold may be affecting your health and you’ll be able to determine for yourself if the end of days are near for you due to mold.

Here is the number one piece of information that I want you to take away from this article:

It’s not the mold that will make you sick, it’s the mycotoxins!

More on this later…

So buckle up, and let’s get a little moldy!

Where Does Mold Grow?

Most people assume that if you have mold in your home, everybody will get sick and that is just full-fledged misconception.

This is going to blow your mind…

..But chances are you have mold in your home no matter how clean of a person you may be.

Yes, you read that correctly…


Ok, now you can relax as I will break it down for you.

You see:

There are some mold spores present in all outdoor and indoor environments. Although, it is much more prevalent in hot/humid environments.

For example, if you live in a state like Florida or Louisana, every time you walk out of your home you are likely breathing in an abundance of mold spores.

While if you live in a state like California or Arizona, you’re likely not breathing in much mold spores if any at all.

Look at this tree for example:

That, my friend, is mold.

Is it going to kill you?

Unless you have an immune system deficiency, then you have a better chance of learning about winning the lottery at the same time as getting struck by lightning in a graveyard with Elvis Presley being resurrected. Well, not really but you catch my drift!

Mold is everywhere, including in your home, on your clothes, in your carpet, and just about anything porous.

Is Mold Harmless?


We have established that mold is all over the place. Which means you have been breathing in mold spores pretty much your entire life.

That would mean that you are living proof that mold is harmless, correct?


Here is the big determining factor as to whether mold is dangerous or not?

How much mold is present and what species of mold


There are over 365,000 species of mold. Most of them will not affect humans.

But there are few spores that produce something called mycotoxins.

In plain English:

It’s toxic.

Remember, the mycotoxins are what makes the normal person sick, not the mold itself.

First the good news:

Those toxic spores that can cause harm to your health are not generally found outdoors. So that means, you don’t have to start worrying about breathing toxic mold in while walking to the park with your kids.

Now the bad news:

Mold that produces toxins is generally found indoors.


They can grow in your home.

Ok, now you can freak out 🙂

Where Indoors Does Mold Growth Thrive?

As mentioned above, mold spores are in all sorts of personal contents like your clothing.


In order for mold to actually start forming a colony and grow it will need to be on building material that is wet.

The most common types of building materials for mold to start growing on is:

  • Wood
  • Drywall
  • Carpet

Anywhere building material is present that is wet and in a humid environment, mold growth can thrive.

Do You Have Toxic Mold In Your Home?

Toxic mold is generally referred to as “Black Mold” in the mainstream media. The dangers of black mold are well publicized. Black mold refers to a particular type of mold spore called “Stachybotrys”.

Here’s the good news:

Stachybotrys is not typically found in your home randomly. This type of mold needs a ton of water over an extended period of time to grow and thrive…

…This means you will usually need a significant leak in your home whether it be a roof leak, plumbing leak window leak, etc..

In most cases, if you have a significant leak, you will know about it.


There are exceptions. Maybe you have a room that you rarely go in or you have a big piece of furniture in front of where the leak is located.

Here is an example of black mold in a home:

In this particular scenario, the homeowner had no clue that mold was growing in this area because there was a baseboard in place. It was also a guest bedroom closet which was not accessed very often.

It wasn’t until the homeowner actually saw standing water on the ground before he took action.

Turns out:

A shower was leaking directly into a closet for months…

The bottom line is this:

You may not always know that toxic mold is present.

How Do You Determine If You Have Black Toxic Mold?

The best thing you can possibly do if you are concerned you may have mold in your home is to have a mold inspection performed.

The problem with that is:

Mold inspections can be expensive.


You can’t put a price on your health.

So if you had some sort of leak in your home and have good reason to believe you have a mold problem, it would be wise to call a mold inspector to come check out your home or office.

Good news if you can’t afford a mold inspection:

You can perform a half-assed mold inspection by yourself!

I’m just being honest. If you are not a mold professional, it won’t your best solution, but it can be effective.

Quick Tips To Check Your House For Mold

Check for hidden leaks

Remember, it is almost impossible for mold to grow if you do not have a water source.

Normally, when you have a leak, some clues may be available to the naked eye. You will want to check around all windows, doors, plumbing fixtures and don’t forget to look up at the ceiling as there may also be signs present above.

Some of the indications of leak include:

  • Stains on the walls
  • Baseboards and crown molding pulling away from the wall
  • Paint bubbling or pealing
  • Discoloration on flooring

If you really want to get productive, you can get yourself a moisture meter and start checking the water content on building material yourself.

### Make Sure The Relative Humidity In Your Home Is Between 30-60%

While this may not matter much if you are in a dry section of the world (heck, you may not even have air conditioning)

It is important to make sure that your home’s relative humidity(RH) is between 30 and 60%.

If your air conditioning is functioning properly, it will be pulling enough moisture out of the air to keep the RH low.

If you have relative humidity above 60%, you may start to notice mold growing on some of your belongs including clothes, shoes, furniture, etc.

Get yourself a standard thermometer where RH is also measured. If you have higher indoor humidity, you should contact and air conditioning professional to determine if your system is working correctly.

Test The Air To Determine What Kind And How Much Mold Is Present

I’m going to let you in on a little secret…

You actually can get the same air sampling technology that the expensive mold inspectors have a literally a fraction of the cost.

A quick lesson on how mold air sampling works:

Air sampling for mold involves obtaining a negative air pump that captures usually 75 or 150 Liters of air inside a tiny cassette. The cassette is then put under a microscope where it is determined how much and what kind of mold is present in the air sample.

Cool, but how can you do it yourself?

There is a company out there that offers one of these pumps called MyMoldDetective at a very affordable rate. It does the exact same thing as the $1200 machine a mold inspection company may be using.

You don’t need to be a genius or really even know what your doing to operate one of these machines.

Take a look for yourself…

The Air Tests Show You Have Black Mold, Now What?

Well, now you have to remove it of course!

But here’s the thing…

That stuff can be toxic and you are not trained how to remove it the correct way.

Remediation of black mold includes using proper personal protection equipment, building a containment barrier to prevent any kind of cross-contamination, sanitizing the air, wire-brush cleaning, damp cleaning and whole lot more!

It’s a process..

…And if not done correctly, it can cause more harm than good trying to do the mold removal yourself.


Mold remediation is not cheap, but that is why you have homeowner’s insurance.

I must warn you, dealing with insurance companies can sometimes be really frustrating. Most insurance policies have a section that covers mold damage. Read over your insurance policy to be sure.

If your insurance policy does not cover the claim, it is still recommended that you do not try to remove black toxic mold yourself. You can’t put a price on the health of yourself and your family.

Ok, So Can Black Mold Kill You?

Just because black toxic mold is the most dangerous type of mold, does not mean other types won’t affect you. I know this kind of contradicts the theme layed out so far that the Mycotoxins gets you sick and not the mold itself.

But hear me out…

If you have an allergy to a particular type of mold, it doesn’t necessarily matter if it produces mycotoxins or not.

For example, you may have one child in your home that is experiencing upper respiratory issues after a leak caused mold in your home and another child who is having none at all.

That could be because the one child has an allergy to whatever mold is growing and the other child is not because they have no allergies.

Every person is different…

It’s not just allergies. It also depends on the health of a person. If a person has an autoimmune disorder and they are exposed to certain types of mold, it may be fatal.

That is why I cannot simply answer the question, “can mold kill you?” (besides I am also not a health professional)

Because the answer may be yes to one person and no to another.

There are links to health effects of mold exposure, but even the CDC does not list death as one of them:

A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm

What About Eating Moldy Food?

Fun fact of the day…

Did you know what the antibiotic Penicillin is actually derived from mold?

It’s true!

Dr. Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered that a species of mold called Penicillium can cure patients of infectious diseases. Taking it one step further doctors couldn’t perfect the antibiotic, and it was mold found on a cantaloupe which sealed the fate of this medical breakthrough.

Think about where this world would be today with Penicillin…

All throughout human history, illnesses that are now looked at as minor, people were dying from until Penicillin hit the mainstream.

That being said, don’t go thinking you can eat that moldy loaf of bread and be cured of any illness or disease!

In all likelihood, if you were to eat food with mold on it and are healthy, you may get mildly sick, but in most cases, it probably will not be fatal.

Disclaimer: Don’t be the jackass to find out!

Are You Overreacting To Mold In Your Home?

Probably, but let me ask you this:

Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? You are much better overreacting instead of underreacting.

Taking proper precautions can be crucial for yourself and your family.

Chances are, if you do not have a leak in your home or any kind of air conditioning problem, you will not have mold.

You can never be too safe when it comes to your health though.

Determine How Much Mycotoxins Are Present In Your System

You can actually determine if you test positive for certain types of mycotoxins in your system. Your doctor may be able to test you by urine samples.

This can be an important piece of information for your health. Keep in mind, mold can grow in your lungs and can cause all sorts of health effects, even if it doesn’t kill you.

The good news if you have health insurance they may cover it.


Not all health insurance plans cover for this mycotoxin testing, but if they do, you want to make sure you have a certain type of testing called EMMA testing.

EMMA stands for The Environmental Mold and Mycotoxins Assessment.

It will test your urine for the presence of the 10 most toxic types of mold. If it is showing up in your system, it’s a good chance that, that type of mold is growing in either your home or another location you spend time in.

Want an EMMA test for yourself or a family member?

Goto the Contact Me page to learn how you can get this type of testing done.

Tell Me About Your Experiences

Have you had a situation where you found yourself with health problems due to mold?

Write your story below!

Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness

How common is mold in buildings?

Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus. We do not have precise information about how often different molds are found in buildings and homes.

How do molds get in the indoor environment and how do they grow?

Mold is found both indoors and outdoors. Mold can enter your home through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, and pets can and be carried indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery, commonly support mold growth.

How do you know if you have a mold problem?

Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled.

How do molds affect people?

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.

In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould pdf iconexternal icon. Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies.

A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.

There is no blood test for mold. Some physicians can do allergy testing for possible allergies to mold, but no clinically proven tests can pinpoint when or where a particular mold exposure took place.

Who is most at risk for health problems associated with exposure to mold?

People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections. Individuals with chronic respiratory disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression are at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.

How do you keep mold out of buildings and homes?

Inspect buildings for evidence of water damage and visible mold as part of routine building maintenance, Correct conditions causing mold growth (e.g., water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) to prevent mold growth.

Inside your home you can control mold growth by:

  • Controlling humidity levels;
  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes;
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding;
  • Ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Keep humidity levels as low as you can—between 30% and 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. Bear in mind that humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in the moisture in the air and the air temperature, so you will need to check the humidity levels more than once a day.
  • Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
  • Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
  • Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.
  • Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.

How do you get the molds out of buildings, including homes, schools, and places of employment?

Mold growing in homes and buildings indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture. This is the first problem to address.

Remove moldy items from living areas. Once mold starts to grow in carpet, insulation, ceiling tiles, drywall, or wallboard, the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement.

It is important to properly clean and dry the area as you can still have an allergic reaction to parts of the dead mold and mold contamination may recur if there is still a source of moisture.

Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried promptly.

Clean up and dry out your home thoroughly and quickly (within 24-48 hours) after any flooding. Dig out mud and dirt . Use a wet vacuum to remove remaining dirt. Scrub cleanable surfaces (such as wood, tile, stone) with soapy water and a bristle brush. Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, and sinks) with water and dish detergent. Dry surfaces quickly and thoroughly after cleaning. If you have a fan, air conditioner or dehumidifier that wasn’t affected by flooding use it to help the surfaces dry after you finish cleaning

Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup (8 ounces) of bleach in 1 gallon of water to kill mold on surfaces. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners.

If you choose to use bleach to clean up mold:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
  • Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
  • Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
  • Small areas (such as a shower, or an area the size of a door) can often be cleaned by residents, but larger areas might need more professional help. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.

If you have an extensive amount of mold and you do not think you can manage the cleanup on your own, you may want to contact a professional who has experience in cleaning mold in buildings and homes.

Are there any circumstances where people should vacate a home or other building because of mold?

These decisions have to be made individually. If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in a building, you should consult your physician to determine the appropriate action to take.

I found mold growing in my home; how do I test the mold?

If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. You do not need to know the type of mold growing in your home, and CDC does not recommend or perform routine sampling for molds. No matter what type of mold is present, you should remove it. Since the effect of mold on people can vary greatly, either because of the amount or type of mold, you cannot rely on sampling and culturing to know your health risk.

A qualified environmental lab took samples of the mold in my home and gave me the results. Can CDC interpret these results?

Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable or normal quantity of mold have not been established. Sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable quantity of mold have not been set. The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth. If you do decide to pay for environmental sampling for molds, before the work starts, you should ask the consultants who will do the work to establish criteria for interpreting the test results. They should tell you in advance what they will do or what recommendations they will make based on the sampling results. The results of samples taken in your unique situation cannot be interpreted without physical inspection of the contaminated area or without considering the building’s characteristics and the factors that led to the present condition.

I heard about “toxic molds” and “black molds” that grow in homes and other buildings. Should I be concerned about a serious health risk to me and my family?

There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces.

Certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically “mycotoxins”). Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. Not all fungi produce mycotoxins and even those that do will not do so under all surface or environmental conditions.

Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. Color is not an indication of how dangerous a mold may be. Any mold should be removed and the moisture source that helped it grow should be removed.

There are very few reports that toxigenic molds found inside homes can cause unique or rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxigenic mold and these conditions has not been proven.

Top Tips for Controlling Mold

It’s impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores in your home, but because mold spores can’t grow without moisture, reducing moisture in your home is the best way to prevent or eliminate mold growth. If there is already mold growing in your home, it’s important to clean up the mold and fix the problem causing dampness. If you clean up the mold but don’t fix the problem, the mold will most likely return.

Following is some advice for reducing moisture throughout the home with specific tips for the areas most prone to dampness and mold growth:

Around the house:

  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air.
  • Keep indoor humidity below 60% if possible. You can measure relative humidity with a hygrometer, an inexpensive instrument available at many hardware stores.
  • Keep air conditioning drip pans clean. Make sure drain lines are free of obstructions and flow properly.
  • Keep the house warm in cool weather. As the temperature goes down, the air is less able to hold moisture and it condenses on cold surfaces, which can encourage mold growth.
  • Add insulation to cold surfaces, such as exterior walls, floors, and windows to reduce condensation.
  • Dry wet areas within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  • Fix leaks and seepage. The ground should slope away from your house. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing.
  • Have a heating and cooling contractor check your heating and cooling system to make sure it’s sized and operating properly to remove humidity. If your system is too big or the airflow is incorrect, your air conditioner will not remove humidity like it should. Also, ask the contractor to check your duct system for air leaks, and proper size and air flow to each room.
  • Open doors between rooms to increase circulation, which carries heat to cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners.

In the kitchen:

  • Use exhaust fans to move moisture outside (not into the attic) whenever you are cooking, washing dishes, or cleaning.
  • Turn off certain appliances if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
  • Check for leaks around the kitchen sink, refrigerator ice makers, and other sources of water. Repair if necessary.
  • Empty and clean refrigerator drip pans if necessary.

Stepping into the shower, there’s a brownish, greenish blob of slime in the corner. Or maybe there are red and orange streaks. Are they something to worry about? Is there any way to banish unsightly mold and mildew from the bathroom forever?

“Mold was here before we were on the planet, it’ll be here after us,” Dr. Sophia Tolliver, a family medicine physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, told TODAY. “Definitely, the bathroom is a ground zero, if you will, for mold growth, probably because mold likes to grow in dark, damp areas.”

Bathroom mold looks unsightly and can irritate allergy sufferers. Getty Images

Is there a difference between mildew and mold?

Water runs frequently in bathrooms, making it moist and humid, an environment that allows mold to thrive. When people don’t clean the surfaces or dry them off, mildew begins to form. If it isn’t removed, it develops into mold.

“Mildew it the beginning of a mold colony,” Dr. Neeta Ogden, a spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, told TODAY.

Stagnant water in showers spurs mold growth, which is why so many people struggle to keep them free of mold and mildew. Plus, mold loves lurking in nooks between tile or deep in corners. Sometimes, hidden pipes under the sink or in the walls also have slow leaks that cause water to pool, making perfect hiding places for new colonies.

“It has to do with the nature of the bathrooms, where we take showers and baths and wash up,” Ogden said. “Water is constantly being turned on and off … It’s a perfect ground for mold to grow.”

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Molds that commonly grow in bathrooms include:

  • Aspergillus
  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Stachybotrys, also known as black mold

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These varieties of mold mostly look dark brown or green with Stachybotrys — the most dangerous kind common to bathrooms — appearing so dark that it’s almost black and Penicillium sometimes having a blue, green or yellowish tint to it.

“It can be difficult to tell different types of mold from another,” Tolliver said. “They can look very similar.”

While black mold “is less common than other mold species, it is not rare,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency does not recommend testing mold, but said, “all molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.”

Can bathroom mold cause illness?

For the most part, mold just looks bad. For some, it can irritate allergies and asthma.

“Mold is relatively harmless, but given the right circumstances it can definitely cause some irritation,” Tolliver said. “If you have pre-existing allergies or COPD or some sort of respiratory condition, the spores can actually irritate the lining of your lungs and can increase your risk of asthma attacks or COPD exacerbation.”

People who are affected by bathroom mold will most likely experience runny noses, coughing and scratchy throats.

Ogden noted that people with allergies should be tested for which specific allergens bother them so they can best protect themselves. Mold is one of the irritants that can be identified through allergy tests.

“Doctors can and should identify what the culprit is,” she said.

Over-the-counter treatments can frequently ease the feeling associated with an allergy attack, but more severe cases could require a doctor’s intervention.

Minor adjustments can keep mildew and mold in check to prevent potential allergies.

How to clean mildew and mold

Cleansers with bleach, or even white vinegar, can often keep the slimy, hairy growths from taking root in the bathroom. Wearing gloves and a mask can protect people from inhaling any mold spores as they scour the bathroom surfaces.

These are some expert-approved steps to stop mold from colonizing the bathroom in the first place:

  • Use a humidifier to make sure humidity is no more than 50%
  • Make sure exhaust fans work
  • Clean often with mold-killing products
  • Check pipes to make sure they’re not leaking
  • Change air filters regularly

Black mold, stachybotrys, can cause more serious reactions. Tolliver said that if people suspect the bathroom has this black mold, they should talk to a professional about removing it.

“It’s very important that if you see this type of mold — which is usually dark green or black in color and, really, texture-wise it’s kind of slimy — that you avoid the area because if that starts to break off, the mold spores can be very harmful,” he said. “It’s probably a better idea to get a professional to come in and clean it.”

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