Black Mold 101
Black mold is a slimy, greenish-black growth that can lead to serious
health risk. Also known as Strachybotrys chartarum, black mold can be
found in any part of a building since it can spread on all sorts of materials.
Virtually everyone has one type of mold or another somewhere in their
home; however, some are visible to the naked eye while others are not.
Although not all types of mold are dangerous, all should be removed as
if they were potentially harmful.
Recognize the signs
Most types of mold have a distinctive smell, much like that of urine.
Black mold, however, is not easy to detect and often grows behind walls
and under ceilings. Floating particles of mold are invisible to the naked
eye, so it is impossible to see where they settle, until they begin to
grow. Loose mold particles that accumulate on items within a house can
be easily inhaled, causing a serious health risk. If you were to touch
a humid spot of black mold, it would feel slimy and would smear the area.
Areas and substances that are often infested with black mold include water-soaked
wood, damp bathroom tiles, humid wall to wall carpets and paneling. Black
mold can grow on ceilings, drywall, insulation, and cardboard, even items
made of cotton. If you spot stained ceilings or walls, or if you are experiencing
unusual allergic reactions, your home may have a mold problem.
How it spreads
Black mold needs moisture to grow. Once it dries, the mycotoxins produced
by black mold are released into the air. These harmful toxins are carried
through the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, and spread
throughout the building. Although dry mold is not visible to the naked
eye, it poses a health problem..
Removing black mold
To properly eradicate black mold from your premises, you must first examine
the extent of the problem. If the infested area is relatively small, and
results from a tiny water leak or minor plumbing problem, you can disinfect
the area with a water and bleach solution.
You should seek professional help if you discover an infested area of
over 2 feet, as that would be considered "heavily infested".
Never scrape or scratch at dried mold, as the spores will be released
into the air and pose an inhalation risk. Always protect yourself; wear
a respiratory mask, proper eyewear and adequate clothing to prevent skin
contact. If the problem is internal, such as on insulation or throughout
a carpet, the solution is to completely remove and replace these items.
Here are some measures you can take to avoid the growth of black mold
in your home.
- Keep the humidity of the house low
- Provide adequate ventilation in the house (especially in the kitchen
- Add mold inhibitors in the paint before painting
- Do not use carpeting in the bathroom
- Treat mold problems as soon as detected
All types of mold pose health risks and should be taken seriously. Black
mold can be difficult to detect, but be aware of the signs, and treat
it in its early stages. With any type of mold, remember to use caution
and seek professional help if the contaminated area is significant.
Written by Gary Martin
Gary Martin is a freelance writer specializing in health and allergy research for the Mold Removal Unit website.