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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
Black Mold 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.

Vulnerable areas
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.

Preventative measures
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 and bathroom)
  • 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.


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