What is Black Mold
Most people have heard of black mold, but are you aware of the dangers and side effects related to this fungus? Also known as Stachybotrys chartarum, black mold is most often found in damp building materials, and can be prevalent in older and humid homes.
The term ‘black mold’ can be misleading. This fungus is not always dark black in color, and can have a greenish-black appearance when it starts to proliferate on surfaces in small or large patches, and can be slimy to touch. Also called toxic mold, black mold spores are dispersed through the air and are not visible to the human eye. The most telling sign of S. chartarum, is a strong, musty, earthy scent. Black mold thrives on moisture and a stagnant environment with little ventilation.
Black mold exposure symptoms have been detected since the 1930’s, and there is still a great risk of finding black mold in households today. If you suspect black mold is growing in your home, consider the following signs and symptoms, so you can stop black mold growth and maintain a healthy home.
Effects of Black Mold on Your Home
Black mold proliferates on damp building surfaces where cellulose is present in the material, and where there is enough moisture for mold spores to thrive and spread. Mold spores can be airborne in both outdoor and indoor environments, and can enter your home from windows, doorways, and heating systems. People and pets can also carry mold spores indoors, where it will attract to surfaces and spread under moist conditions.
If mold spores drop around your home where excessive moisture collects, such as leaky pipes, plants, ceilings, or damp roof materials, this will foster black mold growth. Wet cellulose materials including wood, cardboard, drywall, and insulation can also support mold infestations.
Black mold can produce a lingering scent, however it may not be immediately detectable to anyone not familiar with mildew. Illnesses associated with mold can also be an indicator of black mold in your home. Unfortunately, black mold health effects may be difficult to detect. Understanding the underlying causes and symptoms of black mold will help keep you safe from exposure in the future.
Black Mold Symptoms
Symptoms of black mold vary depending on individual sensitivity and the duration of exposure. Several studies have now linked indoor black mold sinus infection symptoms, and several respiratory and allergy symptoms to indoor dampness supporting black mold.
Common black mold sickness symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on an individual’s immune system and respiratory sensitivity. Common toxic mold symptoms include chronic coughing; however, it can be difficult to detect due to the wide range of triggers leading to coughing.
Black Mold Cough
People who have been exposed to mold commonly complain of coughing symptoms. Black mold produces mycotoxins that can be inhaled. A report by the Institute of Medicine revealed there is a direct associated between indoor dampness and upper respiratory tract symptoms, however black mold may not necessarily be causal.1
Other analyses on breathing black mold conditions found positive associations with coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, and upper respiratory tract symptoms.2 In reference to black mold in lungs, symptoms can become severe if spores colonize inside the lungs.
Black Mold Nausea
Exposure to the dampness that fosters black mold growth can lead to nausea, especially for sensitive adults and children.3 Studies also show that toxic fungal spores, often those with foul smells, can result in nausea and fatigue due to inhalation. However, these symptoms are mostly attributed to an aversion to the odor itself rather than any toxic mechanisms.4
Black Mold Sinus Infections
Inhaling toxic spores in poorly ventilated areas can lead to mycotoxin poisoning through the nose, signaling symptoms of sinus infections. Depending on the number of airborne spores inhaled, children and adults with respiratory allergies will be more prone to sinus infections.3
Rashes from Black Mold
Skin exposure to black mold can increase eczema outbreaks for people susceptible to dryness and rashes. Black mold exposure has not been proven to cause new rash conditions or eczema, however prolonged exposure can result in worsened rashes that may require medical intervention.2
Fever from Black Mold
Mycotoxins released by black mold that are absorbed into the body are eventually processed by the liver. The presence of toxins in the liver is believed to trigger both fever and nausea.5
Allergies from Black Mold
Worsened allergies are common side effects of black mold exposure. Allergenic and atopic symptoms of rhinitis is linked to black mold spore inhalation, but the severity of these symptoms directly caused by black mold needs to be further investigated.2
Black mold allergy symptoms appear to be worse in children compared to symptoms of black mold exposure in adults. Asthma appears to be exacerbated in children, and there is a consistent association between indoor dampness and allergenic health effects in infants and children.1,7
Prolonged Exposure to Black Mold
Sneezing, coughing, asthma, and impaired breathing symptoms may increase for sensitive people after prolonged exposure to black mold. It not believed that black mold exposure can cause the development of asthma, but mold spores can make existing symptoms much worse the longer exposure occurs.2
There is no conclusive evidence that prolonged exposure to visible black mold can directly cause serious symptoms of headaches, fatigue, memory loss, or autoimmune disease, even though these are common reported symptoms from patients who have been unprotected from toxic molds in their home.6
Rare instances of allergenic hypersensitivity can be triggered by prolonged black mold exposure. The longer you are exposed to mold in your home, the more serious symptoms can become, and should be investigated by a medical professional.
Can You Treat Black Mold Poisoning?
If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of black mold poisoning, there are natural and effective treatments to reduce black mold side effects quickly.
Upon seeing signs of black mold poisoning, add natural detoxifying foods to your diet that can remove toxins from your system. Raw garlic is a powerful antifungal agent, and is highly recommended for mold exposure.8 Activated charcoal supplements and chlorophyll are good for flushing toxins from the body.9,10
If serious allergy or respiratory symptoms are present, medications including antihistamines and decongestants can help treat mold side effects.
How to Avoid Black Mold Symptoms: Get Rid of the Black Mold
Symptoms of black mold exposure can be lessened if you quickly locate the source of mold and remove it efficiently. If you can reach the source of mold and are confident you can extricate it yourself, there are some common household mold removal techniques to try.
Ammonia, bleach, and vinegar are advantageous for removing black mold on non-porous surfaces. Kitchen and bathroom surfaces with mold can be treated quickly with an ammonia solution. Keep in mind ammonia and bleach do not effectively penetrate porous materials that black mold tends to propagate in, such as ceiling tiles, grout, sheetrock, and wood.
Baking soda and vinegar solutions are non-toxic home remedy that can effectively attack black mold. Chemical reagents specifically designed to treat mold infestations are also available at hardware stores. Other powerful mold treatments include hydrogen peroxide, borax, tea tree oil, and grapeseed extract.
Make sure to protect yourself by wearing proper gloves, and a face mask to avoid breathing in mold or chemicals. Never mix bleach with ammonia, as this can create a toxic gas. It is very important to keep your home properly ventilated if you are using strong mold removal products to protect your health. Also make sure to throw away any materials that have black mold on them (such as clothing, rags, cardboard) or contribute to moisture that fosters mold growth to help prevent the mold from coming back.
Preventing Black Mold Exposure
Studies show that symptoms of black mold exposure are more effectively minimized through ventilation, and improved hygiene and maintenance of air-handling systems, such as air-conditioning and heating vents, is important in handling moisture and fungal contamination before adverse health effects occur.11
Recent surveys confirmed that moisture is a major source of building damage, and affects up to 40% of homes in North America.7 Frequent visual inspections is the best method for detecting moisture problems that lead to black mold exposure. Rainwater or groundwater that leaks into walls, foundations, windows, and roofs can cause persistent moisture problems. Plumbing installations should be inspected if there are any issues, and any cracks or holes in home structures should be examined and filled to prevent condensation from building up.
Dishwashers, bathrooms, and other areas of the home with higher humidity can be welcoming for mold. Ensure these areas are properly vented. Older homes with damp or damaged construction materials must be replaced and updated if mold begins to grow. Mold detection kits can be purchased to help you detect black mold spores before they develop into a larger problem.
Clear up cluttered areas where moisture can collect. Dust mites also favor damp environments, so regularly dusting your home can prevent fungal spores from spreading and attaching to home surfaces. Mold also needs nutrients to thrive, and this can range from carbohydrates to lipids. Plant or animal matter, construction materials, and paper products can contribute to mold growth. Keeping your home clean of dust, clutter and trapped moisture will prevent black mold spores from spreading.
Test for Mold
Black mold formation is a result of humidity, temperature, and building structure conditions. Learning the proper preventative measures will prevent black mold from growing in your home and causing adverse health side effects. If you suspect black mold is present in your home, buy a mold detection kit or contact professionals who can detect areas of infestation, and take the effective measures to remove mold from your home for good.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Damp Indoor Spaces and Health. Damp Indoor Spaces and Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004. DOI: 10.17226/11011
- Mendell, M. J., Mirer, A. G., Cheung, K., & Douwes, J. (2011). Respiratory and allergic health effects of dampness, mold, and dampness-related agents: a review of the epidemiologic evidence. Environmental health perspectives, 119(6), 748. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1002410.
- Tuuminen, T., & Rinne, K. S. (2017). severe sequelae to Mold-Related Illness as Demonstrated in two Finnish Cohorts. Frontiers in Immunology, 8. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00382.
- Hurraß, J., Szewzyk, R., BASCHIEN, C., GABRIO, T., FISCHER, G., GRÜN, L., … & WIESMÜLLER, G. A. (2014). Risk of olfactory effects and impairment of well-being resulting from mould exposure–Results of a workshop of the annual conference of the German Society of Hygiene, Environmental Medicine and Preventive Medicine held in Freiburg, Germany, in 2012. Proceedings of Indoor Air, 1-8. Retrieved November 16, 2017 from https://www.isiaq.org/docs/paper/HP0128.pdf.
- Bennett, J., & Klich, M. C. (2003). Mycotoxins. Microbiol. Rev, 16, 497-516. DOI: 10.1128/CMR.16.3.497-516.2003.
- Borchers, A. T., Chang, C., & Gershwin, M. E. (2017). Mold and Human Health: a Reality Check. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, 52(3), 305-322. DOI: 10.1007/s12016-017-8601-z.
- Biagini, J. M., LeMasters, G. K., Ryan, P. H., Levin, L., Reponen, T., Bernstein, D. I., … & Lockey, J. (2006). Environmental risk factors of rhinitis in early infancy. Pediatric allergy and immunology, 17(4), 278-284. DOI: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2006.00386.x.
- Li, W. R., Shi, Q. S., Liang, Q., Huang, X. M., & Chen, Y. B. (2014). Antifungal effect and mechanism of garlic oil on Penicillium funiculosum. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 98(19), 8337-8346. Retrieved November 10, 2017 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00253-014-5919-9.
- American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, & European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. (2005). Position paper: single-dose activated charcoal. Clinical Toxicology, 43(2), 61-87. DOI:1081/CLT-51867.
- Kashiyama, Y., Yokoyama, A., Kinoshita, Y., Shoji, S., Miyashiya, H., Shiratori, T., … & Ishida, K. I. (2012). Ubiquity and quantitative significance of detoxification catabolism of chlorophyll associated with protistan herbivory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(43), 17328-17335. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1207347109.
- Heseltine, E., & Rosen, J. (Eds.). (2009). WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mould. WHO Regional Office Europe.