What is Black Mold?

While all molds can appear black, it is normally the dreaded Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) to which the term “black mold” is referring. One reason is that Stachybotrys can appear as extremely dark black and shiny when compared to other molds growing on the same surface.

While Stachybotrys can be rare in the indoor environment, it is a potentially dangerous mold which can cause serious illnesses in healthy individuals and should be dealt with quickly by someone highly experienced in mold remediation.

Stachybotrys-culture

Stachybotrys cultured in petri dish

It can grow on material with a high-cellulose and low-nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration or flooding. Stachybotrys is a slow-growing mold and needs constant moisture source for its continued colonization.

Stachybotrys-culture-side

Stachybotrys cultured in petri dish (side view)

Stachybotrys is considered a toxigenic mold and may produce several toxic chemicals called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can be present in spores and small mold fragments once released into the air. It is these mycotoxins which can cause what many have referred to as “black mold poisoning." Black mold or Stachybotrys have received much attention in recent years mostly due to some high profile legal cases in the U.S. and around the world.

Symptoms of Black Mold Exposure

Symptoms of exposure to mycotoxins from Stachybotrys and other toxigenic molds include coughing, wheezing, runny nose, irritated eyes or throat, skin rash and diarrhea. Since these symptoms are general in nature, they also can be caused by a cold, influenza or exposure to other allergens. It is not known what level of mycotoxins from Stachybotrys must be present in the air to cause these symptoms and is believed to vary according to environmental conditions.

Is Black Mold Really Different?

While Stachybotrys can occur as an indoor air pollutant, it is actually found much less than other toxigenic molds. However, it is paramount to test for mold when there have been events which could promote any toxic mold in the indoor environment. If any toxic mold is found in the indoor environment, extra steps to eliminate the live (viable) and dead (non-viable) mold spores must be taken. It is important to understand that live or dead spores in sufficient quantities can cause serious respiratory illnesses in certain humans depending on many factors.

Black Mold on Walls

black-mold-wallWhile black mold (a.k.a. Stachybotrys) can be found within certain areas of an indoor space, it is most commonly found growing on sheetrock walls.

Stachybotrys growth can be a common occurance when sheetrock has been wet for extended periods of time and can be found in sufficient quantities to cause respiratory health problems when spores are directly released into the indoor environment.

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