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 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 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
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
While 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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