The term “Black Mold and Toxic Black Mold” is not a scientific name for a species of mold. “Black Mold” refers to Stachybotrys Chartarum (also called Stachybotrys atra), which is a species of mold that is mainly associated with buildings that have severe water damage. This mold species is slimy with a greenish black color and is not easily dispersed like other lighter molds. This mold disperses in the air when the slimy portion becomes dry and detaches from the substrate. Not every mold that has a black or greenish color is Stachybotrys. The only means of determining the species of mold found growing on a surface is through sampling and analysis by a certified laboratory. The known health effects of Stachybotrys are similar to other common household molds. This mold mainly grows on wood, paper and cellulose products that remain wet or saturated for long periods of time. Approximately, 2 to 5% of homes in the United States are impacted by this mold species.
Why is Stachybotrys Chartarum “Black Mold” Famous?
The toxins produced by Stachybotrys was the primary focus of an epidemic that occurred in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1993 to 1996. This case was commonly referred to as the “Cleveland Cluster.” The reports state that over 30 infants living in a 6-mile radius experienced acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage. Which resulted in the deaths of four infants. Read more about the case here
How Do I Get Exposed to Stachybotrys “Black Mold”?
Exposure to Stachybotrys occurs in many ways. The most common of which is entering or living in environments with severe water damage or areas where flooding has occurred. The main routes of entry into the body are by inhalation and ingestion. For instance, eating foods contaminated with Stachybotrys, handling items contaminated with mold and then eating or smoking, inhaling contaminated dust or debris, and not taking precautions when removing items infested with mold growth.
Symptoms of Exposure to Stachybotrys
When molds release mycotoxins into the air, they can cause reactions in sensitive individuals. This leads to the development of symptoms like coughing, runny nose, hay fever-like symptoms, and irritated eyes and throat. These complaints are more prevalent in individuals that have developed an allergy to mold. Similarly, individuals with compromised immune systems, infants, and the elderly are also at risk of getting ill from exposure to mold mycotoxins.
Resources to learn more about mold:
- CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention)
- The Mold Insider - A great mold-focused blog for homeowners.