toxic black mold

Black Mold - What Is It?

Black Mold, also known as Stachybotrys Chartarum (atra) is a greenish-black fungus found worldwide that colonizes particularly well in high-cellulose material, such as straw, hay, wet leaves, dry wall, carpet, wall paper, fiber-board, ceiling tiles, thermal insulation, etc. The fungus (black mold), before drying, is wet and slightly slimy to touch.

There are about 15 species of Stachybotrys, with a world-wide distribution. The toxic mold grows in areas where the relative humidity is above 55%. This type of fungus does not grow on plastic, vinyl, concrete products, or ceramic tiles. It is not found in the green mold on bread or the black mold on the shower tiles. The toxic mold environmental risk may be one of the next major real estate “due diligence” concerns, especially in property development areas where major flooding has occurred.


The problem is that this not only includes known residential and commercial flood areas incidents, but also numerous minor water releases due to plumbing failures, conductive condensation, house water leaks and accidents. The toxic mold concern could also be a problem where fires occurred at residential properties.

The second major concern is that one might not be able to permanently eliminate the entire toxic mold from the structure. There also remains a great propensity for future reoccurrence. The health risk/hazard could be back again. Therefore, we must recommend that great care be exercised to remove and dispose of all products, which have been contaminated by the toxic mold contaminated. This recommendation is supported by the Department of Health Administrations in many states. The third concern is that States’ Health Departments will consider ambiguous and genetic disposition as a response to the publics’ inquiries. There will be some people, especially children, that will exhibit more adverse reactions, including death, lung tissue damage, and memory loss, than other persons exposed to the toxic mold. This may depend on the chemical sensitivity, genetic disposition, predisposing health history (such as allergies, asthma, smoking, etc.). For some, the exposure to the toxic mold spores may just be a "health risk" and to others, it may be a real "health hazard" (potential life-threatening and loss of "quality of life"). Whether a potential liability concern is a risk or hazard will be paramount in defining the critical level of due diligence and disclosure response by responsible parties. There are already several major lawsuits concerning toxic mold exposure in residential and commercial buildings throughout the United States.

Currently, most health organizations consider exposure to Stachybotrys mold as a health hazard. Also, keep in mind that most responses leading to testing, investigations, and abatement of the Stachybotrys toxic mold are due directly to occupant complaints or documented detrimental health effects. Stachybotrys mold may evolve to a point where it is regarded with the same cautions, response and liability concerns as those attributed to lead-base paint and asbestos. Health hazards and risks associated with concern to exposure to Stachybotrys are currently considered as short-term effects. Exposure to radon gas in houses is considered a long-term health risk and is not considered a short-term hazard.

Stachybotrys produces a mycotoxin that causes animal and human mycotoxicosis. This type of mold is thought to be a possible cause of the “sick building syndrome”. In May 1997, the Journal of the American Medical Association carried a news article titled “Floods carry potential for toxic mold disease”. Children’s exposure to air-borne Stachybotrys spores is thought most likely to cause pulmonary hemosiderosis (bleeding in the lungs). Please be aware that there is no threshold dangerous spore exposure level by the U.S. EPA or any other health administrations. There are ongoing new epidemiology studies being conducted. There is reference information related to a 1994 incident in Cleveland, Ohio where 45 cases of pulmonary hemorrhage in young infants occurred. Sixteen of the infants died. In addition, many state’s department of health administrations as well as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) list the following as symptoms associated with exposure to Stachybotrys mold spores:

1) Respiratory problems, such as wheezing, and difficulty in breathing

2) Nasal and sinus congestion

3) Eyes-burning, watery, reddened, blurry vision, light sensitivity

4) Dry, hacking cough

5) Sore throat

6) Nose and throat irritation

7) Shortness of breath

8) Chronic fatigue

9) Skin irritation

10) Central nervous system problems (constant headaches, memory problems, and mood changes)

11) Aches and pains

12) Possible fever

13) Diarrhea

14) Possible hemosiderosis

15) Immune suppression

1) The Stachybotrys fungi cannot be identified by a routine visual inspection. Remember all black mold is not necessarily Stachybotrys. It could be non-toxic black mold. The only method to determine the type of mold present is by sample analysis by an accredited laboratory. Also, it is important to keep in mind that the mold is only a toxic risk or hazard if a person breathes or comes into contact with the spores. Wet mold is not an indoor air quality health risk, but there is a significant potential for the mold to dry and released into the air.

2) There may be visual appearance of black mold in a visible water damage area, but be aware that there may be areas of water damage and mold that can be hidden (behind dry wall, under organic thread carpets).

3) The home inspector may notice or note water damage areas, but the majority of home inspectors are not aware of the water-damage environment and toxic mold relationship or concern.

4) Perhaps a question should be added on the homeowner disclosure which related to any water damage, water leaks, or flooding in the house or around the structure.

5) Historical records of flooding in that geographic area may be used.

6) The standard ERC inspection form should perhaps contain an addendum, which would note any evidence of water, mold or mildew in or around the structure.

Mold Related Tips - Resources:
Mold in Carpeting
Mold Inside Walls
Keep Mold Outside Your Home
Hidden Mold: Investigating Problems
Mold: Eight Causes and Solutions

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