There are over 100,000 types of mold, and without them, the world would be buried in leaves, garbage, and other detritus. While most molds are benign, some are damaging to people and the environment. Stachybotrys chartarum, or toxic black mold, creates a myriad of health problems. Here are a few health issues associated with black mold, and how you can help prevent the growth of mold causing them.
Spores of black mold are inhaled into the nasal passages, mouth, and throat. Irritation and burning results, in addition to:
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Bleeding and swelling in the lungs
- Bleeding gums
- Sore throat
Fatigue and Discomfort
As a defense to black mold exposure, the body's immune system can produce the sedative chloral hydrate to attempt to slow down any effects of the mold. Unfortunately, this makes a person feel tired and achy. Other symptoms include:
- Malaise, drowsiness, and weakness
- Chest and abdominal pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Recurring colds and flu-like symptoms
Black mold mycotoxins from spores enter the body and eventually the bloodstream, leading to heart damage, internal hemorrhaging, and problems with blood clotting. Some symptoms are:
- Inflamed heart
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Vomiting blood
Black mold is neurotoxic, destroying neurons and impairing mental capacities. They also cause nervous disorders and may even be responsible for changes in personality. Other symptoms are:
- Depression and anxiety
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Memory loss
- Slow reflexes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Shortened attention span
- Numbness, tingling, or shaking
Find the Source
Unless there was a recent flood or other large water event, moisture may not be immediately obvious. A water source encouraging mold growth may be hidden or very small. Some unlikely places to check for the presence of water or mold are tiny leaks in the roof, walls, or basement. Are there any drains or floors that have accumulated standing water, such as in or under bathroom and kitchen floor cupboards? Bathroom and kitchen windows can collect condensation in corners, cracks, and sashes. Any heating, cooling, or dehumidifying equipment and accompanying ductwork often have small amounts of standing water or leaks, increasing the opportunity for mold growth.
Mold spores are everywhere, and controlling moisture is the key to preventing the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. Take a proactive stance and prevent leaks by filling holes in roofs, walls, and basements. Caulk around all windows of the home. Check that all visible pipes in the home are not leaking. Temporarily stop any drips with epoxy, rubber, or pipe clamps until the pipe can be replaced professionally.
Remove standing water immediately. After showers, wipe down shower walls and doors with a squeegee. Turn on bathroom vents to dry out a room, or open windows to vent a room prone to condensation. Immediately dry or remove damp rugs and shower mats.
Getting ready to paint a room? Use a mold-inhibiting paint the first time rather than traditional paint. In humid weather, a dehumidifier and even an air conditioner can cut down on the amount of moisture in the air of a home.
When small amounts of mold are discovered, destroy them to prevent further health problems. On hard surfaces such as tile and glass, remove mold using a commercial mold remover, or with a solution of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. As always when working with bleach, take care not to splash it into the face and eyes or inhale the fumes.
Larger amounts of mold require specialized removal methods and use of personal protective equipment, such as those used by professionals, such as those at John's Waterproofing.