Mold belongs to the fungi kingdom that consists of more than one million species. These organisms are saprophytic, meaning that they depend on the breakdown of organic material in order to thrive. Black mold, commonly known as mildew, is a blackish-green belonging to the Stachybotrys family, specifically the fungus S. chartarum. Other words and phrases that have become synonymous with black mold are toxic mold and sick building syndrome.
For black mold to develop in residential homes or commercial buildings, certain conditions must be present. First and foremost, there must be sufficient moisture present. In fact, black mold most often starts in buildings where water damage has occurred, either from flooding, leaky plumbing, or even excessive condensation. Secondly, since mold needs organic matter to feed off of, any material present that contains carbon can provide a surface for mold to grow on. Indoor materials that can support mold include leather, wallpaper, carpeting, wood, insulation, and sheetrock.
This material is also self-replicating. What is actually visible as a moldy film on a surface is the mycelium, or the main body of the fungus. This forms when the filamentous cells of the fungus called the hyphae produce enzymes to decompose neighboring organic material, the organism’s primary source of nutrition. Eventually, these hyphael cells form spores, which are released to germinate and further the spread of the mold. These spores are extremely resilient and can lie dormant for years before germinating.
Overgrowth of black mold can comprise the air quality of an indoor space rather quickly. For one thing, this substance produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are responsible for producing the musty smell commonly associated with moldy areas. It may also produce an opportunistic infection in those who already have a compromised immune system that wouldn’t ordinarily occur in a healthy person. Individuals that may become infected include HIV/AIDS patients, organ transplant recipients, or those undergoing chemotherapy. Black mold is also linked to causing or elevating allergies, asthma, and sinusitis.
Symptoms of mold toxicity vary between individuals. However, symptoms of central nervous system suppression are commonly reported, such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, and light-headedness. In addition, allergy-driven responses are also common, including sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and throat irritation.
Mold removal can be a long and physically intensive endeavor, but it is not impossible to accomplish. However, it is essential that anyone at high risk from negative health consequences from mold exposure be evacuated from the site prior to initiating the clean up process. In addition, anyone involved in mold remediation should wear protective clothing and related eye and respiratory gear. All moldy materials must be removed from the premises and contained until it can be properly disposed of. Once problem areas have been improved, it is essential to address moisture problems in the environment to prevent future contamination.