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What is Black Mold or Stachybotrys?

Mold growth in general is a type of Fungi that produce long tube‐like structures called hyphae. As these hyphae grow, they develop into visible looking masses called “colonies.” Depending on the type of mold and growth conditions, colonies can have a wide variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. Chances are you have probably heard about “Toxic Black Mold” in the media, from friends, or from a contractor that you have worked with. With the word toxic in the equation, it has developed caused mold growth to have a certain stigma as something to be feared. Stachybotrys Chartarum is the specific species of mold growth that people are referring to when they are knowingly talking about “toxic black mold”. This specific species stands out from the rest as it can release mycotoxins into an indoor environment which can lead to some serious health complications.

Stachybotrys is a species of mold that is usually accompanied by others including but not limited to Pennicillum Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Chaetonium. This is usually the case as stachybotrys is a slow growing mold and they aforementioned are more common and faster growing. While there is no set governmental standards for mold levels indicate a problem. However, it is universal industry standard that any amount of stachybotrys that is found in air or surface sample tests is cause for a failed test and professional mold remediation should be carried out due to the health risks it carries

Mycotoxins

Whenever mold is present, it releases mold spores into the air. This is a way of reproducing as these spores can travel airborne in search of more nutrients to thrive and grow. When these mold spores do find a source of food, they land and colonize and eventually you see visible growth. The spores themselves are invisible to the naked eye. Certain species including stachybotrys carry mycotoxins on their spores which can be responsible for health complications.Trichothecene is the specific mycotoxin that is carried by stachybotrys mold spores. Exposure has caused consistent death to lab rats and even been known to been used in biological warfare. Obviously these types of problems are at extremely high levels but still shows these mycotoxins are nothing to take lightly.

kitchen-image

Black Mold Symptoms

As mentioned already, Stachybotrys is usually not alone when there is a mold problem present. Therefore a lot of the symptoms of black mold being present in a home or business are very similar to any other type of mold problem. When an indoor air quality is present you might notice a strange odor or smell, see visible mold, elevated humidity, and/or excess moisture within building materials. People can experience allergy like symptoms like dry/itchy eyes, throat, headaches, trouble breathing, increase mucus. or other respiratory issues. Stachybotrys has also been associated with other rare complications like convulsions and hemorrhaging due to its ability to release mycotoxins in the air. It is also possible to have little to no symptoms of indoor air quality issues and still have black mold present. This is because stachybotrys is not easily airborne unless disturbed which is why it is so important to have an inspection done if you suspect it at all.

Here are some symptoms of being exposed to this mycotoxin:

Dry eyes
Dry Eyes
Sore Throat
Sore Throat
Fatigue
Fatigue
Trouble Breathing
Trouble Breathing
General Discomfort
General Discomfort
Vomiting
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Diarrhea
Stomach pain
Stomach Pain
Cognitive Impairment
Cognitive Impairment
Rash
Rash

What Does Black Mold Look Like

Everyone has seen and know what mold looks like, but can you visually determine if mold is in fact stachybotrys chartarum with the naked eye alone? The answer to this question is quite simply yes and no. For a mold expert, it is fairly easy to identify a mold as stachybotrys as it has a very distinguishable appearance when in a mature state. Since it is a slow growing mold, it has the tendency to be very thick in context and you guessed it… black. At the same time, if you are addressing a situation in a prompt manner it might not look much different than other species of mold that are also black in nature. Here are some pictures of what black mold can look like. Be aware that most of these pictures are serious problems and other than the enlarged photos of stachybotrys under a microscope, there are usually other species of mold present as well.

Bedroom-image

Inspection & Testing for Black Mold

Everyone has seen and know what mold looks like, but can you visually determine if mold is in fact stachybotrys chartarum with the naked eye alone? The answer to this question is quite simply yes and no. For a mold expert, it is fairly easy to identify a mold as stachybotrys as it has a very distinguishable appearance when in a mature state. Since it is a slow growing mold, it has the tendency to be very thick in context and you guessed it… black. At the same time, if you are addressing a situation in a prompt manner it might not look much different than other species of mold that are also black in nature. Here are some pictures of what black mold can look like. Be aware that most of these pictures are serious problems and other than the enlarged photos of stachybotrys under a microscope, there are usually other species of mold present as well.

Black Mold Test Kit

There are many companies out there that offer a “mold test kit”. You might think that these must be good as they appear so often and throughout major stores like Home Depot, Loews, and Ace Hardware. Unfortunately that is simply not the case and these kits are not only inaccurate, but just about worthless. There is a natural level of mold in every home or business because non toxic varieties occur naturally outdoors and spores find their way inside as well. The petri dishes sold in stores will only tell you if mold is present or not and will give you any indication about how much of that species is present. This is problematic as many species of mold is acceptable at certain levels and not others. As we mentioned earlier on this webpage, not all stachybotrys is easily airborne so petri dishes will not pick up on its presence unless it is. Most people purchase this as inexpensive alternative only to realize they need to pay extra to have the lab analyze it. On top of that there is zero customer support to help you figure out what everything means. Simply put, most people waste money trying to save it and those with real problems end up needing a real mold inspector anyways.

How Long Until Black Mold Grows

There is no exact amount of time for how long it will take for black mold to start growing. Every situation is extremely unique in the fact that there will never be all the same variables. However, most species of mold take about 24-48 to start to colonize under the right circumstances. Stachybotrys on the other hand is a slower growing mold and will typically start to appear in about a week or so. This is why we say that whenever black mold is around, it is usually accompanied by various other species like Pennicillum Aspergillus and Cladosporeum. Hopefully this helps see why it is so important to address a mold problem as soon as you suspect one might be present. The sooner that you act and detect an indoor air quality issue, the easier it will be to deal with and less problems it will cause.

living-room

What Causes Black Mold to Grow

Certain variables are necessary for mold to start and continue growing. As mentioned above, stachybotrys does take a bit longer to begin to grow, but in terms of causes everything is the same as other species. Here is a list of the requirements for Black mold to start growing:

  • Water/Moisture/Oils
  • Organic Nutrients
  • Darkness
  • Warm Temperatures/Elevated Humidity
  • Time

With all of the above being true, here are some examples of common problem areas to look for these types of issues:

Flooding

Flooding

The first thing that comes to most people’s mind when it comes to a cause of mold growth is experiencing some type of flooding in a home or business and the fact that it could potentially lead to problems. Whenever organic building materials like sheetrock, wood, and/or insulation get wet the possibility for growth is always there. The best thing that you can do to avoid these types of problems is take swift action. Many people try to take on dryout by themselves and end up paying for it later. Since mold can start growing in 24-48 hours air drying will usually not suffice. Professional water damage restoration companies are equipped with industrial dehumidifiers and air movers that can dry out building material in a fraction of the time. If you are looking to save money on this service, you can try to handle the demolitian on your own and remove any saturated materials including but not limited to carpet and drywall.

Condensation

Condensation

This accumulates when humid air comes in contact creating a cold surface. Essentially this is how mold growth can start from humidity problems described in the above situation. It can also cause some of the most common mold growth seen by most people. If you look at window sills or A/C vents you might see some spotty mold growth. The growth that you see is probably not toxic black mold, a non toxic very common mold called Cladosporium. If this is on a non porous surface like tile, marble, plastic, or metal simply clean it off with a mold cleaner found in the store. Unless it is directly on drywall and left untreated for an extended period of time, this is likely not a big deal.

Humidity

Humidity

To put it simply high humidity equals excess moisture in the air. Combine that with the fact that there is a natural amount of mold spores in every home or business and an environment like this has the potential to start colonizing in certain areas. Most specifically dark, poor ventilated areas like closest, cabinets, bathrooms, etc. However, if you do not address humidity problems they can become widespread issues faster than you think. This is the main reason why you’ll see vacant homes like foreclosures have serious mold problems. Keeping your indoor environment controlled with the use of an Air Conditioner is the best thing you can do to prevent these types of problems. Most do not realize that an air conditioner is also a natural dehumidifer and many encounter people problems after leaving it off for an extended period of time. Most mold growth needs over 55% humidity to start growing, making sure you are at or below that level will do wonders.

Ventilation

Ventilation Problems

If there is an area of a home or business that has poor ventilation, it has a higher potential for mold growth. This is especially true when you combine other ingredients like moisture and high humidity. Commonly poorly ventilated areas include bathrooms, garages, closets, attics, and crawlspaces.

Plumbing

Plumbing Issues

Another common cause of mold growth is excess moisture or water damage caused by plumbing issues. These issues can either be very obvious or happen slower than you think and go unnoticed for extended periods of time. It varies so greatly as it could be a pipe burst, slow leak, or failed vapor barrier. Each of these scenarios definitely calls for professional intervention. Due to the fact that plumbing is within walls, we highly recommend an inspector and testing to determine exactly what is going on. It is very possible for plumbing issues to to cause toxic black mold growth.

Roof Window Leaks

Roof and Window Leaks

These types of issues are very similar to the plumbing issues mentioned in the fact that they can be obvious or take some time to spot. How bad one of these issues is entirely dependent on the location and extent of the problem. You might start to notice drywall stains, visible growth, pooling of water or an all out collapse of the building material. Either way it is important that any saturated materials be discarded and/or treated properly immediately to prevent spreading of the problems. Roof leaks offer a unique problem as an attic is not part of the indoor environment, but it can cause problems to the indoor air quality if it is bad enough. A professional should evaluate and take air/surface samples to see where mold remediation work needs to be done, if anywhere.

Basement

Basement and Foundation Problems

Areas of the country where homes have underground basements have another place that is extremely susceptible to mold problems. Heavy rains, foundation cracks, poor draining of water, and sump pump failures can all lead to excess moisture and water intrusion of a basement. If your basement is finished, the chances for toxic black mold growth go up tremendously because the organic building material acts as a food for the fungus to grow and colonize. Other than fixing the source of the water intrusion, the same rules still apply as it would to other areas of the house. Most serious water damage issues in a basement should be handled by a qualified professional.