How to avoid health effects of black mold
When Porter’s Cleaning staff clean up a mold infestation, we may recommend that the residents vacate their home while we do our job. This is especially the case if the home is badly infested with black mold (or, to use its proper name, stachybotrys chartarum). This is a slow-growing, greenish black mold. Here is what is known about the health effects of black mold.
Where does black mold grow?
Like other molds, black mold likes damp conditions with a readily available food source. It mostly grows on fiberboard, paper, wood and cotton. The most common places you may find black mold is in kitchens, bathrooms and basements, or other areas of the home which have suffered from water damage, excessive humidity, flooding, or condensation.
What health problems are associated with black mold?
In 2004, the Institute of Medicine found insufficient evidence to link exposure to black mold with many of the respiratory health issues suffered by healthy people. However, other studies have shown links between ill health and black mold, especially in children who may be susceptible to conditions such as asthma.
What is known is that black mold produces mycotoxins, and the symptoms that these produce include:
- Dry eyes and impairment to vision
- Memory loss
- Joint pain
- Respiratory problems
In severe cases, symptoms may progress to internal organ damage and pulmonary hemorrhage. Extensive reviews of research and data was conducted by the World Health organization and published in its WHO Guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mold in 2009.
Do all people exposed to black mold suffer the same symptoms?
The answer to this question is no, and this is one reason why it has been so difficult for a clear link between black mold and health issues to be made. It appears to depend on:
- Health history
- Current health issues
- Length of exposure to black mold
In general, though, it appears that those with existing conditions or weaker immune systems are likely to be worse affected, as are young children and the elderly.
How do you know that you have a black mold problem?
Black mold isn’t always visible. However, if your home suffers from a musty, earthy smell, it is possible that black mold is lurking in it somewhere. Once the infestation is large enough, it will often start to grow where it can be seen, and can then spread more rapidly. So, generally speaking, smell comes first.
So, can black mold kill?
While black mold may be the cause of many symptoms of poor health (and is likely to be a factor in poor health), we don’t know of a single case where black mold has been attributed as the cause of death. However, we believe that the best action is to treat black mold with caution. This may include vacating your property if the black mold infestation is extensive. It is better to be safe than sorry, and if it’s possible illness can be avoided then it seems sensible to take sensible precautions.
How do you remove black mold?
If you believe you may have a black mold problem in your home, it is best to deal with it quickly. Because cleaning any type of mold can release spores into the atmosphere, it is best to leave cleaning black mold to the professionals – and to act in accordance with their recommendations.
Cleaning black mold from a home is only the start, though. Unless the cause is found and dealt with – perhaps a leaking water pipe, or excess humidity – then black mold is likely to keep returning.
The good news is that if you are suffering from health symptoms caused by black mold, once the black mold has been removed and the cause eliminated, your symptoms should improve.
The key takeaways are:
- Various health symptoms may be caused by black mold
- Those most at risk are the young, the elderly, and those with existing health issues
- Those with respiratory conditions should be extra cautious
- Because of possible effects to health, black mold removal should be carried out by professionals
If you have a black mold infestation in NJ, or are unsure of the type of mold and how best to remove it, contact Porter’s Cleaning.