There are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding mold, or ‘mildew’, as it is commonly referred to by lay people; these terms are interchangeable, and merely describe a visible colony of fungi growing in an environment-they hold no taxonomic significance (Storey et. Al, 2004). There are numerous genera of mold, and 100’s of species within each genus. This presents the following facts surrounding mold which are featured in a publication by the University of Connecticut Health Center titled Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors:
1. ‘Black mold’ is a generic term which is misleading. There are a multitude of molds which have a black coloring, including the Stachybotrys genus, the Chaetomium genus and the Ulocladium genus. When people are concerned with ‘black mold’, however, they are generally referring to Stachybotrys Chartarum species; this particular mold thrives particularly well on cellulose (drywall) and wallpaper.
2. In wet environments, bacteria tend to grow along with mold, which can contribute to the bioaerosols (airborne particles that are biological in origin) being released in the indoor environment, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
3. To thrive, the main variables fungi require are: moisture, nutrition (i.e. food source such as cellulose-drywall), light, oxygen and temperature (ideally, between 59 degrees F and 86 degrees F). The most important factors are moisture and nutrition.
4. The common sources of nutrition which mold feeds on include: dirt, dust, insulation, drywall, wood and paint; generally, most organic sources can be used for nutrition. Hence, often, one will find there are higher levels of mold spores naturally in a dirty residence.
5. Different molds can indicate different issues in a property. Stachybotrys is considered hydrophilic, which suggests it desires a higher moisture content than other genera of mold. Aspergillus and Penicillium are a lot less reliant on heavy moisture, and can grow from condensation issues.
6. Fungi can cause disease in humans and animals, which are classified into four groups:
ii. Allergic or hypersensitivity reactions
iii. Irritant reactions
iv. Toxic reactions
A report from the European Community respiratory health survey noted that patients with asthma are more susceptible to allergic triggers from bioaerosols produced by mold.
7. Various types of allergic dermatitis have been reported due to contact with mold and mold exposure, such as dryness and skin rashes.
Storey, E., Dangman, K., Schenck, P., DeBernardo, R., Yang, C., Bracker, A., Hodgson, M (2004) Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects Related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors. University of Connecticut Health Center. September 30, 2004.
Here are 5 things to know about Stachybotrys, which is commonly referred to as "black mold" or "toxic mold" due to it's mycotoxin production:
1. The mold is generally slimy, which makes it harder to sporulate (reproduce, or spread into the air) compared to other molds. When the Stachybotrys genus is discovered in air samples taken in a property, high spore counts can suggest that this is a longer term mold issue in the property.
2. Mycotoxin poisoning by this fungus is referred to as Stachybotryotoxicosis (Nelson, 2001).
3. The Stachybotrys fungus is most notably found within buildings which have sustained a long term flooding issue, or general water damage from broken piping, roof leaks etc.
4. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the most commonly reported symptoms related to airborne Stachybotrys exposure include: "allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms,) dermatitis (rashes,) sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms are more general, such as inability to concentrate and fatigue. Usually symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed." (FOH, 2017)
5. Exposure can be through ingestion, inhalation and skin exposure.
If you suspect you may be subjected to Stachybotrys in your property, it is advised to contact a professionally licensed microbial expert to properly assess the property.
FOH (2017)What is Stachybotrys atra? (on-line) Federal Occupation Health. https://foh.psc.gov/NYCU/EnvHM.asp
Nelson, B. (2001) Stachybotrys chartarum: The Toxic Indoor Mold. APSnet Features. Online. doi: 10.1094/APSnetFeature-2001-1101
MOLD HEALTH EFFECTS BLOG AND RESEARCH