The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) categorizes mold as being under a substandard living condition. As stated by the CDPH,
"CDPH has concluded that the presence of water damage, dampness, visible mold, or mold odor in schools, workplaces, residences, and other indoor environments is unhealthy."
Therefore, once mold has been documented and mold is registered via an inspection and relevant testing, it is paramount that remediation and restoration is performed in the pertinent property to ensure it is restored to an appropriate standard. The CDPH further added that,
"Beginning Jan 1, 2016, the presence of visible mold will be added to the list of conditions in the California Housing Code, already including dampness of habitable rooms, that make housing substandard (Cal. Health & Safety Code §17920.3)".
If you believe there is potentially mold in your property, or residual or active moisture from a current leak or previous leak, it is recommended reaching out to a local mold inspector, environmental health inspector or industrial hygienist to assess the area(s) of concern.
Often, clients will express concern over various stains in a property, but will be unsure of the nature of the stain or if it is some type of mold growth.
This is where experience becomes paramount. Mold inspectors can typically deduce if the growth in question is a concern (based on how three dimensional it is, the color and the shape of growth), which would then segue into mold testing to see if there are toxic properties present, as well as if the mold is reproducing into the air.
The following considerations should be taken into account with potential mold growth:
1. Are the conditions conducive to mold growth? Mold requires nutrients (such as drywall), moisture and the right temperature to grow.
2. Is an odor present? When molds metabolize materials, they can produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is what people generally report as being a musty odor in the property.
3. Are there visible signs of mold growth? Mycelia or mold growth can be present in a plethora of colors, not just black and green as most people believe. These colors could include a blueish green, green yellow, black, brown, orange and white. Water stains can also indicate potential mold growth (such as in a wall cavity) since this indicates an ideal environment for mold.
4. Structural damage. This could include peeling of wallpaper or floor swelling, since this can indicate a moisture problem.
Finally, sometimes there may be efflorescence, which is the white/chalky calcium deposit left by water (such as in a crawlspace or one bricks), this can be distinguished from mold due to the chalky texture.
If you are unsure about potential growth, it is always best to check with a certified mold inspector to confirm whether or not there is further concern in your property.
When reviewing details about Stachybotrys Chartarum, which is, in layman's terms, referred to as 'black mold', it is integral to cite information from reputable sources; such as academic journals and peer reviewed writings. Here three interesting points about Stachybotrys Chartarum from the Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents:
Beasley, V., & Haschek, W. (2009) Trichothecene Mycotoxins (on-line) Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents.
The following two points are derived from Clinical Microbiology Reviews:
Ghannoum, M., Kuhn, D. (2003) Indoor Mold, Toxigenic Fungi, and Stachybotrys chartarum: Infectious Disease Perspective. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 16(1): 144–172.
Disclaimer: Content on this website should not be considered medical advice, and is not being published by a medical professional.
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
Often, clients will posit the following question: can all of the mold in my home be eradicated?
The answer to this question, in short, is no.
Mold exists all around us in the outdoor environment, and inevitably in our indoor environments due to the oscillation and transference of air due to foot-traffic, open windows, etc. Outdoor mold is generally good, since mold breaks down and feeds on decaying, dead organic matter. This is vital to how nature works in relation to decomposition. Decomposition aids farmers, preserves the health of forests and also, most famously, aids in the process of biofuels.
After decomposition, carbon is released, which is the basis of life since living organisms capture this carbon and build new life; this is often referred to as the carbon cycle.
The reasons mentioned above are why outdoor molds are considered 'good'. When interpreting lab data, inspectors and microbiologists compare the potentially contaminated indoor air sample with the outdoor control sample to see if there is an issue in the property. When analyzing the data, discrepancies are registered. For example, if there are 5,000 spores m/3 of Cladosporium outdoors, and 4,000 spores m/3 indoors, then we can deduce that there isn't a mold issue in the property since the source is obviously the outside air.
Conversely, if there are 1,200 spores m/3 of Stachybotrys indoors (also referred to as 'black mold', even though there are numerous 'black molds'), but no spores outdoors, then we know that there is an indoor source for the mold and we have a mold issue within the property.
This isn't to say that outdoor molds can't cause an issue; they can in certain circumstances (in very high counts). People have reported the same side effects as we generally allergies to pollen.
Indoor molds, at high levels, is of concern since it usually suggests an indoor source (i.e. roof leak, high humidity, window condensation, slab leak, pinhole leak etc.). The reason one should be concerned with an indoor mold, even if it's a typical outdoor mold, is because if it's present in the indoor air at exponentially high levels, then it suggests that the outdoor air entering the property is actually reproducing inside and has found a moisture source to thrive in.
It is also of concern due to the concentrated health effects people report when exposed, the structural diminishing of a property, compromising the aesthetics of the structure, as well as rotting wood.
MOLD HEALTH EFFECTS BLOG AND RESEARCH