What You Need To Know About “Black Mold”

The color of mold alone is not an indication of toxicity. The toxic “black mold” has been publicized frequently, however, you should not always believe what you hear on the news. Stachybotrys is the type of mold they are referring to with the term “black mold”. The media explains that this mold is deadly and while it can cause health risks for certain people, there are many other types of mold that can cause similar side effects.

black mold in petri dish

The term “toxic black mold” was popularized by news reports in New York who were referring to an outbreak of a medical condition found in several children from a small neighborhood.

Stachybotrys is the type of mold that most people refer to when they say “black mold”. Mold can come in many colors. When it comes to mold color and toxicity are not related. When a homeowner sees mold that is black in color they immediately assume they now have “black mold”. This is not always the case. It is important to know that the longer the mold has been growing on a surface the more dangerous for your health it will get over time.

Three Stages of Mold Growth

Penicillium and Aspergillus are common first-stage molds that can begin to grow within 24 hours of the introduction of moisture to a nutrient base.

These two molds are some of the most common molds found in the world. Aspergillus is a first-stage mold and ranges in color from green to black.

mold on ceiling

If moisture is sufficient, secondary molds are likely to appear, including Cladosporium, Alternaria and some varieties of Aspergillus.

Over time with continued ample moisture, the tertiary molds develop such as Stachybotrys and Chaetomium.

All molds can trigger allergic reactions and sinusitis. As well, all molds can trigger asthma attacks.

Is Mold Toxic?

mold symptoms

First, the term “toxic mold” is not accurate because mold itself is not toxic or poisonous; although, certain molds can be toxigenic, meaning that they produce toxins called mycotoxins.

It is the mycotoxins of Stachybotrys that are believed to be the key to this mold’s toxicity to humans, and the theory makes sense, though as we said it’s unproven. Stachybotrys produces trichothecenes, which are suspected of being able to cause bleeding in the lungs. It also emits an enzyme which digests protein (a protease), which some research suggests may combine with trichothecenes to wreak even more lung havoc.

Mycotoxins are believed to be part of the coating on mold spores, meaning that in the case of Stachybotrys the spores need to become airborne in the living space for people to inhale them, before they can be affected by toxins.

Earlier we mentioned that stachybotrys is slow to grow. That’s because it is what’s known as a “tertiary” mold, meaning that it arrives as the third stage of mold growth in an ongoing infestation. It requires a stable, very moist environment with the right food in order to thrive.

Many molds produce mycotoxins, whose purpose is primarily self-defense. Penicillin, for example, is a mycotoxin from the penicillium chrysogenum fungus. It’s a powerful antibiotic, because bacteria are molds’ chief competitors for food. Take a petri dish with a thriving bacteria culture in it, drop it in the right species of Penicillium, and the bacterial culture will die off in a circle around the fungus.

Aflatoxin B1, a known carcinogen, is a product of Aspergillus flavus, which grows commonly on stored nuts, grains and peanut butter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this to say about toxic mold:

“Certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (mycotoxins), but the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous. Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house or workplace. Contradicting research results exist regarding whether toxigenic mold found indoors causes unique or rare health conditions such as bleeding in the lungs. Research is ongoing in this area. Mold growing is buildings, whether is it stachybotrys chartarum (stachybotrys atra) or another mold, indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture. This is the first problem that needs to be addressed.”


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