Which Molds Produce Mycotoxins
Molds are everywhere in our environment. No one knows how many varieties there are, however estimates range from tens of thousands to more than 300,000. Most types of molds dont cause adverse health effects, while others the toxic molds give off the mycotoxins that can be very dangerous.
Some molds, like the ones used to make certain cheeses, are edible. Others that grow on a wide array of foodstuffs including bread, soy, corn, dried fruit, coffee, peanuts, and many others can either be harmless or give off mycotoxins, depending on the type. Below is a chart of the most common types of toxic molds found in homes and the mycotoxins they produce.
How Common Is Mold In Buildings
Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus. We do not have precise information about how often different molds are found in buildings and homes.
What Is Black Mold
Black mold is the common name for a certain type of mold called Stachybotrys, which is thought to be particularly harmful to a persons health.
Many of us have heard of the dangers of toxic black mold and may worry about black mold poisoning, but the truth is that black mold is a much more manageable problem than you might expect.
When you understand what youre dealing with, you can make informed choices to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Were here to cut through the mess and help you understand what having black mold in your home may mean, and give you some tips on how to fix the problem yourself and save big money in the process.
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How To Tell If Mold Is Toxic
Mold is a nasty problem to deal with for any home or business-owner. In the wake of a disaster such as a storm, its possible for mold to start growing in as quickly as 1-2 days. Whats even more alarming is when that mold turns out to be toxic, posing a serious risk to you and anyone else on your property.
To clarify, its not that the mold you are dealing with in and of itself is toxic. Its that certain strains of mold, like the notorious Stachybotrys chartarummore commonly known as black moldproduce mycotoxins. Its these mycotoxins which may cause a burning sensation in the throat and lungs, chest pain, persistent coughing, fever, rashes, and migraines. Prolonged exposure to Stachybotrys may lead to serious health issues, including breathing problems, fatigue, sinusitis and other pain in the sinus cavities, and even depression.
How to tell if you may be dealing with toxic mold in your home:
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Common areas to test for black mold are basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms and kitchens where moisture and condensation may gather regularly. A water source is the first requirement for mold growth, so any damp, humid areas of the home are often susceptible.
Sight and smell may give you a good indication of whether or not you have a black mold problem black mold tends to have a strong, musty smell, and of course it displays a trademark black color. If you believe you have black mold growth in an area of your home after these initial inspections, you have two options: professional mold testing or do-it-yourself testing.
Professional mold testing companies will take samples of the air and any areas of mold growth, identify precisely what type of mold is present, and recommend next steps for remediation.
If you go the DIY route while testing for black mold, you will need to purchase a mold testing kit from a hardware or home repair store, take samples of the air and affected areas yourself, and then send these in to a testing facility, which will report back as to which type of mold is present.
Black mold can be an expensive and potentially unhealthy problem for homeowners, but by testing for black mold, you can know for sure if you’ll need to take steps to eradicate black mold from your home.
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Where Is Mold Found In A Home
A research study found that Stachybotrys preferred a very high relative humidity within wallsapproximately 97%which indicates that relative humidity could be an important risk factor . For black mold, you may consider smaller microclimates that may harbor such humidity levels: sweating pipes, under sink cabinets, front loading washing machines, standing water, roof leaks, damp cars, windows with condensation, etc. Generally, common places to check for mold growth include the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room.
However, humidity alone is not the only requirement for mold growthmold requires nutrients to grow. Any environment that has nutrients like cellulose or other organic matter can harbor mold if the humidity level is right. To further enable mold growth, an environment that has poor air flow and minimal disruption is ideal. For example, you can find mold on wallpaper, furniture, drywall, overly-packed bookshelves or overstuffed closets.
Is Your Home Mold Toxic
Mold loves moisture. Flooding poses a significant risk for mold growth. Landscaping that slopes toward a building instead of away from it encourages water intrusion.
Something as common as a leaky roof, faucet, or dishwasher also invites mold growth. Damp basements and window condensation can also be a haven for mold.
But, how do you know for sure if you have a mold problem?
Often, you can see or smell mold but not always. You may also see areas that have visible water damage. This is a red flag for possible mold growth.
If you suspect you have a mold problem, you can start with a few simple tests yourself. Certified mold inspectors are also available but vary in quality. Heres a closer look at these options:
Regardless of how you identify a mold problem, getting rid of it is essential for your health.
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How Fast Does Black Mold Spread
Mold begins to grow as soon as its spores land on a damp, fibre-rich material and it can spread around the house within 24 to 48 hours. It colonizes in one to twelve days and grows at one square inch per day. In less than a week, it can cover surface areas of several square feet.
Unfortunately in most cases, mold is widespread and already a big problem before a problem is even suspected by the homeowners.
Signs And Symptoms Of Black Mold Poisoning
Black mold exposure may often present with your typical allergic complaints that are listed above. However, one must be mindful that other non-allergic, mold-related illnesses exist and may present similarly to a mold allergy, but often with more seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Research has found that people who have been exposed to mixed mold, mold spores and mycotoxins have experienced neurological and behavioral symptoms. These symptoms have been corroborated by other studies like Gordon et al. and Rea et al. .
Such non-allergic symptoms to mold may include, but are not limited to:
- Cognitive impairment
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Symptoms Of Mycotoxin Exposure
Now, I want to point out that mycotoxin poisoning is not the same as having an allergic reaction to mold exposure. People with a mold allergy tend to get typical hay fever or allergy symptoms such as runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy eyes, or sinus infections when the mold count in their environment is high. And remember, the vast majority of these molds are not toxic molds that produce mycotoxins.
Who Is At Risk Of Mold Sickness
Mold exposure can affect anyone, even if there are no immediate symptoms. Some types of mold release substances called mycotoxins that can harm your health in the long run.
However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of mold, including:
- Young children
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Signs You Might Have Toxic Mold In Your Home
Seeing mold growing on an old piece of bread is creepy enough, but mold in the home is something next level. It might not be a problem you think about regularly, but if you feel like you have some weird health issues, you might be exhibiting some signs that you have toxic mold in your home. Since mold isn’t always visible or easy to spot, it’s important to know what to look out for so you can take care of any issues if you have some â you don’t want your health to suffer just because your house looks clean enough.
“Although toxic mold can bring on the most serious health problems, all mold and mildew can cause health issues â especially for those who suffer from allergies,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, over email. “An important thing to consider: Do you feel bad at home or at work, but feel better when you leave? Itâs very likely a mold or indoor air quality issue.”
If you suspect you have mold in your home, look out for these seven telltale signs. These signs can help you identify a potential problem, but if you feel that mold has made its way in, schedule a test. An independent testing company will provide you with an unbiased assessment of the situation, determine what type of mold is growing in your home, and determine the proper course of action to remove it.
What To Do If Your Home Is Mold
First, you need to identify the source of water intrusion and fix it. A leaky roof or pipe will only create more issues after mold remediation.
Fixing an extensive mold problem is best left to professionals. When you disturb-mold infested materials, the spores and toxins spread like dandelion seeds in the wind. Attempting to tackle it yourself could make a bad problem much worse.
When looking for a professional mold remediator, some of the questions you should ask are:
- Are you certified in mold remediation? Examples of major certifying groups are the American Council for Accredited Certification and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification .
- How do you document your work? This should include photos of damaged areas. The company should also provide an itemized cost estimate before starting.
- How do you contain mold-contaminated areas? This generally includes using thick plastic sheeting to seal off the moldy area. Remediators also use indoor air scrubbers with high-efficiency particulate air filters. These should be vented to the outdoors.
- How do you clean your equipment? Besides air scrubbers, remediators also use HEPA vacuums. Ask what measures they take to avoid contaminating your house with their equipment. Do they change HEPA filters between jobs and sanitize their equipment?
- How do you dispose of moldy material? The moldy debris should be double-bagged before removing it from the building.
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Environmental Testing For Mold And Mycotoxins
If you live alone and test positive for mycotoxin poisoning, there are some tests you can run on your home to help verify whether it is your house or your workplace that is the source of toxic mold. Some of these tests are more accurate than others in determining the presence of mycotoxins and its best to have all of your environments tested including your workplace or school.
It can be very difficult to convince others to permit environmental testing for toxic mold, so you may need to skip that. As Ive said many times, we must concentrate on what we can control, which is usually our home environment.
Learn About Toxic Mold
In recent years, mold and so-called “toxic mold” have become the subject of mounting health concerns as well as numerous lawsuits. Because the scientific explanations of mold are both complex and technical, numerous misconceptions have crept into the popular perception of toxic mold and its dangers. These misconceptions only add to the widespread fear of mold at home, in schools, in the workplace, and elsewhere. And coverage in the media and on many websites has often been misleading or inaccurate.
This article is a primer on what we know and don’t yet know about mold. Separating fact from fiction may help if you’ve discovered mold in your home or think you may be suffering from mold-related health problems.
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Do I Need Professional Testing
In short, usually not! Because, remember the saying: no mold, no matter what color, belongs in a healthy home. And that is good news because a professional mold inspection with testing can run anywhere from $300-$750. In most cases where mold is clearly visible, knowing exactly what type of mold you have is unnecessary. We advise most of our clients to forgo the inspection process and just apply that money saved to the cost of fixing the problem. The EPA agrees that mold testing isnt necessary in most cases.
There are exceptions, however, such as when a mold inspection with testing is required as part of a real estate sale or if you require proof that a mold problem is present, such as for a legal dispute. If you think you may have a mold problem, but arent sure, then we recommend formal testing from a professional. And if you require clearance testing to verify an all clear after a mold problem is fixed, then professional mold testing is necessary.
How Do Doctors Test For Mold Exposure
If you are aware of mold growth in your home and you feel sick let the doctor know that right away. But sometimes you cant see mold, and it is not clear whether its mold exposure thats made you sick or not.
Because mold allergy or mold exposure symptoms can resemble that of other allergies, the doctor will typically start by asking about your medical and family medical history. Additionally, doctors usually run tests for mold exposure which may include one or more of the following:
- Skin test for reactions to allergens, including mold
- IgG mold antibodies test to see the immune systems reaction to molds. A positive test means that an individual was or is currently exposed to mold
- Urine mycotoxins test
- A fungal culture of the nose sinuses
The type of testing youll receive depends on the doctor you visit, so be sure to ask questions ahead of time so you can feel confident in your diagnosis.
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Sometimes Action Not Knowledge Is Power
While all of this information is interesting, it may not be particularly useful to the average homeowner in common mold situations. If you find mold in your home, there is probably no need to run screaming from the house and head directly to the emergency room. On the other hand, you shouldnt let an infant, elderly person, or someone with respiratory problems spend time in a room or area where mold has been identified. If you dont see or smell any mold, but have household members develop some type of inexplicable respiratory problem, well, then, its time to go see your doctor. Of course, you should always have a mold problem immediately dealt with, if not for the health of your household, then the health of your home. Mold can eat away at building materials, including insulation and support structures.
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Your Skin Is Tingling
If youre allergic to mycotoxins, youll experience tingling, itching, or burning sensations when you come into contact with the mold. Your body is reacting by releasing histamines, and the result can be dry, itchy, and scaly skin you could get hives. If the condition persists, see an allergist and look into ways to locate and eradicate the growth. Here are some more hidden dangers in your home you should never ignore.
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How Are Mold Allergies And Exposure Diagnosed
There are no proven tests that show when or where you may have been exposed to mold.
But your doctor may check for mold allergies by reviewing your symptoms and performing one of the following tests:
- Blood test. Your doctor takes a blood sample and then sends it to a laboratory to measure the number of certain antibodies, which can indicate your immune systems sensitivity to different mold species.
- Skin prick test. Your doctor takes a small amount of mold and applies it to your skin using a tiny needle. Your skin will break out in bumps, a rash, or hives if youre allergic to that type of mold.
What About Tiny Mold Toxins Aka Mycotoxins
As mentioned above, though the Stachybotrys spores may be sticky and not easily airborne, there are other airborne contaminants to worry about: tiny fragments of mold and special toxins called mycotoxins. These contaminants may cause illness in those who are exposed, with mycotoxins being the most concerning.
You can think about mycotoxins as the molds defense: they are used for protection from environmental threats. Mycotoxins are minute organic compounds as small as 0.03 microns. These tiny molecules can stick to particles already floating through the air. Studies have found Stachybotrys mycotoxins on mold fragments that have broken off from a mold colony after it has been disturbed . This can be harmfulairborne particles less than 1.0 microns are easily breathed into the respiratory system, where they can cause irritation and potential allergic reactions. If this occurs, mycotoxins could accumulate onto local tissue and ultimately enter the bloodstream. The study by Brasel cited above showed that trichothecenes could be measured in the blood of people exposed to an indoor environment that had Stachybotrys.
Stachybotrys creates a class of mycotoxins referred to as trichothecenes. Trichothecenes have been widely studied and have been proven to be detrimental to the health of humans, animals and plants. In fact, trichothecenes have been investigated for the purpose of biological warfare needless to say, they are not something to which you want to be exposed.
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