Molds are of many types, and they can grow on a variety of substrates including paper, fabrics and leather. Stachybotrys atra (also known as S. chartarum and S. alternans) is a toxic black mold often found growing on walls and roofs of homes that can cause severe neurological symptoms in those exposed to it. Depending on the amount of humidity, toxic black mold may be soft and furry or dry and flaky.
How does it grow?
Mold grows and spreads by sending out thin filaments called mycelium. When mature, they develop fruiting bodies full of spores that burst open to release thousands of mold spores into the air. When the spores fall on a suitable surface, they start to grow and spread. Molds usually appear during cold and rainy weather. Indoor humidity above 60% also encourages the growth of mold.
Why is indoor mold unhealthy?
Mold growing indoors can cause symptoms of mold allergies when it releases large amounts of spores into the air. Spores produce toxic chemical compounds known as mycotoxins. The trichothecenes produced by Stachybotrys can cause symptoms mold toxicity such as headaches, skin rashes, fatigue and depression. While black mold is one of the most toxic, indoor mold of any kind can produce symptoms of mold sickness.
How does it get inside?
The spores of mold are present everywhere. They are too small to be seen. They enter your house through circulating air. When you breathe in air, some of them may enter your respiratory tract too. In outside air, the concentration of spores is too low to give you any trouble even if you breathe in a few spores. But they can become unwelcome guests in your house when they get inside and start establishing themselves or find a damp spot.
Protection is better than cure!
Once established, mold is difficult to get rid of. Following a few preventive measures can go a long way in protecting yourself and your home from toxic mold exposure.
Keep your home dry
Since humidity is the number one reason for indoor mold growth, keeping the house dry and well ventilated can be a major step towards prevention.
Maintain your HVAC system
When maintained properly, the air conditioning system can filter out almost 90% of spores, reducing the risk of mold infestation.
Conduct remediation work without delay
If there has been any water intrusion in your home either due to leakage or flooding, remediation work should be started immediately. Mold can grow in just three days! Wall panels and carpets should be thoroughly dried before mold gets a chance to take root.
If mold is detected in your home, remediation work should be thorough. Partially destroyed mold is more dangerous than mold left alone. When it grows in the presence of water, mold is often a thin, wet film. But when threatened, mold becomes defensive and releases higher amounts of mycotoxins and quickly forms large quantities of spores. For example, the slimy black mold Stachybotrys becomes a cloud of toxic black dust as it dries. The HVAC system will spread this all over the house where all the residents will inhale the toxic spores and begin to present symptoms of mold exposure. So it is essential to extinguish all traces of mold from the house during the remediation.