Black Mold - What It Is, How It Affects Us, and What to Do About It
- By: Kelsey Libby
Black mold is also known as mildew or toxic mold. It is actually a type of fungi that grows on damp surfaces. Like most kinds of fungus, it relies on humidity and moisture in order for it to grow. It is greenish-black in color and may appear slimy. Constant exposure to water encourages this fungus to grow. Hence, wooden panels, floors and ceilings are more susceptible to fungal growth. Although it is more commonly found on clothes, upholstery, walls and carpeted floors, mold may also grow inside electronic equipment like vacuum cleaner and air conditioners.
Black mold spreads easily, as they can attach themselves to almost anything. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the signs of fungal growth before they cause further damage. Damp surfaces are very conducive to fungal growth. Walls, wood and fabrics that are in constant contact with water should be monitored for mold. A musty odor is a telltale sign of fungal growth. Observe for other signs of mildew growth if you notice any musty odor near damp areas. Greenish, yellowish or brownish patches of moisture on wall panels would probably lead to mold growth if left untreated. Full-grown black mold is slimy and shiny, and may smear when touched.
Some respiratory ailments are triggered by black mold. Inhaling particles of these fungi can cause allergies and other respiratory problems. Aside from triggering allergies and asthma attacks, it also causes poisoning. Excessive mold growth leads to the production of volatile organic compounds or VOC's, which can be fatal when inhaled. VOC's are released during the process of mold formation. This dangerous fungus survives by feeding on the surfaces it clings to. This degradation results to the formation of volatile organic compounds. Once VOC's are released into the air and are inhaled by humans, they attack the central nervous system and irritate the mucous membranes.
Black mold poisoning is characterized by headaches, muscle cramps, abdominal pain and fatigue. Its symptoms are vague, which is why the poisoning is often mistaken as another sickness. Early detection is necessary to prevent further complications. It wouldn't hurt to consult a doctor if you experience any of these additional symptoms.
- Red or irritated eyes
- Diarrhea or abdominal cramps
- Dizziness, confusion, memory loss or lack of concentration
- Chest pain or difficulty in breathing
- Rashes, asthma and other allergic reactions
- Erratic blood pressure
- Urinary tract problems
Controlling the growth of mold is your best defense against its poisoning. Fungus thrives better in moist places. You may have to dehumidify your home if it has excessively damp air. Mold can grow on wooden panels that are always drenched in water. Check your house for water leakages and faulty pipes. Be sure to have these repaired as soon as possible. Air filters inside vacuum cleaners and air conditioners should be checked regularly for black mold growth. Replace them if necessary. Bathroom floors and walls should be cleaned on a regular basis, as they are always in contact with water.
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