Black Mold - What You Should Know About It
- By: Kelsey Libby
What is a black mold?
The terms "black mold" and "toxic mold" are alternate ways of referring to a genus of fungus called Stachybotrys the majority of whose species are black in color. Additionally, a number of these species produce fungal toxins or mycotoxins which can cause illness and even death in animals and men. Hence the terms mentioned above.
However, it should be noted that besides Stachybotris, there are other genera of fungi which are likewise colored black and capable of producing byproducts that are toxic. Bit, in general when you hear mention of "black mold" or "toxic mold," reference is implied to the most notoriously harmful species of Stachybotrys; S. chartarum. It is also known as S. alternans or S. atra.
Physical properties and habitat
This species is typically greenish black in color. It is smaller and comparatively scarcer than other types of fungus. It is found all over the world, normally thriving on surfaces that are wet and rich in cellulose. Cellulose, by the way, is the connective tissue that holds biological tissues together. Cellulose is used for many products that we see around us.
In the outdoors, Stachybotris may be found on tree stumps and dead logs. They proliferate, along with other molds during the months after summer and reach peak populations towards the end of autumn. These are the months when people who have developed allergies to them experience acute attacks.
Indoors, you will find "toxic mold" colonies wherever you have structures that have cellulose components and which retain moisture, or places that are frequently exposed to water. Typically, the ceilings of houses and the wall panels are their favorite locations. Floors which are frequently wet either because of the seepage of moisture from the ground or by frequent contact with water are also conducive to the growth of "toxic mold." For that matter, under conditions that are favorable to them, these molds will thrive on anything that has a cellulose component, such as rayon, cotton or linen fabrics, celluloid films, objects made of paper or cardboard, leatherette upholstery and the kraft paper portion of insulation materials among many others.
The toxic spores
Stachybotrys is an asexual organism which produces spores in order to propagate its species. Houses that have colonies of "black mold" hidden behind the wood panels and under the floors are likely to be polluted by millions of spores floating in the air. These spores may be inhaled by humans and their pets.
Symptoms of toxicity
If spores are present in sufficient concentration and inhaled for a long time, "black molds" can cause a number of ill effects on the health. These include fatigue, headaches and irritation in the various mucosal linings of the body. This can lead to coughing, sneezing, inflamed eyes and skin. In extreme cases, bleeding may occur in the mucosal membranes. This can lead to hemorrhage in the lungs, a condition that can be fatal to the person affected, dependent on his physical constitution and age.
Because of all those deleterious effects of "black mold," houses need to be checked periodically for their presence. In order to this effectively, the wooden panels of the ceilings and walls will need to be dismantled. Testing kits are used to test for the presence of "toxic molds." In the event the results of the test are positive, measures are taken to eradicate the fungus.
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