If you’ve ever asked yourself, what are the dangers of black mold, you should know that black molds are a potential danger to both:
- Your health, and
- The structural integrity of your home.
In order to understand what makes black mold so dangerous, you must first understand what black molds are.
Molds are a member of the Kingdom Fungi, which is an extremely diverse kingdom containing over 1 million species of mushrooms, molds and yeasts. Fungi obtain their nutrients from dead organic matter, which is digested by the release of enzymes into the environment to break down the organic matter, which is then absorbed. Fungi are not classified with plants since they contain no chlorophyll. This lack of chlorophyll accounts for their diversity of color, ranging from white to black. In general, molds are commonly known as a fungus, mildew, black mold, or even toxic mold, but the names themselves typically do not refer to any single species of mold.
So then what is black mold? In the United States, black mold (sometimes referred to as toxic black mold) is a generic term that is used to describe several species of molds (especially Stachybotrys) that produce mycotoxins. A mycotoxin is a toxic chemical byproduct of the mold’s digestion process. As individual black mold spores proliferate into colonies, and the concentration of mycotoxins increases, the risk of danger also increases. Molds, and their mycotoxins, are a danger to both your health and the structural integrity of your home, but the severity of the danger is directly associated with the types of black mold that are present.
Most well known, and most commonly reported in the news, are the dangerous health effects of black molds. The severity of a human’s reaction to mold exposure is dependant upon:
- The type of mold (the specific species),
- The dose (actual concentration of mycotoxin)
- The route of entry into the body (inhalation, ingestion or contact).
Health risks can include allergic reactions (ranging from simple coughing and sneezing to chronic conditions such as sinusitis and asthma) and irritations (ranging from skin rashes to irritations of the central nervous system – leading to dizziness and/or headaches). Reactions will also vary with the sensitivity of the person exposed, young children, the elderly, and other immune compromised persons are at the highest risk.
In the home, high concentrations of mold can lead to not only cosmetic, but serious structural damage. The reason that mold is so dangerous to your home is that they obtain their nutrients by consuming organic materials. Unfortunately, your entire home is built from, and contains, a wide array of organic materials, such as:
- and much more.
When the appropriate combination of temperature, humidity and light exist in the presence of organic nutrients, mold spores will begin to rapidly germinate and reproduce. As the mold colony expands, it requires more nutrients to continue to thrive and the longer the mold is left unchecked, the more damage it is capable of causing.
One of the keys to preventing extensive damage is to prevent any black mold colonies that do happen to form, from expanding. This may require you to inspect hidden areas (such as crawl spaces and attics) for moisture, or install ventilation However, this short inspection time can potentially save you thousands in cosmetic and/or structural repairs.
Black molds, and the mycotoxins they produce, represent a danger to both your health and the structural integrity of your home, but by knowing the conditions that molds thrive in, and how to prevent them, you can make your home safer and healthier.