Toxic mold will soon be a household phrase. Insurance companies are under siege with claims from homeowners who say this mold is making them sick, and it could cost billions to clean it up.
Recently a jury awarded a Texas family $32 million when they claimed mold in their home caused them to have neurological problems.
Most people would never think mold could kill — but it can — and it has.
An intruder has taken over Lynn Slim’s home. Her bedroom is quarantined because a deadly strain of mold moved in forcing the Slims to move out. Slim says, “It was black gook. It was nasty”.
Air tests revealed dangerous levels of stachybotrys– a neurotoxin so feared, it was used by the soviets in biological weapons. This toxic mold has been linked to everything from nose bleeds to memory loss and even death. Experts believe stachybotrys killed 9 out of 16 infants exposed in Ohio.
Zachary Bacchus, 9, of Boca Raton, recently learned he’s allergic to just about every mold. Zachary’s had problems breathing that were the result of a leak in his bedroom that caused mold to grow on the walls. His mother Dianne said, “We had mold growing up to about here from the ground to about here on the wall it was black and heavy and thick it was bad”.
Dr. Neil Gershman, an allergist with Coral Springs Medical Center says people who suffer from asthma are most vulnerable, but while some mold strains can cause allergies, cancer and even death Dr. Gershman isn’t buying into the toxic mold hysteria. “At this point we’re not really sure that this toxic mold phenomenon is a real thing.”
Home inspectors like Weston’s Ed Blair are required to inform homebuyers of mold problems. He finds mold growing anywhere there is water — typically in the bathroom, under the kitchen sink or in garbage cans.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mold
Q. Are toxic molds a serious health risk?
A. The hazards presented by molds that contain mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. There are very few case reports that toxic molds (those containing certain mycotoxins) inside homes can cause unique or rare, health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxic mold and these conditions has not been proven.
A common-sense approach should be used for any mold contamination existing inside buildings and homes. The common health concerns from molds include hay-fever like allergic symptoms. Certain individuals with chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression may be at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. For the most part, one should take routine measures to prevent mold growth in the home.
Q. How common is mold, including Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) in buildings?
A. Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture. The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria. We do not have accurate information about how often Stachybotrys chartarum is found in buildings and homes. While it is less common than other mold species it is not rare.
Q. How do molds get in the indoor environment and how do they grow?
Molds naturally grow in the indoor environment. Mold spores may also enter your house through open doorways, windows, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to people and animals, making clothing, shoes, bags, and pets convenient vehicles for carrying mold indoors.
When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery, commonly support mold growth.
Q. What is Stachybotrys chartarum (stachybotrys atra)?
A. Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.
Q. Are there any circumstances where people should vacate a home or other building because of mold?
A. These decisions have to be made individually. If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in a building, you should consult your physician to determine the appropriate action to take.
Q. Who are the people who are most at risk for health problems associated with exposure to mold?
A. People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections.
Q. How do you know if you have a mold problem?
A. Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled. In most cases people get sick before that with flu like symptoms before the mold can be seen, except when the mold is growing outside of the walls. or fiberboard.
Q. What are the potential health effects of mold in buildings and homes?
A. Mold exposure does not always present a health problem indoors. However some people are sensitive to molds. These people may experience symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, or wheezing when exposed to molds. Some people may have more severe reactions to molds. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. People with chronic illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
Q. What should people to do if they determine they have Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) in their buildings or homes?
A. Mold growing in homes and buildings, whether it is Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or other molds, indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture. This is the first problem that needs to be addressed.
Q. Mold under carpets typically requires that the carpets be removed. Once mold starts to grow in insulation or wallboard the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement.
A. According to experts, you don’t need to take any different precautions with Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), than with other molds. Bleach rarely kills all mold. This is a common misconception. Besides, when applying bleach, it sets off millions of mycotoxins that can be very dangerous to your health. Moldy items should be discarded immediately.