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How can Stachybotrys chartarum affect your health?

Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low; however, as with other types of mold, at higher levels health effects can occur. These include allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms), dermatitis (rashes), sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms are more general – such as inability to concentrate and fatigue. Usually, symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed.

There has been some evidence linking Stachybotrys with pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants who are generally less than six months old. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon condition that results from bleeding in the lungs. In studied cases of pulmonary hemosiderosis, the exposure to Stachybotrys came from highly contaminated dwellings, where the infants were continuously exposed over a long period of time.

How does mold grow?

All molds need water to grow. Mold can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. Most often, molds are confined to areas near the source of water. Removing the source of moisture through repairs or dehumidification – is critical to preventing mold growth.

How can you tell if Stachybotrys chartarum is present in your home?

Many molds are black in appearance but are not Stachybotrys. For example, the black mold commonly found between bathroom tiles is not Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys can be positively identified only by specially trained professionals (e.g., mycologists) through a microscopic exam.

How does mold become a problem?

All mold needs in order to grow is a food source and an appropriate climate. Oxygen-rich environments with either standing liquids or humidity over 70% are optimal for mold growth. Many fungi grow well at temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which are also ideal temperatures for human comfort. Mold becomes a problem to a property once a structure gets wet. If the structure is not dried out properly, mold spores can germinate and destroy anything it grows on. Mold becomes a problem to your health when it comes in contact with your skin and/or is breathed in.

What should you do if mold is present in your home or apartment?

Although any visible mold can be sampled by an environmental consultant and/or analyzed by a laboratory specializing in microbiology, these tests can be very expensive – from hundreds to thousands of dollars. There is no simple and cheap way to sample the air in your home to find out what types of mold are present and whether they are airborne. Even if you have your home tested, it is difficult to say at what levels health effects would occur. Therefore, it is more important get rid of the mold rather than find out more about it. The most effective way to treat mold is to correct underlying water damage and clean the affected area.

Who is at risk?

High levels of molds are not healthy for anyone inside a building. Individuals that appear to be at higher risk include; infants, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems (HIV infection, liver disease or those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy), pregnant women and individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities and asthma, pneumonia or bronchitis. Healthy, active people are less likely to have an adverse reaction. However, extended exposure to molds can be a health risk to anyone. If you have concerns about your health, you should consult a physician for advice.

Will my health or my child's health be affected, and should we see a physician?

Mold exposure has the potential to cause health problems. Infants, children, the elderly, pregnant women, immune compromised patients, and people with existing respiratory conditions are at higher risk. Allergic reactions to mold are common. If you believe that you or your children have symptoms that are caused by exposure to mold, you should see a physician. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure may also be caused by other illnesses. You should contact your physician if symptoms occur and for how long you think you or your children have been exposed.

What are the symptoms of exposure to mold?

Effects from exposure to toxic mold can result in any of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Problems focusing or concentrating
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Persistent cold-like symptoms
  • Burning, itching or watering eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath (during mild exertion)
  • Exhaustion after routine activity
  • Serious swelling in legs, ankles, feet
  • Serious swelling in torso or stomach
  • Prolonged muscle cramps and joint pain
  • Sensitivity to odors
  • Cancer
  • Women who are pregnant could experience multiple problems, even miscarriages
Does it matter what kind of mold is found in my home?

Some molds will produce mycotoxins (poisonous toxins). Simply spraying a mildewcide or fungicide on mold will not remove or inactivate the mycotoxins that have already been produced. An adverse reaction from dead mold or mold spores can still happen. Not all molds produce mycotoxins all the time. It is important to note that mold spores do not have to be alive to be dangerous. Dead and dormant mold can be just as toxic. Tolerance to these mycotoxins again varies from person to person.

Note: Bleach is not effective at eliminating mold. It may clean mold off a surface, but it does not penetrate porous materials where mold hides. For proper mold killing cleaners, visit you believe that you or your children have symptoms that you suspect are caused by exposure to mold, you should see a physician. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure may also be caused by many other illnesses. You should tell your physician about any symptoms and approximately when, how and how long you think you or your children were exposed.